Jonny Cooper: Is it important…or just urgent?

Ever get the feeling you’re overworked, always busy, stressed and yet often seem to accomplish very little?

Do you frequently leave work with a pile of stuff you really should have finished today, still to do tomorrow?

If so, you probably need to examine one of the fundamentals of time management, namely the difference between urgent and important tasks.

Urgent tasks are those which need doing now, whereas important tasks are those on which you need to spend most time.

Here’s a simple 4-box method of analysing your workload and deciding what to do first…and last!

Box 1: Urgent and important: Bills to be paid now, health or family problems, customer complaints; try to look at the root causes of why you are getting dragged into these situations. This will often feel like crisis management and should be pretty rare with proper planning. Finding space in your diary well in advance of deadlines will eliminate the stress from many of these tasks, and should move them into Box 2.

Box 2: Important but not urgent: These are jobs which must be done, but not necessarily today. Replying to most emails falls into this category, and you should avoid the knee-jerk tendency to answer all your messages right now. Most of your work should be concentrated here in Box 2, meaning you get through lots of essential tasks, without the pressure of a deadline.

Box 3: Urgent but not important: Plan to give these as little time as possible. For instance, answer priority emails and phone calls as briefly as possible, and delegate tasks to others whenever you can. This is the box where most work tends to be concentrated; probably because focussing on a series of trivial actions can seem like you are accomplishing great things.

Box 4: Neither important nor urgent: These are jobs which you really should be delegating, or simply leaving undone. You might find that if you leave things to simmer here for a while, they will either slip into Box 2, or become irrelevant. Surfing the internet for nothing in particular is a classic time-hungry example of a Box 4 task.

Thinking about what you REALLY need to be doing, and when, truly can make a difference in your personal effectiveness, wealth and happiness.


Here’s something that’s urgent AND important! I’m offering a free half-hour of power to my loyal readers.

If you send me an email telling me how you’d benefit from a 30 minute’s business mentoring by me, I’ll do it FREE, wherever you are in the world, via Skype or ‘phone at a time to suit us both.