Column: There's a difference between urgent tasks, important ones

By: Ginger Klein Special to The Gazette
April 29, 2014 Updated: April 29, 2014 at 8:12 am
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How many "urgent" tasks are unimportant and, conversely, how many "nonurgent" tasks are much more important than we initially understand?

The difference between "urgent" and "nonurgent" versus "important" and "not important" was one of the topics addressed by the late Stephen Covey (author of "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People") in his book "First Things First." A visual representation of these constructs can be displayed as a grid comparing urgency and importance. The comparison creates four quadrants with distinct differences.

All of our time can be categorized as spent in one of these quadrants. The Important & Urgent (Quadrant 1) consumes much of our daily attention. The Important & Nonurgent (Quadrant 2), Covey called the Quadrant of Quality: It consists of time spent planning, envisioning and dreaming, and does not press upon us but waits for us to seek it. If we spend time in Quadrant 2, there are fewer activities for Quadrant 1.

Quadrant 3 is Urgent & Not Important. Covey described this as the Quadrant of Deception. These activities are the background noise that keeps us from accomplishing other things, much like an unexpected call from a telemarketer while you're planning an important meeting. Quadrant 4 is that of the Unimportant & Nonurgent, or what Covey called the Quadrant of Waste. Though it is ideal to avoid this quadrant, it can make an attractive escape from pressure created in the other three.

Why is it helpful to understand these quadrants and how we spend our time? Because many people are consumed by "urgent" tasks, and it is an unfortunate reality that "urgent" tasks are not innately important simply because they are urgent. This means there is rarely room for the recharging activities found in quadrants 2 and 3. Thus we can leave ourselves exhausted with no plan for recovery.

Once we understand the way to manage time, we are well on our way to lowering external pressure and improving wellness.


Klein is a first-degree black belt in taekwondo and practices at the U.S. Taekwondo Center. For more information, call 488-4321.

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