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Is it Urgent or is it Important?

Wait! It can't be both!?

My professional and volunteer work history mostly included children's programming. It saw me in frequent, direct interaction with kids with myself in a facilitatory role. Never before had I felt the weight of competing priorities until my current term as an AmeriCorps VISTA. I honestly believe nonprofits were the ones to coin the term "and all other duties" that exist on most job descriptions. 

My current supervisor, extraordinary as she is, struck my attention when she encouraged me in my project management to be able to "differentiate what's urgent from what's important." This made little sense to me as I regularly thought of these words as synonyms. That, and I had yet to be introduced to the Eisenhower decision matrix. (it's worth a Google search) Nonetheless, I nodded reassuringly, I don't know how reassuring it was really, and moved along in a state of "huh?" level confusion.

But in all my ESTP personality-ness, I researched. I sought to make sense of her proverbial encouragement. I set on a quest, assembling the greatest of the greats to join me on the embarking... ok, it wasn't that extreme. What I mean is I checked out what the Oxford & Merriam-Webster dictionaries had to say on the matter, and to find the distinction between the two terms.

Coincidentally, I first defined important. The research could've ended there. I was immediately met with the answer. I read that its origin dealt with weight - think 'import.' Thus, what is important is what holds the most weight and contributes to the long term mission and goals. When we make important decisions, we must be aware of how much is weighing on it.

But matters of urgency seem more critical, do they not? Not precisely. Matters of urgency detail the necessary response time to a task or assignment. So in deciding what to do from your list of to dos consider the variables of deadlines and the time needed to complete said assignment.

Dwight D. Eisenhower said it best, "What is important is seldom urgent, and what is urgent is seldom important." So ask yourself, with each task, "what's weighing on this?"


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