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How to Distinguish Between Urgent and Important Tasks and Make Real Progress in Your Life

  “What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important.”

Many spend all their time managing crises.

Their life is basically spent putting out one proverbial fire after another. At the end of the day they feel completely sapped and drained of energy, and yet cannot point to anything they accomplished of real significance. They confuse the urgent with the important.

The Difference Between Urgent and Important

An “Urgent” task is one that requires your immediate attention. These are the tasks that shout “Do It Now!” Urgent tasks put you in a reactive mode, a defensive, negative, hurried, and narrowly focused mindset.

An “Important” task is something that is to be done that contributes to your long-term mission, values, and goals. While they may sometimes be, typically, important tasks are not urgent. When you focus on important activities you operate in a responsive mode that helps you remain calm, rational, and open to new opportunities.

As a result of all these modern stimulus-producing technologies such as 24-hour News, Twitter, Facebook, social media and text messaging technologies process all information as equally urgent and pressing, you tend to believe that all urgent activities are important. These modern news and social media stimulus-producing technologies constantly assault you with information that only heighten your deeply engrained mindset that is: to believe that all urgent activities are also important.

As a result, you are experiencing “present shock”, a condition in which “you live in a continuous, always-on ‘Now!!’” and lose your sense of long-term narrative and direction. In such a state, it is easy to lose sight of the distinction between the truly important and the merely urgent and the consequences of this priority-blindness are both personal and societal. In your own lives, you suffer from burnout and stagnation and, on a societal level, we are unable to solve the truly important problems of our time.

The Eisenhower Decision Matrix

Dwight Eisenhower lived one of the most productive lives you can imagine.

Eisenhower was the 34th President of the United States, serving two terms from 1953 to 1961. During his time in office, he launched programs that directly led to the development of the Interstate Highway System, the launch of the internet (DARPA), the exploration of space (NASA), and the peaceful use of alternative energy sources (Atomic Energy Act).

Before becoming president, Eisenhower was a five-star general in the United States Army. He served as the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe during World War II, and was responsible for planning and executing invasions of North Africa, France, and Germany. Along the way, he served as President of Columbia University, became the first Supreme Commander of NATO, and somehow found time to pursue hobbies like golfing and oil painting.

Eisenhower had this incredible ability to sustain his productivity for weeks, months and decades. His most famous productivity strategy is known as “The Eisenhower Box” or “The Eisenhower Matrix”, a simple decision-making tool that you can use right now to empower yourself and make real progress on your life.

The matrix consists of a square divided into four boxes, or quadrants, labeled as follow:

1) Urgent/Important;

2) Not Urgent/Important;

3) Urgent/Not Important, and

4) Not Urgent/Not Important.

Quadrant 1: “Urgent and Important” Tasks

“Tasks that are both urgent and important require our immediate attention and also work towards fulfilling our long-term goals and missions in life.”

This is the “Do It Now!” box

“Urgent and Important” tasks typically consist of crises, problems, or deadlines. A few specific examples of Urgent and Important tasks would be:

  • Certain emails such as a job offer, an email for a new business opportunity that requires immediate action, etc.;
  • A term paper deadline;
  • A Tax deadline;
  • A member of your family in an hospital ICU;
  • Your car engine giving out;
  • Household chores;
  • A heart attack and ending up in the hospital;
  • A call from your kid’s principal saying you need to come in for a meeting about his behavior.

With a bit of planning and organization, many of these Quadrant 1 tasks can be made more efficient or even eliminated outright. For example, instead of waiting until the last minute to work on your term paper, thus turning it into an urgent task, you could schedule your time so that you will be done with your paper a week in advance. Or, instead of waiting for something in your house to need fixing or fall apart, you can implement and follow a schedule of regular maintenance.

While you will never be able to completely eliminate urgent and important tasks, with a bit of imagination and proactivity you can significantly reduce them by spending more time in Quadrant 2.

Quadrant 2: “Not Urgent but Important” Tasks

Tasks that are “Not Urgent bur Important” are these activities that do not have a pressing deadline, but nonetheless help you achieve your important personal, school, and work goals as well as help you fulfill your overall mission in life.

This is the “Schedule It!” box.

The “Not Urgent but Important” tasks are typically centered around strengthening relationships, planning for the future, and improving yourself.

A few specific examples of Not Urgent but Important Tasks would be:

  • Weekly planning;
  • Long-term planning;
  • Exercising;
  • Family time;
  • Taking a class to improve a skill;
  • Spending time with a rewarding hobby;
  • Car and home maintenance;
  • Creating a budget and savings plan.

Always seek to spend most of your time on “Not Urgent but Important” activities. They are the ones that will provide you lasting happiness, fulfillment and success. Unfortunately for many, there are two key challenges that will tend to keep you from investing enough time and energy into these activities:

  • First: “You don’t know what’s truly important to you.” If you do not have any idea what values and goals matter most to you, you obviously will not know what things you should be spending your time on to reach those aims! Instead, you will latch on to whatever stimuli and to-dos are most urgent.
  • Second: “Present bias.” For most of us, we are all inclined to focus on whatever is most pressing at the moment. Doing so is our default mode. It is hard to get motivated to do something when there is not a deadline pending over our head. Departing from this fallback position takes willpower and self-discipline. Cultivate these qualities. They hat do not come naturally. Do whatever you have to do to develop this mental toughness and discipline that you may be lacking of.

Because “Not Urgent but Important” activities are not pressing for your attention, you typically keep them forever on the back-burner of your lives and tell yourselves, “I will get to those things “Someday”. You even put off figuring out what is most important in your life and life in general.

But “Someday” will never come.

If you are waiting to do the important thinks until your schedule clears up, trust me when I say that it will never happen, that you are daydreaming. Whatever happens in your life, you will always feel about as busy as you are now, and if anything, life just gets busier as you get older.

To overcome our inherent present-bias that prevents us from focusing on “Not urgent and Important” activities, you must live your lives intentionally and proactively. You cannot run your life in default mode. You have to consciously decide, “I am going to make time for these things”.

Quadrant 3: “Urgent and Not Important” Tasks

“Urgent and Not Important” tasks are activities that require your attention now, but do not help you achieve your goals or fulfill your mission in life. Most “Urgent and Not Important” tasks are interruptions originating from other people and often involve helping them meet their own goals and fulfill their own priorities.

This is the “Delegate Me!” box.

Here are some specific examples of “Urgent and Not Important”  activities:

  • Most phone calls;
  • Most text messages;
  • Most emails, those that are not “Urgent and Important”;
  • Co-worker who comes by your desk during your prime working time to ask a favor;
  • Request from a former employee to write a letter of recommendation on his behalf;
  • Your mom drops in unannounced and wants your help with a chore.

Many people spend most of their time on “Urgent and Not Important” tasks, while thinking they are working on “Urgent and Important” tasks.

While “Urgent and Important” tasks may be important to others, they are not important to you. They’re not necessarily bad, but they need to be balanced with your “Not Urgent but Important” activities. Otherwise, you will end up feeling like you are getting a lot done from day-to-day, while eventually realizing that you’re not actually making any progress in your own long-term goals. This is the perfect recipe for personal frustration and resentment towards others.

The solution to this problem is simple: Become more assertive and start to politely but firmly say “No!” to most requests.

Quadrant 4: “Not Urgent and Not Important” Tasks

“Not Urgent and Not Important” are these activities that, other than if they serve a specific professional or business purpose, unnecessary. These are the activities that are not helping you achieve or resolve anything. They are neither pressing nor do they help you achieve long-term goals or fulfill your mission in live. They are primarily, simply and utterly, mainly distractions.

This is the “Do Me later!”, the “Do Not Do It!” box.

Specific examples of such mostly useless tasks include:

  • Watching TV;
  • Mindlessly surfing the web;
  • Playing video games;
  • Scrolling through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram;
  • Gambling;
  • Shopping sprees.

If we were to conduct a time audit on ourselves, most of us would find that we spend an inordinate amount of time on “Not Urgent and Not Important” activities.

As a pragmatist, I do not think you need to eliminate “Not Urgent and Not Important” activities altogether from your life. After a particularly hectic and busy day, randomly browsing the internet or watching a favorite TV show for a half hour is exactly what my brain needs to decompress.

Instead of aiming to completely rid yourself of “Not Urgent and Not Important” tasks, try to only 5% or less of your waking hours on them.

Be Like Ike; Spend More Time on Important Tasks

In our present shock world, the ability to filter the signal from the noise, or distinguish between what is urgent and what is truly important, is an essential skill to develop. When faced with a decision, stop and ask yourself, “Am I doing this because it is important or am I doing it because it is merely urgent?”

As you will spend most of your time working on “Not Urgent but Important tasks”, you will feel a renewed sense of calm, control, and composure in your life. You will feel like you are making real progress. By investing your time in “Not Urgent but Important” planning/organizing activities, you will prevent and eliminate many of the crises and problems of “Urgent and Important” tasks, balance the requests of “Urgent and Not Important” tasks with your own needs, and truly enjoy the veg-outs of “Not Urgent and Not Important” activities, knowing that you have earned the rest. By making “Not Urgent but Important” tasks your top priority, no matter the emergency, annoyance, or deadline you will be hit with, you will have the mental, emotional, and physical wherewithal to respond positively, rather than react defensively.

JMD

Transition & Reputation Management

Office: 613.449.3278

Skype: jmdlive

Web: www.jmdsystemics.com

  1. J. Michael Dennis is a former attorney, a Trial Scientist, a Crisis & Reputation Management Expert, a Public Affairs & Corporate Communications Specialist, a Warrior for Common Sense and Free Speech.

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JMD

J. Michael Dennis is a former attorney, a Trial Consultant, a Trial Scientist, a Crisis & Reputation Management Expert, a Public Affairs & Corporate Communications Specialist, a Warrior for Common Sense and Free Speech.

Book a FREE 15 minutes Skype Consultation with JMD live

Skype: jmdlive

 

 

Is your future and the future of your family secured?

Why do I need a formal business transition plan?
A formal business transition plan puts your goals, priorities and strategies in place for a successful transition to face the future. Without a clearly defined plan, business owners are leaving their personal and financial future to chance.

I am not sure I am ready to transition out of my business. How do I know when the time is right?
Transitioning out of your business is all about setting and reaching goals. Have you accomplished what you set out to do with your business? Do you have dreams of doing things other than running your current business? Answering these questions will tell you if the time is right to implement a formal business transition plan.

I know my business better than anyone else; why shouldn’t I handle my transition plan and process myself?
Business and personal transition are a complex and personally time consuming and challenging processes that are very difficult to handle by yourself and get it right. Most transition processes involve emotional, fiscal and risk management issues requiring a team of professionals familiar with these areas to take care of them.

Who are the experts on a transition team?
Depending on what phase you are currently in, any of the following professionals may be involved: Accountants, Certified Financial Planners, Lawyers, Business Consultants, Business Brokers, Bankers and so on. To achieve a successful transition plan, all the work required from all the professionals involved shall be coordinated by a Corporate Strategist Expert well familiarized in all the activity fields involved.

Why do I need a transition team?
Simple: you want to maximize your assets. You need experts in every area to help you get the most cash for yourself and your business. Using a transition team will cut down on the enormous amount of time you would otherwise have to spend planning, marketing, talking, negotiating and working to find a potential buyer or partner who might otherwise end up walking away. Unless you have been through a merger, acquisition or divestiture, transition planning and execution are unlike anything you have ever done before.

Why shouldn’t I hire an investment banker or any single professional to handle my transition process?
Other than SSTM, there is no national firm or individual that handles every aspect of a business or personal transition process. And if you have cost issues, you should do a comparison.

Where can I find these experts?
Even if you have an accountant, broker or financial advisor, they may not be uniquely qualified to assist you with the transition. You need experts focused on business transitioning. SSTM will work with you and your team of trusted advisors to identify and provide you with the best choices for each expert.

What information do I need to prepare for my transition?

  • Financial documents:
    • A minimum of five years of financial documents
    • Audited financials for three years
    • Pro-forma sales and cash flows for two years out
    • Three years of taxes
    • Company insurance documents
    • Personal financial information (account statements, complete copies of federal and state tax returns, estate documents)
  • Customer lists (shows history of longevity)
  • Vendor lists and relationships
  • Operational systems and procedures for everyone and every part of your business
  • Legal corporate documents
  • Contracts with vendors, suppliers, customers and clients
  • Intellectual property rights and assets

How long does it take to complete a successful transition process?
Typically, depending on your goals, expectations, the nature and size of your business a successful transition process may be completed inside a time-frame of SIX months to FIVE years.

What if I have already completed some parts of the process?
SSTM can become involved at any point of your transition. Our experts will review the work you have already completed, provide recommendations and take the necessary actions to keep or get you on the right track. Even if you have completed your transition, our certified financial planners can help with wealth management.

How do I get started?
The four phases of proper business transition planning are:

  1. Pre-Sale Phase
  2. Positioning for Sale
  3. Transaction Phase
  4. Wealth Management

Following the above Four Phases of a Successful Business Transition Plan, SSTM uses the following process to guide you through your transition.

  • Data gathering
  • Initial Expert Team Consultation
  • Selection of your team
  • Creation and Execution of the Transition Plan
  • Successful completion of the transaction
  • Wealth management system put in place for a secure financial future

SSTM, helping companies successfully complete business transitions.

JMD

J. Michael Dennis is a former attorney, a Trial Consultant, a Trial Scientist, Crisis & Reputation Management Expert, a Public Affairs & Corporate Communications Specialist, a Warrior for Common Sense and Free Speech.

The real message is that people need to get more engaged in planning what they want their future to look like.

The magic number for retirement savings in Canada is $756,000 and, while that is the average amount Canadians believe they need to save for retirement, up to 90 per cent do not have a formal plan on how to get there.

A majority of Canadians, 53 per cent, are not sure whether they are saving enough during their work years. 37 per cent are not even thinking about retirement, pretexting they just cannot save.

This situation is even worse for women: only 22 per cent have a formal retirement plan or even have a good idea of how much income they will need, versus 32 per cent of men. By age fifty-five, 43 per cent of women and 27 per cent of men lack a retirement and transition plan. The real message buried in these statistics is that people need to get more engaged in planning what they want their future to look like.

There is no longer a magic age 65 or 55 when we are all going to quit work cold turkey and do something completely different. We are living longer, and a prosperous middle-class is realizing that retirement is about the journey, not the destination.

The same is to be said about all business owners. The average organization has undergone five enterprise changes in the past three years and 73 per cent of organizations expect more change initiatives in the next few years. Unfortunately, many organizations fail to implement change effectively. In fact, only a third of change efforts are clear successes, 16 per cent show mixed results, and half of them are clear failures.

Today, people of all ages, men and women, all business owners and all business organizations need to get more engaged in planning what they want their future to look like. The problem: most people are wearing to many hats and are overwhelmed with daily responsibilities and accountabilities so that by age 55 or 65 fewer people can afford to retire to enjoy what could have been their preferred future.

You are looking forward to maximize your assets, your business is growing fast and you need to adapt, you are thinking about retirement, SSTM, in collaboration with JMD Systemics and Succession Transition Strategies, helps you to succeed with the challenging process of business and personal transition.

Let us help you maximize your assets and secure the best possible future:

FOR YOU, YOUR WAY.

We Bring the Experts to the Table

JMD

J. Michael Dennis is a former attorney, a Trial Consultant, a Trial Scientist, Crisis & Reputation Management Expert, a Public Affairs & Corporate Communications Specialist, a Warrior for Common Sense and Free Speech.

Follow JMDlive on Twitter, Facebook, JMDlive.com, The Futurist Daily News, JMDsystemics.com, SSTM.solutions and TumblrWarrior For Common Sense

 

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EMPOWERING YOURSELF Has Nothing To Do With HAVING time. It Is Everything About MAKING Time.

Get your priorities straight!

How are you supposed to know the right path when you have no idea where you want to go or what you want to do?

Setting goals that are important to you is the first step to getting your priorities straight. Once you know what you really want to achieve, it is really easy to prioritize everything in your life and the only thing you ever need to ask yourself before considering doing anything is: “How is this helping me achieve my goals?”

Starting your day checking your emails or chatting at the coffee machine will make it hard for you to gather the focus and motivation you need to tackle your most important tasks and projects at hand later in the day.

It does not matter WHEN you wake up. What matters is what you do when you wake up, what you do with the first two to three hours of your day. Putting in the work towards your goals will help you win the day early.

Postponing your most important tasks until later in the day will dramatically increase the likelihood of not getting them done at all.

JMD

Michael Dennis is a former Corporate and Business Law Attorney, a Crisis & Reputation Management Expert, a Public Affairs & Corporate Communications Specialist, a Warrior for Common Sense & Free Speech helping you achieve greatness.

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Get Your Priorities Straight!

How on earth are you supposed to know the right path when you have no idea where you want to go or what you want to do?

Setting goals that are important to you is the first step to getting your priorities straight. Once you know what you really want to achieve, it is really easy to prioritize everything in your life and the only thing you ever need to ask yourself before considering doing anything is: “How is this helping me achieve my goals?”

If you say “YES” to everything, you don’t have any priorities. You get distracted and will never achieve any of your life goals. If you say “YES” to the wrong things, you go against your life priorities.

Saying “NO” over and over again to everything that is distracting you from your life aligned priorities is the only way to empower yourself and entitle you to live the life of your dreams, to live your preferred future.

Obvious instant-gratification activities like sitting in front of the TV set, partying for the sake of partying, unrelated goals meetings, calls, articles or online courses that will never help you achieve your goals are to be barred from your agenda or “To Do” list.

Starting your day checking your emails or chatting at the coffee machine will make it hard for you to gather the focus and motivation you need to tackle your most important tasks and projects at hand later in the day.

It does not matter WHEN you wake up. What matters is what you do when you wake up, what you do with the first two to three hours of your day. Putting in the work towards your goals will help you win the day early.

Postponing your most important tasks until later in the day will dramatically increase the likelihood of not getting them done at all.

JMD

J. Michael Dennis is a former Corporate and Business Law Attorney, a Crisis & Reputation Management Expert, a Public Affairs & Corporate Communications Specialist, a Warrior for Common Sense & Free Speech helping you achieve greatness.

Follow JMDlive on:

Twitter, Facebook, JMDlive.com, The Futurist Daily News, JMDsystemics.com, Bunkumless.com, Pinterest and Tumblr.

FREE Consultation:

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“Invest in people like they will stay forever. Build systems like they will leave tomorrow”

Someone on your team announces at the staff meeting that he or she is leaving for a new job; someone on your team is stealing from you and you have to let that person go; someone on your team suddenly dies. You are suddenly facing a health issue; you are suddenly involved in a serious accident and incapacitated for a long period of time. You simply decide to retire. You simply decide to sell your business.

When people suddenly leave, die or simply have to go, no one remembers what that person was doing or how that person was doing it. No one remembers how the company did, how the company use to deal with such and such a situation, what is the most appropriate action to deal with such and such a situation and where to find the critical information that is urgently required.

In today’s work environment, employee’s turnover is becoming more and more frequent. It is not uncommon for workers to put in only a few years before moving on. It is not uncommon for an aging business owner to decide to retire or sell is business to spend more quality time with his family and friends or even to pursue other goals. These trends, far from disappearing will only intensify in the future. Add in a revolving door of contractors and freelancers, and the whole thing may soon start get pretty messy.

In today’s economy, people are the company, people are the business. More than often, the business owners are the business. They bring in the innovations and ideas, they build the products and services, they craft the branding and marketing campaigns. When they leave, for whatever reason, it is as if they are taking a slice of the business with them. Between documents spread out on their desks, the shared drives and all these files buried in their personal desktops, all these files that may get wiped out when employees leave, the past work and information you need to access is scattered to all digital winds.

Having the right systems and right tools in place will help you bridge the gap and transitioning when employees, teammates or business partners suddenly leave for new opportunities. Having the right systems and right tools in place will help you bridge the gap and transitioning when you will decide to retire or sell your business. Having the right systems and right tools in place will help you maximizing your assets.

Let us help you.

JMD

Owner of JMDlive.com,  Bunkumless.com , JMD Systemics and King Global Earth and Environmental Sciences Corporation, J. Michael Dennis is a former attorney, a Crisis & Reputation Management Expert, a Public Affairs & Corporate Communications Specialist, a Warrior for Common Sense & Free Speech, the ultimate fixer helping you achieve greatness. JMD is also a Columnist and the editor of  The Futurist Daily News , a Social and Political Blog.
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“All reinvention requires change. But not all changes are a reinvention”

Most people want to be better. They want to live better lives, be happier, and have better relationships. But most people are horrible at execution and not everyone get the opportunity to reinvent themselves.

If you are in your thirties and you did not already met success, chances are, if you don’t decide to reinvent yourself now, that you will never be successful at anything.

The difference between change and reinvention

All reinvention requires change. But not all changes are a reinvention.

You lose your job; your spouse dies; you suffer a critical injury; you make a drastic personal or professional mistake; your girlfriend dumps you; your boyfriend or spouse is cheating on you, these are examples of situations that call for “Reactive Reinvention”.

Reactive reinvention occurs when an external event occurs and forces you to change in order to move forward. The event being irreversible, you cannot go backward.

You want a new job; you want to start a business; you want to live healthier; you want to run a marathon; you want to learn a new skill; you want to start a new relationship; you want to do something that you have never done before; you want to do something that no one has ever done before, this is the land of visionaries, romantics and entrepreneurs, who believe that there is a better way to live. This is the land of “Proactive Reinvention

Proactive reinvention is the land of visionaries, romantics and entrepreneurs where you intentionally change your way of life in order to capitalize on a trend or an opportunity.

There is also the land of failure; the land of “Reflective Reinvention”. Reflective reinvention occurs when you fail at something, but you still have a strong desire to continue in that particular endeavour.

You fail at launching a new business or finishing first in this athletic competition, but you still have this strong desire to win, to be this successful entrepreneur. You fail repeatedly; you fail over and over, but you still have that strong desire to make it.

At this stage, the key to reinvention and transformation at this stage is: to “Change Something About Yourself and the only way to change this something about yourself is to reflect on your situation and then, to make the required necessary changes in yourself that will allow you to win.

What would be your best possible strategy for 2018?

You want to change, you want to reinvent yourself! You need to find out what would be the best possible strategy that will work for you.

If you are in a situation where you need to “Reactively Reinvent Yourself”, you will be facing and having to deal with an enormous amount of negative energy motivation and emotions. You will have to channel all this negative energy into an activity that will motivate you without harming you.

If you are in a situation where you need to “Reflectively Reinvent Yourself”, you will need to look for information, data, answers and insights from outside yourself. You will have to admit that you do not have all the answers and that you may be hampered by your own vision.

In most situations, if you are unhappy about the way you live, the way things are going in your life, if you are struggling through life, instead of blaming everybody else other than yourself for your mishaps and miseries, you will need to either “Change Things About Yourself” or more often, to “Totally Reinvent Yourself”.

All reinvention requires change. But not all changes are a reinvention.

You want to know more about “Change” and “Reinvention”!

JMD

jmdlive

JMDLIVE Strategic Planning and Systemic Thinking

Owner of Bunkumless.com and JMDsystemics.com, JMD is a former attorney Corporate Strategist and Professional Problem Solver, a Columnist for The Futurist Daily News and editor of the Social and Political Blog JMDlive.com  

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