Do Urgent and Important have the same meaning? Are they synonyms? What's the difference and why they sometimes sound similar.
In our life, we repeatedly confuse urgency with importance. We, mistakenly, think that every important matter is necessarily urgent, and that every urgent matter is consequently important. However, only few things are both urgent and important.
An example of urgent issue is when you have a life-changing exam the next day and you have little knowledge of the subject. It would be urgent to spend the night studying, otherwise you'll fail the exam.
On the other hand, an example of an important issue would be to cultivate your knowledge in a certain area that has an impact on your work or your life. It is something that you don't do overnight, but rather it requires constant effort with clear objectives.
If you look at the previous 2 examples, you'll find that, in this case, both issues are important, whereas only the first issue is urgent. There are plenty of examples on non-important urgent things. Usually, non-important urgent matters are not urgent by nature. They became urgent by our own decisions, and we implicitly assume they are also important.
In his book, the 7 habits of highly effective people, Stephen Covey explains how successful people focus on important instead of urgent tasks. “Most of us spend too much time on what is urgent and not enough time on what is important.”, says Stephen.
|Urgent/Important matrix as addressed |
by Stephen Covey
If all things are urgent, if all things have high priority, our life will turn into a mess. We wouldn't be able to know what things to do first. If we spend too much time in urgent matters, we will find little time to focus on the important issues that have lasting impact on our life.
We make this mistake in personal life and also at work. If we fail to prioritize and fail to know what things really deserve to be done first, we might end-up missing achieving crucial things because we've been too busy in doing urgent issues that have no real value.