Important vs. Urgent Tasks

Important vs. Urgent Tasks

What’s the difference between important vs.urgent?

As an organizer I help my clients find more space, more time and more joy in their lives.  Learning better time management skills and determining what is an important vs. urgent task is a great first step.  Most people use the terms important and urgent interchangeably but there are subtle and important differences.  So, what is the difference between important vs. urgent tasks in time management?  If a task is urgent to you, complete it immediately.  Urgent tasks are safety and health related so don’t delay on doing these right away.  If task has a time and date deadline – i.e. you have to sign up for a class by 5:00 pm on the 1st or you will incur late fees, do the task immediately.  If a task has a near deadline or involves health and safety, do it now.  But aren’t important tasks urgent too?

Getting important tasks done

Do you have a to-do list?  If so – and I hope you do! – you likely have lots of tasks that you need to complete.  Your friend’s birthday is next month and you want to send a card.  Great, get it done but don’t interrupt the project your working on to complete that task.    Do you need to follow up on upcoming summer vacation plans?  Add it to the “to do” list for later but keep working on the report that has to be completed by end of day.   You have lots of important tasks to complete so build time into your schedule so they don’t become urgent crises.  I work on certain tasks early in the morning when I have uninterrupted time before the “workday” starts and the phone starts ringing.  Can you use that uninterrupted time to complete important tasks – expense reports, updating billing, balancing your checkbook – when the day is quiet?

Good time management skills keep most important tasks from becoming urgent tasks.  Time is a limited commodity and we have to use it wisely in order to accomplish more and have more time for the people and things we love.


Do it once and be done

Do it once and be done

Touch it twice rule

Have you heard of the “touch it twice rule”?  In essence, it means that you touch an item or project only twice – do it and be done.  Complete a task right away or deal with an email or paperwork.  By doing this, You eliminate the need to go back and complete the task at another point.  Don’t “touch it” more than twice and elongate the process.  You won’t always have time to complete a task so put it on the “to do list” and plan an appropriate length of time to complete the project.  Don’t let items sit out waiting to be put away – put them away immediately.  You will only have to touch it twice and not move the bags and items around continually.   This rule can be applied to multiple tasks – laundry, mail and paperwork sorting, etc.  Choose an item, complete the task associated with the item and then either put it away or purge it.  Don’t pick it up, move it to a new spot, half complete the task and then start the task again at another time.  Touch it twice and be done with it.

Why good enough really is good enough

The enemy of organization and efficiency is perfection.  We have a notion that we have to do everything “perfectly” but that is self-defeating.  Doing laundry, putting away groceries, picking a gift, making a meal, completing most projects – this is when good enough really is good enough.  Every meal is not going to be a four course masterpiece, every wall paint color is not going to be show home worthy.  The point is that we understand when good enough really is good enough and perfection is not needed.

We waste time trying to make the best, the perfect and the optimal choice so that we rarely get anything done.  Focus on doing some things perfectly – taxes, your work, your finances – that’s where it’s important.  For most tasks, do it once and be done is the perfect way to get organized and find more time.


How your to-do list saves time

How your to-do list saves time

What’s the value of a list?

Long before starting my organizing business, I lived and breathed my to-do list.  In the middle of the controlled chaos that is my life, this is that little bit of sanity that keeps me grounded and feeling at least slightly accomplished.  So what is the value of a list for you?  A to-do list allows us to get all that stuff that is swirling around in our heads out of there.  This saves incredible amounts of time in creating some semblance of order and organization.  Most of us are challenged every day by multiple responsibilities – home, work, community, kids – and keeping track of all the things we have to do is challenging.  Putting it down on paper – either writing it or using an electronic process – makes those tasks more concrete so that we can make time to get it done.

How do I best use a to-do list?

Paper or electronic list?   Some clients choose an electronic to-do list on a phone or computer because it’s portable and always available wherever they are.  However, for most of us, it takes more time to open the app or program, type the task and then save and close the app/program than it would to jot down a task on a written list.  Also, you have to repeat the process to delete a task from the list.  For a written to-do list, all you need is a note pad and a pen.  In my office, I use a yellow legal pad for a daily to-do list for work tasks.  This allows me flexibility to move tasks to different days as needed.  I also keep a to-do list in the kitchen for tasks that I think of when I am in that space.

You save time, money and effort when you have a to-do list. Choose the process that works best for you.  No one can remember all the tasks we need to complete – write it down and get it done!

Pick a calendar, any calendar…

Pick a calendar, any calendar…

Why you really do need a calendar system

What’s your biggest organizing challenge?  If you’re like most people, it’s managing not only your physical space but your time as well.  To organize and manage your time optimally, invest in an effective calendar system.  No, I’m not recommending that you go out and purchase a DayTimer or similar system.  But I am recommending that you commit to using a calendar system that works best for you.  It is virtually impossible to effectively manage your time – and your productivity – if you do not have a handle on your schedule.  A calendar system, when used effectively, can help you better manage your time so you are not wasting time and money.  Time is a precious commodity; don’t waste it.

Which calendar system is better?  Paper or electronic?

Today there are many options for calendar systems.  I prefer a paper calendar system that I carry with me.  It has a monthly and weekly view for 18 months. This type of planning giving me flexibility to book appointments, events and commitments with both long term and hourly precision.  The downfall?  If I lose my calendar – which I do refer to as “The Bible” – this information will be truly lost.  Electronic calendars are a great option for people who prefer to store this information on their phone, desktop or in the cloud.  One of the advantages of this is that this information can be easily shared with others to coordinate schedules.  While this does come with some ease of use and flexibility, there are downsides as well.  Firstly, if the technology is unavailable – no internet or the server is down – you are unable to access the information when you need it.  Also, when information is online and in the cloud, there is always the possibility of it being hacked.

Regardless of which option you choose, decide and pick the system that works best for you and your work and family situation.  Relying on our memories for important information like this is a sure way to lose time and money and add more stress.

What do you want to spend time on?

What do you want to spend time on?

What do you spend time on now?

Do you really know what you spend time on?  If you stop and add up how many minutes each week you spend hunting for your keys, talking to a creditor to avoid a late payment or looking for a piece of paper with important information, you’ll find you have a significant amount of “lost time”.   The average American spends 40 minutes a day looking for something they cannot find – that’s almost 5 hours a week!  What could you be doing with an extra five hours a week?  For many of us, we “lose” time because of the clutter and disorganization in our homes and offices.  When we have piles of toys, stacks of papers and jumbles of “stuff”, we can’t find our stuff when we need it – the very definition of being organized!  This clutter and lack of organization makes us feel more stressed and out of control.

What do you want to spend time on?

The time you lose because of clutter is time you will never get back.  Throwing your time away is as bad as throwing your money away on buying that clutter in the first place. One effect of clutter is that you shut down.  Instead of actively living your life, you wind up stressed – giving all your energy and time to the clutter rather than to the things that really matter to you.  No matter how far behind you are, you have to make the time to free yourself from clutter.  The old habit of “running around like a chicken without a head” will be over and you will be much calmer and therefore able to get so much more done.

You need to decide what is most important and what you want to spend time on.  Time is a valuable commodity and it should be treated as such.  Respect your time and your possessions and you’ll find much more time and peace in your life.


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