Don’t let the urgent crowd out what’s important

By Martin Vogel

Dwight Eisenhower, focussing on what’s important

It’s a given in most management roles that there is more work to be done than there is time available to do it. But it’s with increasing frequency that clients are talking to me about their difficulties in deciding what to prioritise in their unrealistically demanding workloads. In such conversations, I reach for the urgent and important matrix. This is an approach to time management popularised by Stephen Covey in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and inspired by the former US President, Dwight Eisenhower.

In a lecture in 1954, Eisenhower said, “I have two kinds of problems, the urgent and the important. The urgent are not important, and the important are never urgent.”

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From a car service to the meaning of life in five easy steps

By Martin Vogel


This week I’ve been refreshing my GTD system: reviewing my horizons of focus, tidying up my project lists, and emptying my collection baskets.

If that doesn’t mean anything to you, perhaps it’s time you were inculcated to the cult of Getting Things Done – a book on how to organise yourself and manage all the stuff in your life with the minimum of stress.

Getting Things Done, by David Allen, must be one of the most blogged about of books so I hesitate to add to the cacophony. But, since I find myself recommending it to clients with increasing frequency, I feel a need to explain its particular appeal to me.

David Allen’s great achievement in my opinion was to notice the kind of things we tend to do all the time, when trying to process and get through the cascade of responsibilities that we all face, and order them into a set of routines which, if adhered to, remove much of the friction around being productive. Instead of prescribing a time management system which tries to slot your work into rigid structures of prioritisation, GTD – as it’s known to its friends – offers a more natural, fluid process of keeping track of your commitments and following your energy in deciding what needs to be done.

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