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Updated 30 Mar 2020

Use the Eisenhower decision principle and prioritise urgent from important

What’s the difference between urgent and important? It’s the difference between working in or working on your business.

05 September 2014  Share  0 comments  Print

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Galia Kerbel is the founder of Greater Than PR. Opened in 2006, Kerbel has had her work cut out for her staying ahead of the pack in a highly competitive and low barrier to entry market. So what’s her secret that’s not only helping her run an efficient business, but one that’s been profitable since day one?

“It’s a profound lesson I learnt from my mentor, Marcus Brewster, who I worked for as COO before I started my own business. He taught be how to differentiate between ‘urgent’ versus ‘important’ tasks.”

The Eisenhower decision principle

In PR customer service is key, which means when a client asks for something, it needs to get done, projects need to be delivered on time with a dash of above-and-beyond, and processes need to be efficient to avoid bottle-necks and keep costs down. This is where urgent versus important really comes into play.

“President Eisenhower distinguished between the two processes, saying, ‘What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important.’ Urgent tasks need your immediate attention and put you in a reactive mode which narrows your mind-set. Important tasks are things that contribute to a long-term vision and mission.

"This mode puts you into a responsive mind-set and helps with identifying opportunities and solutions. The two cannot occur at the same time, so when you’re in a reactive mode you can’t see the bigger picture because you’re putting out fires. Similarly, when you’re too focused on the bigger picture, you’re not paying attention to processes that could impact your service delivery and future business.”

How to determine and manage ‘urgent’ and ‘important’

“Every single person in the business, from the most junior to the me have a to-do list that is written daily. We all meet and discuss projects, delivery dates, expectations and deliverables, and work from there to determine what is urgent and needs seeing to immediately, versus important. It goes a long way in determining priorities.”

But as a business owner, things are never as cut and dry as a list when you’ve got staff and clients to interact with daily.

“I know that I have a limited number of hours in the day to get my own priorities seen to, but I’m also aware that my lack of availability can impact the productivity of my team. So, to ensure I have enough time in my day to see to reactive matters or questions from my team, I block time to work on my important tasks, and schedule no more than three meetings a day. This frees up time to be available to my team.”

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