It’s taken time for me to realize that not all urgent work is important. The urgent work is usually the work that’s screaming the loudest for your attention. They may even be exciting or interesting things you’ve been wanting to do. It may be the new emails piling up, the urge to share another lettering piece after getting unfollowers, or people asking for your time and attention. The urgent things may also be important, but that’s not always the case.
The problem with urgent work is that it’s focused on putting out fires. I find that urgent work usually comes from external demands on your time. On the other hand, important work is the work that you know you need to do and that will get you where you want to be. Important work is the work that you know will have the biggest impact for you and for the people that follow your work.
You must be able to recognize the difference between the two, and have the courage to prioritize the important first. It may not seem noble or heroic, but it does take a certain amount of courageous because it isn’t easy. It’s taken courage for me to say no to the things that are urgent or exciting, so I can focus on the important work at hand.
This often leads to disappointing people, telling people you can’t do certain things, and postponing things for later. All of these are hard to do. Nobody wants to disappoint others. However, what’s worse than that, is looking back years from now and seeing that you let yourself down.
There’s truth in the saying, “help yourself before you consider helping others.” If you don’t focus on doing enough of your important work, then everyone loses. You can’t deliver the work your audience finds important, which limits your growth, and affects the value your audience receives from your work.
It’s easy to get wrapped up in the issues screaming for your attention. The problem is that most urgent work is not important. It hardly leads to getting you where you want to be. I encourage you to be mindful enough to recognize the difference, and courageous enough to protect your important work.
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