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May 19, 2021

The Difference Between Urgent And Important: What Should You Prioritize

The difference between urgent and important.

Are you the type of person who is always busy? Someone, who always has a deadline to catch and some crucial things to remember? If you are, I’m sure you get confused and stuck too, whether what to start first and what to do later, and even don’t know what the difference between urgent and important. Believe me or not, a lot of people experience the same thing as you.

Many people have busy days where they tend to get overwhelmed by the tasks that are right in front of them. They struggle to think and choose the right things to do first that sometimes they forget and unfulfilled the other tasks.

People who struggled with this kind of thing are people who fail to differentiate the difference between urgent and important. But you don’t have to stay confused and continue doing the wrong priorities, because in this article I’ll teach you all the things you have to know about urgent and important as well as how to manage your workload and how to use a special technique that will help you identify the right priorities you should do.

Discussing the difference between urgent and important

What is urgent?

There are two things that usually tell and define what we do.

URGENT and IMPORTANT let’s discuss the urgent first.

Urgent are the things that usually have deadlines. It can be something big or small. Urgent requires your attention right at this moment, it has a specific time limit that it tries to achieve. In short, it needs to be done right here, right now, or else there’s a specific consequence if you fail to finish the urgent task. It doesn’t have to mean something in your life, you just simply need to do it right away.

Let me tell you some examples if you have some calls or emails to answer, if you have scheduled meetings to attend, or if you have popular activities to finish.

There are actually two types of situations that you can call urgent.

First, for some situations urgent is usually created when you prolong something that you can do in your free time. For example, when there are some paper works that your boss tells you to do or your payment for your apartment deadline but you procrastinated it until its due date then it now becomes urgent.

Second, it is the urgency where they are extremely out of your control, something that comes without your idea and permission, and they are usually emergencies, crises, or last-minute heavy preparations.

Do you now have an idea of what urgent is? Now let’s dive into Important.

What is important

Then there are the important tasks. These are the type of tasks that requires no deadline or perhaps still a long time before it reaches its due date. Important tasks are usually the one that has a big impact on someone’s life. It’s something that needs extra effort to achieve and they are long-term.

However, since important tasks are commonly long-term and they don’t require to be done immediately, they have usually been pushed aside. People put them for later until it becomes never.

I will lend you an example, there are times when people have to plan and save for their business or their child’s education for the future. It’s a long-term goal and it’s something that can have a big impact on someone’s life but since it’s not happening just yet they usually pin it for later until the day comes and they have completely forgotten doing it. The same idea applies to getting in shape, it’s important and long-term however it is not urgent.

So now, why is it crucial to know the difference between these two?

Let me share a story with you. For decades, I’ve met a lot of people who have reached an age where they only have a few years or a decade left in their lives. And they usually tell me the same thing, share the same context of how they viewed their entire life. They often tell me that what lingers to them most is regret.

I wish I did something meaningful back when I had the time.
I hope I haven’t worked so hard for the fortune that I can’t bring with me.
I wish I spent most of the time looking for my hobby.
I wish I enjoyed my teenage life and did things instead of isolating.
I wish I focused more on my future instead of my pleasures.


Almost all of the people I know that gave these statements and probably more people out there spend all of their lives on urgent things, always trying to catch the deadlines. Now, I’m not saying that focusing on urgent things is wrong and focusing on the important things is what you should do. It doesn’t work that way. Both are two things that need to get done, however, life has its own time limit, and sometimes you should know what priorities are you going to put first and what things are you willing to put last.

Here’s what gets interesting, since the two key issues are hard to differentiate and will often confuse you, I’d like to share with you a technique that you can use to identify what priorities to put first and last. It’s called the Eisenhower Matrix, are you ready?

Using Eisenhower Matrix to know more about the difference between urgent and important

The Eisenhower Matrix or also known as the Urgent-Important Matrix is a time management tool that can help you in deciding what tasks to prioritize based on their urgency and their importance as you sort the other unimportant and less urgent tasks. It is created by Stephen Covey an author who wrote this technique in his book called The 7 Habits of Highly-Effective People which then took out this part of his book and officially created it as a helpful tool to a lot of people.

How does this technique work?

  1. The first step is to write all the things that you have to get done, don’t identify them as urgent or important just yet. Simply write everything at random.
  2. Now, it’s time to use the Eisenhower matrix. You have to do the outline first. Create four boxes until building them as one big box. Write URGENT above the box on the left side, then write NOT URGENT on the left just above the box next to the first one. Now, it will look like this.
A representation of the Eisenhower matrix showing the difference between urgent and important.
Difference Between Urgent And Important

What you have to do now is to go and write to the vertical and left sides of the boxes. Write IMPORTANT on the box above, then NOT IMPORTANT below it. It will probably look like this now.

A representation of the Eisenhower matrix showing the difference between urgent and important.
Difference Between Urgent And Important
  • Now, focus on the first box with the intersection of urgent and important. These are the tasks that are related to project deadlines, emergencies, and problems. The solution to this is to do them first. Do them now.
  • The next box intersects with Important but not urgent. These are the tasks that correlate with health, business planning in the future, relationships, exercise, or visiting your family. The solution to this is to decide a specific time or day when to do them and follow that schedule.
  • The box below that intersects with urgent but not important are the tasks such as answering emails, scheduling interviews, answering calls, replying to the comments, etc. The key to this is to delegate the task. Find someone or pay someone to do it for you when you don’t have the time for them.
  • Lastly, the box that goes with not important and not urgent. These are the tasks that include checking social media, watching random shows, listening to podcasts, etc. The key to this is to remove them from your priorities. You can get back to them if you have extra time however when the schedule is short, it’s better to eliminate doing them.

Now, have you learned the difference between urgent and important? Have you understood the concept of the Eisenhower matrix? Are you now ready to take your time management skills to the next level and be productive while doing all the right things to prioritize? If yes, I’m happy that this article helped you a lot in this struggle!

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