Blog Post

Business Strategy

The victory of the urgent

Terry-Bell's avatar
Icon for Advisely Partner rankAdvisely Partner
4 months ago


Why is it that urgent almost always seems to take precedence over the important?

Is it simply the squeaky wheel impact? Will it really matter if the urgent is deferred for the important?

Seven weeks into the new year, a client who had scheduled a business planning workshop last December called to defer because "something" came up. No doubt the initial commitment to the workshop and the subsequent "something" are both sincere, but what may not be immediately apparent is that reacting to urgency in this manner can have some rather large and unintended consequences.

"Urgent" invariably requires immediate attention and action; a task is achieved, the to-do box is ticked and you can move on. The result is immediate and tangible, which gives you a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction.

Conversely, important tasks usually involve a longer timeframe along with planning and decision making. Results aren't always immediately clear, and the task is often more challenging – without the short-term tangible benefits to make up for it. Because of this, it's tempting to postpone the important in favour of the urgent. 

Things do happen, of course, and sometimes the urgent must take precedence. I’m not advocating for turning a blind eye to urgent matters whenever they arise. But before you rush to attend to it, wouldn’t it be good practice to at least consider what would happen if you left it for now and attended to your important issue? Will your business fail? Will you actually lose anything?

Perhaps the "victory of the urgent" has led to only a fifth of Australian advice practices (22%)  having a documented business plan. Similarly, only 26% have sought feedback from their clients in last 12 months and a mere 5% have developed an effective succession plan. 

Adding further to this predicament, all the activities referred to above are proven drivers of profit. For example, those practices who have sought feedback from their clients over the past 12 months are achieving a 90% higher level of profitability compared to their peers who haven’t. 

So: how do you minimise the risk of distraction and diversion from the important to the urgent?

Here are some of tips we’ve learnt from our clients over the years:  

  • If it’s in your diary, do it. Don’t defer or postpone without good reason. If it was important enough for you to commit to it in the first place, have unexpected or urgent matters really changed that? 

  • Have someone to keep you focused on your game plan – in other words, someone to hold you accountable to the "important". This could be your P/BDM, for example, or maybe a mentor, coach or board member. 

  • If the temptation to defer is seemingly too great and you’re about to postpone the important, take five minutes to re-think. On balance, does the issue that is urgent warrant a deferral of the important?

  • Delegation works, too. Not everything revolves around you – or does it?

  • Say "no" or at least suggest an alternative to the seemingly urgent.

  • Have a plan. If you don’t know where you’re going, it’s easy to be diverted by the ‘urgent’. Having a plan helps paint a clearer picture of what's important.

  • Just because someone else says it's "urgent" doesn't mean it actually is. 

  • Allow time in your schedule for the urgent. Block out time for unexpected/urgent matters – if you don't end up needing it, that's just a bonus!

As the 34th President of the United States, Dwight D Eisenhower, once observed: “What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important."

For your consideration.

Updated 4 months ago
Version 2.0

1 Comment

  • DebKent's avatar
    Icon for Advisely Index Top 10 rankAdvisely Index Top 10

    Good reminder Terry-Bell we are all guilty of defering what is important or what we consider "too hard basket" I will get to it later.  Succession agreements are also another area that I see get put off and when that goes wrong it goes really wrong.

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