Get shit done: the secret story of “urgent”


Do you ever use the little “urgent” flag in your email? Do other people send you emails marked urgent? Do you go to urgent meetings?

They’re a rude interruption, aren’t they. And when you read those emails and go to those meetings, are they actually urgent?

Let me tell you a little secret.

The word “urgent” really means, “I failed”.

I’ll explain…

Every action in business fits into one of four categories:

Low importance, low urgency

Do them later

Low importance, high urgency

Delegate them to be done now

High importance, low urgency

Work on them now so they’re not urgent later

High importance, high urgency

Stop everything, do them now

Think about this while I discuss the value of things over time.

Software engineers will tell you that changes made to new software at the end of the project cost six times as much as changes made in the planning stage. Your travel agent will tell you that flying now is more expensive than flying later – or that you should have bought your ticket last month, when it was cheaper. At the fruit shop, avocados that you can eat today cost more than the hard green ones.

The answer to the urgent problem and the cost over time problem is the same answer.

Planning and structure.

Put simply, as leaders, it is our job to ensure our teams are supported by a working environment, structure and plans that move our enterprise towards fulfilling its goals. That includes us prioritising things that are important, rather than leaving them to the last minute so that they become urgent.

This means we must design our business processes to:

  1. Identify the important things
  2. Allocate time and resources to them well ahead of deadlines
  3. Monitor performance
  4. Ring alarm bells if we go off track

If we fail to deal with issues at the important, but not urgent stage, we have failed. If we put structures in place to manage these issues, we can provide timely leadership in a non-stressful environment.

We achieve a kind of grace once we start living like this inside our business.

I’ll help you with step one. Critical things you need to look after always include:

  • Sales
  • Budgeting
  • People management and culture
  • Succession planning

And the first thing you need to do about all those things is to have conversations with the people involved.

What conversations do you need to have this week?

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