Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Importance vs Urgency Matrix

Being the ultimate nerd that I am, I attended a webinar on time management on Thursday. Actually it's less about nerdy proactiveness and more about survival. I felt I was teetering on the edge of a nervous breakdown a month ago, and I've seen enough people older than me to know that we only get more balls in the air, more to deal with and more to cram into our days until we're about sixty. To be overwhelmed by 26 is relatively embarrassing.

The hosts of the webinar had English-midlands accents, a slow, serious way of speaking and exuded whatever the opposite of charisma is. The whole experience was so washed out and linoleumy that I felt like I was in an episode of The Office. And all the matrices and quadrants they introduced did was to try and help people separate the urgent from the important.

I unplugged my earphones before the hour was up, pissed off that I'd lost time that I needed to put together a presentation.

It was only this morning that I realised that's not just a handy skill for effective time management. The inability to see the difference between what is important and what is urgent is responsible for pretty much every dysfunction of the modern world. It's why we mindlessly pursue economic growth at the expense of the planet and our survival. It's why we lose touch with friends because we're always rushing to a meeting. Urgency gives us an adrenaline rush. The adrenaline hooks us. And then we wake up at 65 and realise we've wasted our whole lives chasing unimportant things.

Maybe these quadrants will save the world.

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