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We have real treat for you below! My good friend and collaborator in all things digital, Liz Sumner, has an insightful post about how our minds work, how to understand what is going on more deeply and how to manage it with consciousness. Enjoy this great read! – Matt

There’s a principle of Productivity that items both Urgent and Important rise to the top of the priority list. What’s the difference? Urgency is about time, a deadline, a window of opportunity. Importance is about value, the rank you give something compared to other things.

Picture a quadrant made from a scale of low importance to high importance intersected by a scale of immediate to future.


Conventional wisdom says you do the A’s, the time sensitive AND important things first, then the B’s and C’s, and don’t worry about the D’s.  So for example, getting to the dry cleaner’s before it closes is urgent but not important UNLESS your tux is getting cleaned and you’re the best man at a wedding later tonight. Then it becomes both urgent AND important.

Let me give you another example from my recent experience.

Last week Matt and I recorded a podcast to showcase my Productivity Coaching. I was a little nervous but felt comfortable enough with Matt to relax and not let it bother me. Plus he told me that we could trash the recording if I hated it.

No sweat.

We got going just fine. (When I listen to the recording I hear my voice about an octave higher than usual when I say hello but if you don’t know me you might not notice).  Shortly into the program Matt tossed me what should have been an easy question and I froze. I couldn’t think of what I wanted to say, then got hugely self-conscious about the gaffe, then remembered, “Oh, we can trash this!” and asked Matt to please start again.

He said, “No” and kept going.

I regained some semblance of poise. I told myself, “I can edit this. It’ll be fine.” We continued and I actually got in a groove and the interview went well.

All the time I’m thinking, “I can fix this. There’s good stuff here.”

When we finished I immediately asked Matt to let me edit the recording. He said sure but he couldn’t download it right away. He’d get to it later.

I started obsessing. I couldn’t focus on anything else. I was useless.

Later that evening Matt sent me the recording (thank GOD) and I immediately cut out the offending blooper, then sent it back to him. And started waiting. And refreshing my email to see if he’d responded.

I tried to go 24 hours before nagging him, but I didn’t manage to wait that long. I’d occasionally check the podcast site to see if by chance he’d switched them and just hadn’t let me know. He hadn’t.

To me this event was CAPITAL A, hugely urgent and important. I was imagining people listening to the original, hearing my unbelievably heinous mistake, then shunning me. I could feel their contempt coming through the ether.

To Matt, I imagine, this was a B at most. He cares about me and knew that I thought it was important to switch out the edited version, but he didn’t have a high need to interrupt his life and business to do my bidding. Not urgent.

I get it. The Productivity Coach in me approves the order of his priorities.  Just because someone else thinks you should drop everything and do something RIGHT NOW doesn’t mean you should.

First-Things-First-sm-imgTo learn about Urgent vs Important and other tips for prioritizing visit and download my free gift, First Things First: 6 Keys to Prioritizing Power plus 6 Methods to Manage and Master You Inbox.

P.S. You can hear the EDITED version of our interview HERE.

-Liz Sumner


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