Urgent vs Important Tasks

There is a big difference in urgent tasks versus important tasks, but it is how we identify them, prioritise them and action them that makes the difference.

We have looked at how to apply first level filtering to incoming tasks (See Starting from Scratch) but against what criteria do we assess incoming tasks? Unfortunately as a time management system we can only give you guidance on how and what criteria to assess incoming tasks on, the ultimate decision is based on your situation in time. What I think is important/urgent/critical you may think is lower in the priority/importance/urgency scale and this is generally the case when people assign tasks to you, their scale is normally higher than your scale.

With this barrage of tasks coming in from multiple sources, how do we accurately and effectively assess them so our time management system works as intended. There is no point filling your available time with tasks that are neither important or urgent at the expense of tasks that need to be completed. This article will look at against what criteria do we assess incoming tasks.

The most simplistic breakdown is important/not important and urgent/non urgent and these are not the same thing although they may overlap (tasks may be urgent but not important or important but not urgent etc). The quadrant below shows the layout and shows the priority in which you should assess tasks. This is the easiest way to assess tasks as a first level but beginners be warned tasks are not always as they appear. You need to assess with an impartial and clear head. The old adage “the sky is falling, the sky is falling” rings true in assessing incoming tasks particularly when being assigned from other people. We have found that the word “urgent” is greatly overused and you should take an extra look at urgent tasks to make sure they are indeed urgent.


To clarify, an important task is a task that aligns with something you are trying to achieve. It fits in with or is a critical piece of a strategy, a goal or an achievement. An urgent tasks is something that needs to be completed within a shortened timeframe. It normally (but not always) is something out of the ordinary, something not planned or foreseen. It could be a timeframe that has accelerated, a risk that has been realised, a unexpected issue or event.

There is other ways either to replace, or in addition to the important/urgent assessment. Some users assess against categories or strategy. For example, lets assume one of your strategic goals is to make $100,000 in sales this year. This is a great criteria in which to assess the priority of your incoming tasks. If it aligns, support or gets you closer to that strategic goal, then its priority is higher than a task that doesn’t. You can develop a number of these criteria in-line with your strategic goals (Strategic goal planning and recording is coming in Version 3.0).

To use Red Urchin effectively you must assess your incoming tasks against some set of criteria. Our recommendation is to setup your own simple strategic criteria (financial, learning, goals etc) and utilise the urgent/important criteria but against these strategic criteria. For example, if one of my strategic goals is to launch 6 new products within 6 months. I setup my Goal Page and then I can assess incoming tasks against the goals and the sub tasks for alignment, importance and urgency.

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