The tyranny of the URGENT!
part 2 of work prioritization
This is the second post on the topic that I started yesterday. If you have not read it, you can find it in Work prioritization part 1.
Yesterday, we were talking about Eisenhower’s matrix and the linearization of the priority of work. It is natural to gravitate towards the URGENT, as it does make sense to put out the burning fires.
Today we are going to delve into the value or utility of the work. Most often, URGENT works come with negative utility. I am not saying that a maximum utility cannot be created in an URGENT situation but in most creative work, the focus to temporarily solve a problem leads to a patchwork response.
In URGENT situations, an event has happened that has already created negative utility and continues to create additional negative utility. Or the Urgent work might be to make sure that a future negative utility is not realized. Either way, my argument is that when you work on the URGENT, you normally do not have the ability to do your best work and short cuts might be necessary to complete the work. Another source for the URGENT work might be the fact that the IMPORTANT work that had needed to be done was either not done or put off.
The URGENT-IMPORTANT ratio:
If you do the simple math of the ratio of the URGENT to the total work, you can work to reduce the URGENT work to focus on the IMPORTANT. Most organizations I have worked in thrived in doing URGENT work, where everything was considered URGENT. If an organization has a flow of utility in their system, then the URGENT work would have come down to be a small number or not at all. This could be an index of how effective the organization is in proactively dealing with work in a way that there is no significant URGENT work at all.
When there is very limited URGENT work to do, this work gets done with the IMPORTANT as one of the current work that needs to be done. No drama or song-and-dance will be required to complete the work.
Now, let’s derive some aphorisms out of this:
Most URGENT “work” comes with negative utility baked in. Work to reduce your URGENT to Total work ratio to the lowest possible.
Most creative work and innovation happens when you focus on the IMPORTANT, so work to reduce the URGENT work.
If you focus on the IMPORTANT, the URGENT will take care of itself.
The IMPORTANT might lead to creations that maximize utility
When patching the URGENT, initiate an IMPORTANT to stabilize and leverage on the learnings from the change.
Tomorrow, we will focus on the IMPORTANT and that is a whole new ball-game.