Recently I heard a powerful quote that’s stuck with me…

”The magic you are looking for is in the work you’re avoiding.” 

I believe this statement sums up why so many people are not feeling as productive, satisfied, or as successful as they could be.

Procrastination seems to be commonplace among many of us. Why is it that we avoid or put off items that need and deserve our attention?

Some examples are ignoring closet, drawer, and desk clutter, putting off sorting through files or writing letters, delaying better eating habits, and initiating a consistent exercise regime.  All of which would give us more energy, mental clarity, and greater health.

It seems odd, doesn’t it?  This is odd, especially when deep down we know how important and beneficial it would be to attend to those priorities and be able to clear them off our to-do list. Our lives would improve and greatly transform!

What’s the block? Is it fatigue, laziness, mental confusion, uncertainty, change, stress…?  All or a combination of the above?

Most people have full schedules, and every day we are bombarded with numerous tasks, responsibilities, and requests. It can get overwhelming.  However, if we get caught up in the rat race or hamster wheel, we can kiss our ideals, values, and goals good-bye.

Discerning between what is urgent and what is important is essential to being effective and successful. Yet it takes a heck of a lot of brain power to simply categorize and prioritize these items, never mind actually perform the tasks.

One way that can help simplify and clarify our process is by referring to a strategy I recently learned called The Eisenhower Principle, named after Dwight D. Eisenhower, former U.S. president.

It is said to be how he organized his workload and priorities by discerning between urgent and important activities.

What’s the difference between urgent and important activities?

Urgent activities demand immediate attention and may be associated with achieving someone else’s goals. These are often the tasks we concentrate on, because the consequences of not dealing with them are immediate. For example, “urgent” is the meeting we are running late for, the pressure of a crammed inbox full of unopened messages, and the never-ending long list of business, family and personal “to-dos.”

Important activities have outcomes that lead us to achieving our goals. They are quieter, more subtle. They don’t grab our attention the way urgent does, however the consequences of ignoring important tasks such as self-care and personal and professional development opportunities can mean paying a heftier price later.

Knowing the difference between “urgent” and “important”, and being able to manage our schedule and take clear action, willallow us to use time effectively, and to focus on what is most important.

What about Unimportant Urgent Activities?

When we know which activities are important and which are urgent, we can overcome the tendency to focus on unimportant urgent activities.  Then we can clear enough time to do what’s essential for our success. This is the way we move from ‘trouble shooting’ to growing ourselves, our businesses, and our careers.

Try this principle yourself by making a list all of the activities and projects that you feel you have to do. Try to include everything that takes up your time at home and at work, however big or small.

Next, put each activity it into one of the following four categories.  After that, schedule tasks and activities based on their importance and urgency.

1. Important and Urgent

There are two distinct types of important and urgent activities: ones that you could not have foreseen, and others that you’ve left until the last minute.

TIP: Ask yourself how you can avoid allowing tasks to get to an ‘urgent ‘state and what you can delegate.

2. Important but Not Urgent

These are the activities that help you achieve your personal and professional goals and complete important work.

TIP:  Ensure you schedule frequent, ample, uninterrupted time to focus on these items.

3. Not Important but Urgent 

Urgent but not important tasks are things that prevent you from achieving your goals.

TIP: Ask yourself whether you can reschedule or delegate these tasks, as they are going to interfere with and distract you from important progress and growth.

4. Not Important and Not Urgent

These activities are distractions – avoid as much as possible.

TIP: Ask yourself why you are being lured into giving these activities your time and energy. Maybe you need a break, some hydration or nutrition, fresh air or some movement. Sometimes a break can shift your brain back into a clearer space so it doesn’t wander off into thoughts and actions that waste your time.

As you can see,The Eisenhower Principle of what is Important or Urgent helps you to quickly identify activities that you should focus on, as well as the ones you should ignore.

When you use this tool to prioritize your time, you can deal with truly urgent issues, at the same time as you work towards important, long-term goals.

To your Fit Brain & Fit Life,