Identifying Goals

Urgent is not the same as important.

Do you feel you’re working hard but not achieving much? Maybe you’re confusing “urgent” with “important” tasks.

Dwight Eisenhower said: “What is important is seldom urgent, and what is urgent is seldom important.”

An urgent task needs attention right away. Important tasks count towards our personal goals. Sometimes important tasks are also urgent, but often they’re not.

Take a look at the following Eisenhower Matrix:

Eisenhower Matrix


Tasks that are both urgent and important.

Some things are both urgent, and important. They need immediate attention and count towards our personal goals.

  • Some emails – maybe a job offer, or a new opportunity.
  • Exam deadlines.
  • Bill payments.
  • Car repairs.

We need to crack on with these “DO FIRST” tasks. Instead of waiting to the last minute, schedule these tasks in advance.

We can often reduce the number of “urgent and important” jobs by using a diary, and by thoughtful planning.

Do the worst, first.

When we’ve a list of things to do, it’s often best to do the hardest or nastiest job first.

Mark Twain said that if we eat a frog first thing in the morning, nothing worse was likely to happen to us that day.

If we get the unpleasant stuff out of the way first, it’s easier to look forward to the rest of the day, rather than dreading the jobs to come.


Jobs that aren’t urgent, but are important.

These tasks may not have a pressing deadline, but they help achieve our overall goals.

They might involve improving relationships, future planning, and self-improvement; for example:

  • Exercise.
  • Family time.
  • Learning.
  • Hobbies.
  • Meditation.
  • Budgeting.

These important things can add to our happiness, fulfilment and success.

Often, we focus on whatever seems urgent at the time, while we hope to get the important stuff done later. The trouble is, the urgent stuff tends to “crowd out” the important stuff, leaving us busy but feeling like we’re not really getting anywhere.


Urgent but unimportant tasks.

These tasks need attention straight away, but usually don’t help us achieve our goals or mission. Sometimes, they involve helping other people meet their goals and priorities, for example:

  • Phone calls.
  • Text messages.
  • Most emails.
  • Favours for friends.
  • People dropping in.

These might be “feel good” tasks. They can often make us popular!

They might feel important, but mostly we’re doing things that are important for other people, rather than for ourselves.

In the long run this can make us resentful. We might need to learn to say “no,” or learn to delegate better.


Tasks that are neither urgent, nor important.

These are our distractions, for example:

  • Watching TV.
  • Surfing the internet.
  • Playing video games.
  • Social media.

These can help us reduce stress, so we shouldn’t get rid of them completely, but make sure we don’t devote too much time to them. They won’t make us happy or satisfied in the long run.

Identify a list of things you have to do, think about your goals and create your own Eisenhower Matrix below.

Things I need to DO now, that are both urgent and important.

Things that aren’t urgent, but that are personally important to me – PLAN.

Urgent, but unimportant tasks – DELEGATE or DECLINE.

Things that are neither urgent, nor important – DROP.

Next – Imps.

Written by: SC.
Written on: 20 May 2019.
Last updated on: 06 June 2019.
Checked by: JL.
Checked on: 06 June 2019.
Date for review: May 2021.
Flesch Reading Ease: 75.