How many times in a week, or even a day, are you interrupted by someone squealing, "But it’s urgent!" Two of the biggest causes of confusion and disruption in the management of time are (a) other people’s crises and (b) not understanding the difference between important and urgent.
In "The One Minute Manager", Kenneth Blanchard describes other people’s problems as monkeys. He helps us to understand that in order to free up our time and deal with priorities we have to ensure that our colleagues are prevented from dumping their monkeys on our desk. Good self-organisation starts with training others as well as ourselves. This is not to say that we shouldn’t co-operate and work as a team but others need to understand the disruption they cause to their colleagues through lack of foresight and planning.
The financial costs of poor time-management
On a recent time management course I asked the delegates to calculate the cost of forgetting to do something quite simple which was important but not urgent. You can gauge something’s importance by considering the magnitude of the consequences if it is not completed. Whereas something which is urgent has a "best by" date. It needs to be completed to a deadline. Just because something is urgent doesn’t necessarily mean it’s important and vice versa. In the example on the time management course, the important task had been allowed to become urgent. As a result, the corrective action not only disrupted the work of several people needlessly but also escalated costs thirty-fold.
So the next time someone rushes into your office and screams, "This is urgent!" stop them in their tracks and ask them if it’s important. Listen to the stunned silence and enjoy!