Urgent and Important Matrix

November 2, 2019
BY: Adam Kent


Urgent and Important Matrix

Using Time Effectively & Managing Priorities

What if I told you that using a calendar and to-do list is comparable to a white belt in martial arts. It’s one of the first lessons in becoming a black belt in how to manage your time. Change will take some time, patience, commitment, and newly acquired skills.

Speaking generally, people are so stuck in the loop of “I have no time” that even when solutions are presented, many of us won’t, or can’t do what’s necessary to get it back.

Time stressors are one of the most pervasive sources of pressure and they happen as a result of having too much to do, or at least feeling that way. With this kind of pressure all too common, effective time management is an absolute necessity. 

You probably use a day-planner and to-do list right now. These tools are certainly helpful, yet they don’t allow us to drill down to one of the most essential elements of good time management: Distinguishing between task’s that are urgent & important. Urgent & not important, not urgent & important, or not urgent & not important.

Great time management means being effective and efficient. To do this, and to minimize the stress of having too many tight deadlines, you need to distinguish clearly between what is: 

  • Important: Activities that have an outcome that leads to the achievement of your goals. 
  • Urgent: Activities that demand immediate attention. 

Urgent activities are often the ones we concentrate on. These are the “squeaky wheels that get the grease.” They demand attention because the consequences of not dealing with them are immediate. 


Urgent Not Urgent

1 – DO NOW

  • emergencies, complaints, crisis issues
  • demands from superiors & customers
  • planned tasks or projects due now
  • priority meetings and appointments
  • critical reports and other submissions
  • Present team issues or needs
  • resolutions, putting out fires, fixes

Subject to confirming the importance and
the urgency of these tasks, do these now.
Prioritise according to their relative
urgency. Due today, tomorrow, end of the


  • planning, preparation, scheduling
  • research, investigation, designing, testing
  • networking / relationship building
  • thinking, creating, modelling, designing
  • systems and process development
  • anticipation and prevention
  • developing change, direction, strategy

Critical to success and order: planning, strategic thinking, deciding direction and aims, etc. Plan time-slots and personal space for these tasks.

Not Important


  • trivial requests from others
  • apparent emergencies that can wait
  • ad-hoc interruptions and distractions
  • misunderstandings appearing as
  • complaints
  • pointless routines or activities
  • accumulated unresolved trivia
  • personal or professional whims or
  • tantrums

Scrutinise and probe demands. Help
originators to re-assess. Wherever possible
reject, avoid, or delegate these sensitively
and immediately.


  • ‘comfort’ activities, social media, net surfing,
  • excessive breaks
  • chat, gossip, social communications
  • daydreaming, doodling, overlong breaks
  • reading nonsense or irrelevant material
  • unnecessary adjusting equipment etc.
  • embellishment and overproduction

Habitual ‘comforters’ not true tasks.
Non-productive, de-motivational.
Minimise or cease altogether. Plan to avoid


Now that you are clear on what defines each area of the urgent/important matrix, use the template below to create a game plan on what is urgent and important for you to accomplish. GOOD LUCK!



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