Manage Your Priorities (Part 2): Reduce the Urgency

In Part 1 of Manage Your Priorities, I shared several strategies designed to reduce or eliminate seven common time-wasters, and encouraged you to tackle one.

One time-waster I recently reduced, was the back-and-forth emails required to find a suitable date and time to meet.  You know the drill ...

Me: “These are the dates/times I’m available.  Please pick out what works best for you.” 

Client: “None of those dates/times work for me. Do you have any other times available? 

Me: “What dates/times do you have available?”

Client: “Monday between 3:00 and 4:00 pm, Tuesday at 11:00 or 1:00. I’m in meetings the rest of the week.” 

Me: “Unfortunately, I those dates/times don’t work for me. Let’s look at next week.” 

The saga continues … Until now!

In less than an hour, I set up Calendly as my automated scheduling system.  I figure I've saved myself at least one hour per week and best yet, gained freedom from both the frustration and the urgency to schedule a meeting with a client.

So, what’s one thing you’ve implemented this past month to help you gain freedom and time from a frustrating activity?   Are you ready to save even more time?

In Part 2 of Manage Your Priorities, I share three habits that can reduce the time you spend in the Eisenhower Matrix's What’s Urgent but Not Important category.

So, what exactly are “urgent but not important tasks”?

These tasks include things like work that can be done by others, interruptions, things that are important to other’s goals, but less relevant to yours, and getting information to others that they need from you.

Here’s a few simple habits to help you reduce the urgency from others so you can focus on your important work:

Habit #1 – The Delegation Identifier

Create a habit of asking yourself for every urgent request that comes in from others and every task you touch “Do I need to be the one doing this?”.   Go one step further and set a goal to identify one thing each day that you don’t need to be doing.  Then create a delegation plan to start moving things off your desk.  Adopt the 80/20 rule - if someone on your team can do it 80% as well as you can, give it to them to do.  Eventually you’ll find yourself having to deal with less and less urgent requests from others.

Habit #2 – Schedule Everything

Every professional services leader I work with, has found themselves overwhelmed by their priorities.

When we did deeper, they are in the habit of setting their important work aside to react to the demands of what and who is in front of them.  I get it.  I’ve been there. And it’s an ongoing challenge for the best of us. Neuroscience explains it as a dopamine hit to our brains. It just plain feels good.

Here’s the thing, when you create a system to schedule everything – including time to work on your important work – you become the cause of your calendar, and not the effect of it.

  • Got an important project to work on? How much time each day or week do you need? Schedule it.
  • Need time to plan for an important meeting? Schedule it.
  • Must review and give feedback on a report you delegated? Schedule it.

When you schedule everything, it causes you to stop saying YES to everything. You get more realistic of the time you truly have available.  When someone asks, “Got a minute?”  You’ll find yourself not reacting to every seemingly urgent request.  Instead, you’ll easily say “No, unfortunately I don’t. But I can chat to you at lunch.”

Habit #3 – Open for Business! 

The Open-Door Policy has certainly been misunderstood as an “I’ll drop anything and everything important to me to help you deal with any important or trivial matter important to you.”

In my opinion, this was not the initial intent of an open-door policy. It was meant to encourage people to address problems and concerns with management.  However, it can be done in a more effective manner that continues to encourage openness and foster an environment of collaboration.

Think of your college or university professor.  Yes, they were available to answer questions from students, but not at any time.  They set office hours.  They had open doors on specific days and times.

By setting specific times in your schedule for “open-door” hours, you teach others when you are available to answer their questions.  And you reduce the urgency that an always open-door office creates.

Professional business leaders whom I’ve coached have found that when they start to set their open-door hours, team members start thinking more about their questions and often figure out the answers themselves.  Bonus!


By implementing one new habit this month, you’ll be taking a step to becoming proactive on how you respond to the “urgent but unimportant”. 

  • Which of these 3 habits will you test out?   
  • What’s one thing you can do today to implement that habit? 
  • What will you do over the next two weeks?  
  • What will you do over the next month?

Let me know what actions you take and how they increased your productivity and decreased your stress at work.  I’d love to hear from you!

Lisa Holden Rovers, MSc, CPHR, PCC, is the Founder of Workplace Matters. Since 2005, Lisa has been coaching entrepreneurs and executives to grow as leaders and spark team cultures that thrive. She’s an award-winning human resources professional and a certified leadership and team coach who is passionate about helping people step into what is possible.  

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