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Ace the Urgent vs Important Conundrum

Kick start 2024 with a new approach to working! In our Career Moves series we share advice and tips to help you achieve your career aspirations.


We all have days where our entire job seems to consist of reading and responding to email and attending meetings with no time for actual work. These are classic time suckers that can drain us of the energy to work more effectively aka successfully.


In this issue of Scoop we explore how to ace the dilemma of tackling the important vs urgent. You wake up to 50+ emails and you need to finish that report by end of day. What to do first? There could be something really urgent in those 50 emails.


Here’s where the Urgent vs Important matrix comes in and is especially essential for entrepreneurs or business leaders. Urgent work requires immediate attention, important work is related to strategic long-term goals or accomplishments but takes focused time. This map helps you delegate, avoid time wasting and focus on the important - think of it as reactive vs proactive.


Do It!

Urgent and Important

The every day mini crises that come to your in-box. These are generally things that can be taken care of quickly but the volume adds up. Tip - Instead of checking email all through the day, make it a practice to check to only check at specific times.


Schedule It!

Not Urgent but Important

It can be easy to deal with the urgent and delay the important. Ignore this at your peril! Schedule regular time on your calendar to do important work that aligns with long term goals or accomplishments.  This should be a time when you know you can be at your most productive i.e. early in the morning or on Friday’s when you have fewer meetings.


Delegate It!

Not Urgent and Not (too) Important

Delegating tasks to your team shows you trust them to get it done and gives them a sense of responsibility and ownership. To avoid tasks becoming urgent and important for the person you delegated to, communicate a time the task needs to be done.  Are you a solopreneur or individual contributor with no one to delegate to? Hire a part-time intern or a virtual assistant.


Delete It!

Not Urgent and Not Important

Declutter! The workplace is a magnet for clutter and mess. Who hasn't felt drained by wasteful meetings, disorganized papers, endless emails, and unnecessary tasks?

These are the modern-day hazards of working, and they can slowly drain the joy from work, limit our chances of success and undermine our well-being.

Eliminate or delete tasks that don’t add value. We recommend reading Joy At Work: Organizing Your Professional Life, by Marie Kondo to help you overcome the challenges of workplace mess.


Make this quadrant work for you! -  First, jot down the approximate amount of time you spend each day per quadrant. Then, set a goal for yourself to increase the amount of time spent that advances your long-term goals.


Get support from your team by communicating your goals to co-workers and your manager. Not only can they offer support and encouragement, it also let’s them know what to expect.


Be flexible! Use your goal as a motivational tool but don’t stress if it doesn’t work out all the time. Every job has times when you need to lean in (or out) and work across multiple quadrants.


Looking for personalized career guidance? Our career mentors are experts at helping you develop the skills you need to advance your career.


You will gain career confidence, insight, encouragement and inspiration.


This article is part of our Career Moves series; advice and guidance to help you achieve your career aspirations.



Arche helps people architect, navigate and advance their career path with expert advice and tools to support your job search, interview preparation, professional branding, salary negotiations, and career advancement.


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