Last updated: 25 May 2023


The Struggle between Urgency and Importance: Getting Your Priorities Right

As a designer or developer, you're no stranger to the constant struggle between urgency and importance. Deadlines and client demands often push you towards the Urgent & Important tasks, leaving the Not Urgent & Important ones neglected. But fear not, there's a way to find balance and still do your best work.

Let's break it down into categories that specifically relate to our world. You have Urgent & Important design or development tasks that require immediate attention, such as fixing critical bugs or meeting client deadlines. Then there are Urgent & Not Important tasks, like responding to non-essential emails or attending meetings that don't contribute directly to your project's success.

But here's where the magic happens—the Not Urgent & Important tasks. These are the design explorations, research, and development experiments that can take your work to the next level. It's all about finding the confidence and discipline to commit to these tasks, even when they don't have pressing deadlines.

Some companies create space for these Not Urgent & Important tasks by utilising tools such as "Design Days" or "Hack Days". These are safe spaces that encourage creativity and exploration to deliver work that's helpful to the business but doesn't fit into your current objectives.

For example, as a designer, taking the time to explore new design trends or learning a new prototyping tool might not be urgent, but it's important for your professional growth. Similarly, as a developer, allocating time to refactor code, improve performance, or experiment with new frameworks may not be urgent, but it's vital for enhancing your skills and staying relevant.

In the fast-paced world we live in, where clients and stakeholders often prioritize quick results, it can be challenging to carve out space for Not Urgent & Important work. However, successful designers and developers understand the value it brings to their craft and the long-term impact it has on their careers.

To help you navigate this struggle in the day-to-day, consider implementing frameworks like the "Pareto Principle" (also known as the "80/20 rule") in your work. This concept emphasises focusing 80% of your time on the Urgent & Important tasks, but also reserving 20% for the Not Urgent & Important ones that drive innovation and creativity. Remember, it's not just about meeting deadlines and delivering functional designs or code—it's about pushing the boundaries of what's possible and continuously improving your skills. Embrace the discomfort of uncertainty, challenge yourself to go beyond the urgent, and watch your creativity increase tenfold.

My advice: prioritise the important alongside the urgent, and unlock your true potential. Your future self will thank you for it.

First published: 25 May 2023

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