The other day I sat down and hammered out six letters of engagement to create a set of contractual relationships between two organizations. It was tough mental work. It was necessary work. It was not something most people like to do. In fact approaching these would trigger most forms of procrastination.
It was on my to-do list for a few weeks. However it was not a matter of procrastination because I knew that I needed an uninterrupted block of 5 hours to get the work done. I also knew that I had to ignore everything else and focus on just these contracts during that period. That included ignoring email, that terrible distraction that so easily moves us from productivity of the not urgent but most important, to chase urgent and semi-important or not important items.
Not urgent but most important are usually items that take mental energy and time and discipline. They are one of those things that separate those who sort of get things done from those who get the important things done and are propelled to the top. Not urgent but important sometimes involves setting up procedures and steps that streamline operations or critical processes whose missed pieces cause problems and create crises that people and organizations spend their days and weeks chasing. Not urgent but important items include defining critical diagrams or models that facilitate understanding and allow teams to collaborate and meld their minds to achieve strong outcomes not possible by individuals alone. Not urgent but important items include key contracts and documents that outline responsibilities and engagements in exchange for money. They include paying attention to important details.
Excellence in Project Management, those activities that propel you to the top of your field and make you invaluable, include doing the urgent but not important and overcoming procrastination, carving out blocks of time, and slogging through those things that many people like to avoid and prefer to be lured by the urgent but not quite that important items that litter the inbox, the text lists, and shout out at us as we cruise the internet and click on shiny objects instead of doing what we should be doing.
Next time you find yourself sighing because you are slogging through something that others have avoided, reading contracts that many don’t want to read, attending to detail that others avoid by attending to emails, remind yourself that the ability to focus and work on those items that are not urgent but important will pan out in the long run and help propel you to the TOP.