First it's helpful to review the Eisenhower Matrix or Eisenhower Box to get clear on the distinction between urgency and importance (because they're not mutually exclusive)...
1) Important But Not Urgent - These are things that will multiply your time such as long-term business growth strategies, writing articles, seeing friends and family, and exercising. If you don't do these you don't suffer any immediate consequences so they're easy to put off for another day. Schedule a time to do these activities before seemingly urgent activities get in the way.
2) Important And Urgent - These activities demand our immediate attention because they must get taken care of and they are things that only you can do such as talking to clients or completing mission critical work before a deadline. These things you need to do right away.
3) Not Important But Urgent - Such activities are best delegated or automated whenever possible. These are things like scheduling appointments, scraping together a list of emails, or anything that needs to get done quickly but doesn't require you to do it.
4) Not Important And Not Urgent - Wastes of time. This can include spending hours on Facebook, watching Netflix, browsing Reddit, or anything else that doesn't directly move you closer to your goals. Such activities are best eliminated until everything else has been taken care of if not eliminated entirely.
What does this look like in practice?
A client of mine realized that he had been dealing with the Important and Urgent things well (like setting up new clients) but not yet effectively delegating the Not Important But Urgent activities (like work that could be outsourced). He also realized that he spent significant time browsing Facebook (Not Important And Not Urgent) instead of taking care of Important But Not Urgent activities like testing a new marketing funnel for his business.
We came up with a simple strategy to ensure that he took care of the Important But Not Urgent first before he had a chance to be distracted.
Each night or the following morning he would come up with three (and only 3) activities that were the most important for him to get done that day by asking himself questions such as:
What's the one thing I could do such that by doing it everything else becomes easier or unnecessary?
What is the most important thing I can do today that would multiply my time in the biggest way long term?
What is the first step I need to take to get that done?
...and put that first on his list of the three things he needed to do that day. The other two tasks could be Important and Urgent but the first task needed to be Important But Not Urgent, otherwise it could be too easily skipped as willpower waned throughout the day.
Because that's usually the case with our Important But Not Urgent tasks. They take significant willpower and they're scary and they challenge us. If we can start the day off by knocking out one of those before we have a chance to be distracted then we can say that the day was a win no matter what else happens.
How can you apply this in your own life? Let me know in a comment!