The Urgent and the Important

I remember being a kid and looking at grownups and being under the impression that these people had it Gotten Somewhere. They’d survived adolescence and graduated from school, and now they got to do Whatever They Wanted. Maybe they complained sometimes about their coworkers or their deadlines or their bills, but that didn’t matter. – Grownups obviously had it All Figured Out.

As someone who has technically been a grownup for a while, I can tell you – this is a lie. The grownup that tells you they have it All Figured Out (and actually believes it) is probably pretty clueless. We are all Works in Progress, and because life changes people, we will continue to grow and change until the end.

Wow, that sounded morbid. Sorry! Really, this is one of those New Year’s Resolution posts. (Mine is overdue.)

I will be the first to confess that I *don’t* have it all figured out. Every year, before January runs its course, I actually try to be pretty up front about how I’m trying to change.

Like in 2011, I wanted to Live Brazenly.

And in 2012, I wanted to get comfortable with where I was right at that moment (rather than always forcing myself forward at a reckless, panicked pace).

This year, in 2013, I want to start distinguishing between the Urgent and the Important, and I want the latter to get top billing every day.


I’m 98% sure that the idea comes out of this book (see above pic), but I can’t find the right section right now. So, I’ll post the quote when I find it. For now, I’ll just paraphrase what Steven Pressfield (the author) said: we waste so much energy on what’s Urgent that we barely spend much time with what’s Important. We should really start our days with what’s Important–Urgent items will get done anyway, even if we have less time to accomplish them.

Now for some examples:

Urgent – keeping track of the bestselling books and reading them so I’m up-to-date on the current publishing world.

Important – reading books I love like whoa, which rekindle my passion for novels and teach me a thing or two about storytelling.

Urgent – remembering to type up the pages I write, so I don’t have a stack hundreds of pages tall the day the manuscript is due.

Important – getting Rory’s story out of my head and onto the page.

Urgent – dealing with that parking ticket I got on Friday, across the street from Powell’s. (True Story. Very Tragic. My first ticket EVER. I’m a bit traumatized.)

Important – bonding with my fair city of Portland and its environs, the lush and green Pacific Northwest.

You’re probably getting the picture.

The Urgent activities are the tasks that come with having responsibilities. They’re often annoying and worrisome (ie. no fun at all), because you really want to do a good job.

The Important stuff is what makes life worth living.

So, basically, in 2013, I want to spend less time thinking about what stresses me out and more time thinking about what I love and appreciate the most. It’s very similar to my resolution last January, except it’s less about the journey and more about living life.

Does anyone else have any New Year’s resolutions you would like to share? (Remember: it’s not like a wish. Even if you tell someone, it can still come true. :-P)

ETA (2.28.13): I found the War of Art quote I mentioned above! Woohoo!

     I’m keenly aware of the Principle of Priority, which states (a) you must know the difference between what is urgent and what is important, and (b) you must do what’s important first.
What’s important is the work. That’s the game I have to suit up for. That’s the field on which I have to leave everything I’ve got.
–Steven Pressfield


  1. JoSVolpe February 4, 2013
    • Shelby February 5, 2013
  2. Dan February 4, 2013
    • Shelby February 5, 2013
  3. Abby hall February 4, 2013
    • Shelby February 5, 2013