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Another day, another study. This one says that we have “an urgency bias” meaning that “our brains pick urgency over importance, wanting the immediate satisfaction of a quick payoff”.

We prefer to do the quick and easy things on our list because important tasks are (or appear) more difficult and take longer to complete. “People want to finish the urgent tasks first and then work on important tasks later.”

I get that. I do that. I like to sprint through my email inbox first and get it out of the way before tackling more important work.

The researchers say one reason we tend to prioritize urgent over important because we find comfort in appearing busy. I get that, too. Who doesn’t like checking things off our list?

If we’re getting the important stuff done, however, does it matter when we do it? Kinda. We have more energy at the start of our day and should use that time for work that requires more focus.

If we’re not doing the important work, however, if our day is filled with putting out fires and reacting to what’s put in front of us instead of doing things that bring us closer to our most important goals, that’s a problem.

What’s the solution? The researchers say we should remind ourselves of the value of the bigger tasks we’re avoiding or postponing. Okay, but how? The article doesn’t say. But I will. It’s something I wrote about before and it’s about as simple as it gets:

Next to each task on your list, write down why you need to do it. In other words, write down the benefits it delivers.

This forces you to think about what each task is worth to you. Is it short-term and relatively low-value or something that advances your career? Is it urgent but otherwise not a priority or is it an important factor contributing to your success?

As you write down why, consider the price you pay for not doing the task. What do you give up if you don’t get it done?

We need to prioritize tasks that provide more value over those that are merely urgent. By consciously considering the benefits each tasks offers, we can be more intentional about what we do and when we do it.

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