Thursday, 2 May 2013

The most urgent decisions might not be the most important ones

I read a really good post recently on time management. It put forward the idea of The Eisenhower Matrix. This is based on the notion that the most urgent decisions are rarely the most important ones.
You may go into work  this morning with your tasks for the day mapped out, calls to make, meetings to attend. A few problems or decisions then cross your desk or inbox. You start reacting to whoever is shouting the loudest (hopefully just in the figurative sense). It is very easy to start doing the most urgent responses straight away. The end result may be that you do not allocate enough time (or in a really bad case forget) to deal with the most important tasks.
I've seen this happen quite a bit in software development where developers/project managers get urgent calls to fix bugs or make product changes. The rationale was often, 'we need to do this to win or keep a customer'. The important job of making sure you have a stable code base, that changes are peer reviewed, that the product development is driven by strategy not client whims can get ignored or put to one side. There is no deliberate decision made to drop the important aspects of the software development process, it just happens. The important stuff like version control and scheduled upgrades get left behind.
So if something does cross your inbox, figure out if it is urgent or important or both. Use the Eisenhower Matrix to figure out when to do it or who to delegate it to. You may have a little more time on your hands and get to make those important decisions at the right time. By getting the important decision right, in the long term you should have less urgent items landing as surprises in your inbox.

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