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How Physicians Can Differentiate Between the Important and Urgent

by Intermedix Staff on November 15, 2016 at 11:13 AM


Several weeks ago, I heard a great speaker deliver a message about choosing the Important over the Urgent.  He explained that we choose to complete the tasks for which we have time for.  As I was listening to the message, I thought about how this impacts not only personal decisions, but also professional ones.

Many physicians in the healthcare industry are constantly working in a state of urgency based on the health emergencies patients present with, but have they adapted this practice in the workplace? Even if they wanted to, is it possible to distinguish between what’s important versus urgent, learn from those who came before us, and still utilize time wisely to be successful?

Differentiate Between Important and Urgent

Let’s be honest, one person can’t do it all. Every day, however, we feel a constant sense of urgency to complete the “to do list” we create in our head. The speaker made a good point about urgency, using the example of an upset customer calling in. In this case, we are looking at an urgent matter.  If we created processes to keep customers happy, however, then that would be considered important. As humans, we instinctually have an inclination to work on what is most pressing at that moment, even though the important tasks we set in place are the ones that will ultimately contribute to our long-term goals. Important tasks allow us to make decisions with a calm mindset and leave time in our schedule to handle the unexpected. If we choose to consistently operate in an urgent state, we inevitably lose sight of our goals and create unnecessary internal stressors.  

Learn from Those Before Us

In order to start prioritizing the important tasks, we must learn from those who came before us.  In the work place, a manager or supervisor is a great resource. These leaders, based on their knowledge gained from past experiences, can help you prioritize tasks and formulate obtainable goals. In addition to the leaders we interact with on a daily basis, we can also learn from past leaders, such as Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Eisenhower was the 34th President of the United States, a general, and a commander of the Allied Forces. He was also known for being a master organizer and was famously quoted as saying, “What is important is seldom urgent, and what is urgent is seldom important.”

There is a great article from the Business Insider titled “Dwight Eisenhower Nailed a Major Insight about Productivity.” The article focuses on Eisenhower’s four quadrants, which distinguish between important and urgent tasks so individuals are empowered to make real progress in their lives.  The quadrants allow for the easy visualization of the tasks that require more focus. They also help with the prioritization of these tasks for optimal outcomes.

Be Wise with Your Time

Once we understand the difference between important and urgent and have attempted to learn all we can from knowledgeable superiors, it is critical that we turn our sights to time management. For example, regularly scheduled meetings afford a set block of time to address issues, make changes, and find resolutions. In the long-term, scheduled appointments result in more time because there are fewer unscheduled interruptions.

By also creating artificial deadlines, we can complete tasks in a timely manner and eliminate the stress associated with procrastination or last minute deadlines.

Apply What You’ve Learned

As we all know, there is never enough time in the day to complete all the tasks we have set for ourselves. Thus, it is vital that we spend time planning and organizing, sifting through our important and urgent tasks set each day, in hopes that we can accomplish, at the very least, the critically necessary tasks.

If you have struggled in the prioritization of tasks in the past, start approaching each task with the important/urgent mindset. Is this task going to contribute to my overall goals? In completing this task, what will I have accomplished? Speak to the leaders at your disposal and get their insight as well. Learn from them and start developing your own ways in which you can effectively manage your time. In the end, applying these techniques can help you succeed in the workplace, reduce stress and creates self-discipline. The better you are with your time, the more valuable you are to your employer.

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This post was written by Intermedix Staff