Too Much to Do? Too Little Time? » Mind Tools Blog

Too Much to Do? Too Little Time?

April 8, 2014


Do you spend your days “firefighting” – rushing from one urgent task to another?

Or, perhaps you have so many tasks competing for your attention that you don’t know where to begin.

If this sounds familiar, then you’re in good company. Former President Dwight Eisenhower is known to have remarked that “What is important is seldom urgent, and what is urgent is seldom important.”

Our article on the “Urgent/Important Matrix” looks at this in more detail, helping you prioritize your workload and manage your time more efficiently.

You can also find out more about this subject in our articles on The Action Priority Matrix, Prioritization, and From Reactive to Proactive Management. And take care to avoid developing Hurry Sickness!

Question: With all of us being encouraged to “work smarter,” how do you create space in your schedule for unforeseen crises? Join the discussion below.

11 thoughts on “Too Much to Do? Too Little Time?

  1. Hjilick wrote:

    This is one of the hardest distinctions for me. If its urgent then it’s urgent and it needs to get done so how do I ignore that and stay focussed on the important stuff? I’d LOVE to get away from the daily stuff that comes up but it’s impossible. What am I missing? Is it realistic to think that something that is urgent doesn’t get done right away?

    1. Midgie wrote:

      Hi Hjilick,
      For me, I see the key as being able to ‘define’ what urgent is. Some individuals might see a ringing phone or a person standing at your desk as urgent that requires immediate attention. Yet, if you are focused on an important task, the phone call and the person’s question can usually wait.

      It can be tough at first to do this and ignore the ‘distractions’, yet with practice and discipline you can remain focused on what is important to YOU. You can acknowledge the person and find out what it is they want, and if it is not urgent, let them know that you will get back to them to help. Also, make sure you tell then when you will get back to them.

      One thing I’ve done that seems to help is to plan to do fewer things from my To Do list. That way, I have space in the day to deal with those unexpected things plus gives me the satisfaction of accomplishment, rather than just treading water!

  2. Kay wrote:

    Emergency time is just that emergency. All insi is have a record of what must be done and go on down the list. I’d I stick to my time targets then when emergencies happen I’m still on schedule.

  3. Donna wrote:

    I do as much as I can in 1 hour.

    1. Hjilick wrote:

      I think that approach could work for me. If it’s time bound that creates a great way to manage expectations. thanks!!!

  4. Bree wrote:

    I used to work in an environment that operated on a 24/7 schedule. So. emergencies were real emergencies. Now that I’m out of the environment, I tend to see ’emergencies’ with a somewhat casual eye.

    Basically, what is the impact of the emergency and if it is not that serious, it can wait!

    1. Midgie wrote:

      Bree, you make a good point about defining emergencies by the impact they have. Is it really an emergency or has someone simply left something to the last minute and they want it done now?!?

    2. Bree wrote:

      Midgie, it was sometimes both kinds of ’emergencies’. At times, there were genuine, operational, emergencies where we had to act, and act immediately. Yet, there were other times when the ‘urgent’ thing was simply a report that someone wanted ‘yesterday’! It was their rush / emergency, not mine even when I was the one typing it up or putting it together!

  5. Donna wrote:

    Do something different every 20 minutes. It is supposed to be good for your health.

    1. Midgie wrote:

      I use the 20 minute strategy to help me focus on one task and although it doesn’t seem like a long time, it does help me to progress things even if it’s in baby steps.

  6. Minerva wrote:

    You keep it up now. Really good to know.

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