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As business owners we all undertake activities every day that loosely sit under one of four categories-:

  1. Important and Urgent
  2. Important and Not Urgent
  3. Not Important but Urgent
  4. Not important and Not Urgent

At one of our recent meetings of The Alternative Board in Christchurch, we undertook an exercise to establish how our business owners planned their activities during a normal day. The results were not only relatively consistent but also quite alarming!

Everyone was able to put a particular activity they had undertaken in the previous day into one of the above categories and the following themes emanated from the ensuing conversations.

  • For obvious reasons everyone placed priority on the Important and Urgent activities above everything else
  • A significant part of some people’s day was taken up with activities relating to the Not Important but Urgent category. Further discussion reveals that a lot of this activity came from staff and other enquiries. In some cases, this reflected a lack of training or specific operating processes and procedures within the organisation. This then necessitated the business owner getting involved in urgent issues that could have been handled elsewhere had better training or processes and procedures been put in place.
  • A surprising amount of time was spent on the Not Important and Not Urgent category. This including following social media, looking at emails of little relevance to the business owner and reading the media.
  • The biggest concern that came out of this assessment was the lack of time and effort put into the Important but Not Urgent activities. This category included such activities as-:
  • Proactive communication with key clients with a view to building key strategic alliances
  • Development of Databases/CRM systems to allow proactive communication with clients and prospects
  • Further development of websites, particularly around providing online sales capability
  • Strategic Marketing
  • Development of written processes and procedures
  • Staff development

“Why is this the case?” was the question asked. And “What was required?” to ensure that more emphasis was placed on this important category of daily activities in every business owner’s life.

The general answer to these questions was that in some cases the activity needed to move into the Important and Urgent category to prompt more proactive activity.  A common comment was “No one will die if I do not do this activity.”

But guess what? Covid-19 came along and what was previously deemed Important but Not Urgent suddenly became Important and Urgent. This new sense of urgency was created through;

  • Business owners unable to communicate with clients about their status under Covid levels because they had not put the time into developing their Database/CRM system. This had a direct impact on revenue streams.
  • Business owners unable to automatically ramp up online sales due to a lack of investment of time in putting the  process in place.

So, what’s the message here?

If you leave something that you have deemed as important for too long, at some stage it will go from being not urgent to urgent. This will not only cause unnecessary stress but may lead to wrong decision making because of the urgency now created.

It’s critical that business owners have-:

  • clearly identified what the activities in this IMPORTANT and NOT URGENT category are
  • ensure that they understand the risks should that activity become IMPORTANT and URGENT at short notice
  • understand what those risks mean to the underlying stability of the business and
  • make sure there is enough time going into this activity to reflect the ongoing risk.

These Important but Not Urgent activities form part of the monthly reporting from members of our Peer Group Advisory Boards. Fellow members continue to remind each other of the importance of ongoing regular work being done on these particular objectives to avoid some of the practical pitfalls that Covid has shown us can occur, as a result of failing to do so.

Photo of Christchurch TBO Steve Wilkinson

Steve Wilkinson is the owner of The Alternative Board Christchurch and North Canterbury.  You can contact Steve on  021 334 203, [email protected], or connect with him on LinkedIn.

Blog How the Important but Not Urgent can catch you out.