How to define urgency and importance of tasks when prioritizing?

Tasks prioritization is a key instrument for making your work more effective. If you want to achieve more with less, and if you want to waste less time for output and instead be outcome-oriented, then task prioritization is mandatory. Tasks prioritization is a typical management tool, but it is useful for managers, engineers, and technicians because it tool helps to manage your personal activity, improves the efficiency of your work, increases impact, and evidently helps your promotion. In this article, we want to concentrate on how to define urgency and importance correctly.

Urgency – Importance Matrix

Urgency – Importance Matrix is a simple and powerful tool for the prioritization of the tasks. Based on Urgency and Importance the tasks are grouped into four priorities: Do First, Do Later, Delegate and Eliminate.

As a matter of fact, the key question of the prioritization process is how to define Urgent or Not Urgent, and Important or Not Important. This might be quite challenging.

The best way to know is to ask someone who is really clever. For instance, ask kids. I tested it on my lovely granddaughter. She is 12 years old, and she knows everything. The question was: “What is urgent and what is important?”

She said: “Urgent is what I want, while Important is what my mom wants.”  It sounds fantastic, clear, and absolutely correct.

We can continue with such an approach. For instance, “Urgent is what the engineer wants, while Important is what his manager wants” and so on. This kind of approach emphasizes that Urgency is related to the system at a certain point in time while Importance reflects supersystem for a long time.

Here are some critical points of the Urgency & Importance classification:

  • Urgency and Importance is a personal preference and makes sense for a certain person, or group of people who are working on the same tasks, or the same project
  • Different people or working teams may have different priorities and a different sense of Urgency and Importance
  • Urgency is something unscheduled, unplanned, sudden, unexpected, previously not taken into account. Any scheduled, planned or expected events cannot be urgent
  • The importance is something that changes parameters of the system value, organization, mode of operation, process, life, etc… The importance is something that has a value.

Now let’s return to the priority management of tasks.

What is task?

According to Cambridge Dictionary: “Task is a piece of work to be done, especially one done regularly, unwillingly, something unpleasant or with difficulty.” As a matter of fact, a TASK is something that we do not want to do, but we have to.s

Where does a task come from?

Engineering systems are not ideal; therefore, they generate not only benefits but also a flaw. All tasks are a result of flaws. No flaw – no tasks.

How to define: Urgent or Not Urgent?

Urgency depends on the expectation:

  • Result of an unexpected flaw is urgent tasks
  • Result of expected flaw is, not urgent tasks

How to define: Important or Not Important?

Importance depends on value removed flaw, on the cost of not fixing the flaw. The cost is not a cost of a task – is it the cost of not eliminated flaw.

  • Flaw causing high-cost harm results in Important task
  • Flaw causing low-cost harm results in Not Important task

Our concept of the tasks priority management using Urgency – Importance Matrix (UIM) is shown in the picture below:

Additional information about UIM prioritization process and the case study described in our previous blogs: How to Manage Tasks Priority with Urgency – Importance Matrix (UIM)? and  How to prioritize tasks with Urgency–Importance Matrix in PRIZ Online Platform .

PRIZ Innovation Platform offers different creative thinking tools including Urgency – Importance Matrix (UIM).

Jump into the platform, create your project (you can skip Tasks Wizard), go directly to the “Creative Tools” page and choose Urgency – Importance Matrix:

Prioritize your tasks. Achieve more with less.

Good luck!

Ph.D. in Chemistry. Expert in processes design, improvement and problem-solving. TRIZ (Inventive problem solving) specialist (Level 3).

2 Comments

  • Jongbong
    April 4, 2020

    To define the urgent and important for tasks is very valuable when I work eveytime.
    However, I understand how much difficulty to define urgent and important from work.

    Thank you so much

    Reply
  • Igor Polk
    April 5, 2020

    Beautiful and useful logical composition.

    Reply

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