Make Real Progress by Distinguishing Between the Urgent and Important Tasks in Your Life

Do you ever feel like your day is full of just putting out fires? Then at the end of the day, you’re beaten and exhausted, but can’t for the life of you name one thing you’ve accomplished? If this sounds like you, you’re being governed by the urgent tasks in your life instead of the important ones. It’s time to change that. So, take the time to read this post — you’ll be happy you did. 

“What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important.”

Those aren’t my words, though I wish I could take credit for them. No, these are words of wisdom from Dwight D. Eisenhower. He truly knew the difference between living for the urgent and living for the important, and how to prioritize tasks for a more productive lifestyle. The secret Eisenhower knew was that responding to urgent tasks makes you reactive to your day, and when you’re simply reacting to things coming at you, you’re never going to make any real progress. Look at sports, for example: If a team has the best defense, they’ll still never win a game. Eventually they’ll need some offense to put their own points on the board. So how do you distinguish between the urgent and important tasks in your life?

Urgent – These are tasks that require immediate attention. These are the to-dos that yell “NOW!” Urgent tasks are usually unexpected and will always put us in a reactive mindset. Luckily, these tasks aren’t as common or important as we think.

Important – These are the tasks that contribute to your long-term success. They could be as grand as the liberation of Europe, or professional goals like making your real estate marketing firm the best it can be, or even a heartfelt family goal of spending more time with your kids. When we deal with important tasks, we act in a responsive mode, which allows us to stay calm, rational and open to new opportunities.

To help better illustrate the point I’m trying to make, I’d like to show you Eisenhower’s Decision Matrix. You will find that all the tasks you’ll be asked to deal with fall into one of these quadrants.


Quadrant 1

Important & Urgent




Quadrant 2

Important but Not Urgent



Planning & Goals

Recreational Hobbies

Quadrant 3

Urgent but Not Important





Quadrant 4

Not Important & Not Urgent


TV Marathons

Candy Crush

Facebook Browsing

Now that you’re familiar with the quadrants, you need to know where to best spend your time so you can improve your daily productivity.

Quadrant 1: Important and Urgent.

These tasks are usually very rare, but they are things that must be dealt with right away. This quadrant is usually filled with crises, problems and deadlines. For example, this quadrant might include tasks like getting back to inquiries from a new prospect, paying an urgent bill, the car breaking down, your significant other or family member in the hospital, and so on.

Quadrant 2: Not Urgent but Important.

These are tasks that don’t have the pressing deadlines like Q1 but are nonetheless important to improving your chance of success in business and in life. This quadrant could include things like family time, weekly planning sessions, making a marketing calendar or business plan, date night with your significant other, creating a budget, and enrolling clients in a referral program.  

These are the tasks you should seek out in life because they will make you the happiest. They will contribute to your success and productivity. Plus, dealing with these tasks in Q2 will stop them from igniting and moving into Q1. This will make your life a lot less stressful. (See, you’re starting to be proactive instead of reactive.)

This sounds great, right? So, why is moving from Q1 to Q2 so hard? Well, there are two main reasons for this.

  1.        You don’t know what’s important to you. You can’t make a plan without a goal. If you struggle with this, take some time this morning and try to picture yourself in five years. Where do you want to be? What do you want to have? 
  2.        You have biased thinking. Your focus is probably so set on the now that you can’t see into the next hour. If your life is full of urgent tasks, this might have become your default mindset. You simply don’t get motivated until there is that pressing deadline looming over your head. Getting past this takes discipline and willpower, but it’s definitely worth the investment to deprogram this kind of thinking.

Don’t live life with an “I’ll do that later” mindset — later may never come. You’re going to have to make time for what’s important to you and your life, because free time never seems to come along on its own. Part of clearing up your day is going to be reassessing priorities in Q3.

Quadrant 3: Urgent but Not Important.

These are the tasks that require our attention but don’t help us with our long-term goals. These are interruptions in our daily life, usually by people who want us to help them reach their goals and fulfill their priorities. This quadrant includes things like phone calls, attending a friend’s charity event, most email (though some can be important), helping a new REALTOR® in the office, helping co-workers figure out the copier during your prime working time.  

Quadrant 3 is probably where you’re spending most of your time, and these tasks are most likely being mistaken for Q1 priorities. This is because you’re helping other people, which feels good (and it should). Surely these tasks are important to them and they appreciate your help. (Face it — you wouldn’t be in real estate if you didn’t like helping people.) But don’t help at the expense of your own happiness. Sometimes you just have to say no, or let people figure things out on their own. Chances are, you’re spending more time in this quadrant than you should be. To help reduce this, become more assertive and just start saying, “No.” However, we want to be able to help our friends in their times of need, so balance saying no with being honest with yourself about how much time you spend on frivolous activities.

Quadrant 4: Not Urgent and Not Important.

These are the tasks that are not helping you get anything done. They could include things like watching TV, playing video games, surfing and, reading celebrity gossip, or scrolling Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.

Bottom line: These are distractions and time wasters, but we do them because they’re fun. You shouldn’t have to stop watching your favorite show or delete your Facebook account. Good old “veg” time does the mind good and it’s important to unwind. But don’t allow yourself to spend too much time in these areas. Keep yourself regulated. Make sure you’re using the DVR to record that show, not planning your day around it. Set specific times to check your social media accounts. Personally, I use Q4 as a reward to myself for finishing Q2 tasks.

I challenge you to adopt this way of categorizing your tasks to help you become more efficient. Download our Daily Priority Matrix Worksheet and use it to track your to-do list this week. Then come back and let me know if you’ve been more productive.

Now get out there and start living a life that is focused on your happiness and long-term success! 

5 emails you need to stop sending today

Email can be one of the biggest stress inducers in our daily corporate lives and sending a proper email is an art. I’m writing this blog post coming off one such experience and I hope reading this post will of help you save face and not fall into a similar pitfall. So here are the five emails you need to stop sending today.

Too vague –

This is the most common counter-productive email, we all work hard to keep emails short, but sometimes at the cost of clarity. Or, worse yet we end up creating a rambling stream of conscious rather than a message with any clear intent. This is why rereading before you send is so important, I don’t want to have to use my Little Orphan Annie decoder ring to break your encryptions.

Repeat, Repeat, Repeat offender –

Have you ever requested something via email, then lost or forgot the requested information; so you requested it again? Don’t be the repeat, repeat, repeat, offender. I’m not saying you have to have a steel trap of a mind that even Houdini couldn’t break free from but you should try searching your archived messages before requesting the same information twice.

The chain-letter–

If you’re a social butterfly then great! But please don’t include me in a CC line with everyone you’ve ever met. Personally, if an email starts to get more than 5 people in an email chain I feel it’s a conversation that’s only destined to get confusing. Maybe a meeting is better? Don’t be afraid to use the BCC line, this can keep email recipients contact information private and avoids the almost unavoidable reply all symphony that usually accompanies these emails.

Please call me panic attack –

First these emails are overly vague when it simply reads “Please Call Me.” You’re also stressing out your recipient to no end. First off the reason for the call won’t be good news and because you were so cryptic they don’t even know what the bad news is about or have a chance to gather their thoughts. Not to mention there is no indication of the priority I should make this call. If you are going to send this type of email be sure to include a subject of the call and the timeframe you like to receive a return phone call. Better yet, just pick up the phone.    

Urgent Email –

The urgent news should never be shared over email. Period. If it’s urgent then pick up the phone. Most people have a set times of the day that they check there email. Remember just because someone can reply 24 hours a day doesn’t mean they will or should. Don’t let situations percolate when it requires immediate attention.

Now if you’ve found yourself to be an offender of one of the above emails don’t fret, as they say acceptance is the first step to recovery. Just look at our quick list of 7 golden rules for effective email communication. 

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4 Unique Places to Hide a Spare Key

This blog post isn’t going to follow traditional marketing advice. However, being able to share tricks with your clients is a great way to improve recognition and build trust with them. When providing tips, most REALTORS® tend to focus on home repairs (which is great). Today though, due to recent events in my own experience, I would like to focus on the age-old question of — Where do I hide my spare key?

Here are four unique places your clients can hide a spare key to make sure they are never locked out of their house … in the rain (not that I would know anything about that). 

  1. Inside a wind chime – A wind chime with hollow tubes is a great place to hide a spare key. For one, it’s inconspicuous – lots of people have wind chimes hanging outside. But it also makes noise when it’s rattled, potentially drawing attention to anyone trying to get the key, which could deter thieves. Just take a little bit of Elmer’s glue and attach the key nice and flush on the inside of the wind chime.
  2. On their car – If your homeowner parks outside, their car could be the perfect place to keep a spare key. Not inside the vehicle, of course, but inside a magnetized lockbox on the underside of the vehicle. That way their spare key is usually never home without them.
  3. Underground – One of the best ways to hide a key is in the ground under a rock or some sort of recognizable landscaping mark. A piece of PVC pipe with a cap on each end can hold a key and would be easy to bury with a simple garden spade. Old pill bottles also make great spare key holders, keeping the key clean and dry in any weather and requiring no construction.  
  4. With the neighbors – OK, so this last one isn’t really unique, nor is it going to win any clever spy awards. However, it is probably the safest place to keep a spare key. If your clients have a trustworthy neighbor or a friend that lives close by, encourage them to give this person a spare key. That way it’s only a knock or phone call away. 

If your clients do decide to hide their key outside, there are a few things they should consider:

  • Don’t put it under the doormat or by the mailbox. These locations are far too common and some of the first places a thief will look.
  • Avoid using a fake stone — we’ve all seen them, and that includes robbers. If your clients do use one, at least encourage them to take the time to dirty it up a bit so it blends in with the surroundings.
  • Take steps to make sure the key stays dry and is protected from the elements. If the key freezes or rusts, there is a chance it won’t fit the lock and will do your clients no good.
  • Make sure the key is at least 20 feet from their front door. Most keys are hidden right by the door for convenience, making them easier to find.

Safety should always come before convenience. If your clients do decide to hide a key outside their home, they might want to consider looking into secondary security measures, such as an alarm system. 

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