Important v. Urgent

Jun 15 2016 Published by under Uncategorized

I know the distinction between important and urgent has become trite. But when I was a sproutling, someone explaining the difference hit me between the eyes like an icy snowball.

From the discussion on my last post:

The Other Sidesays:

Wait, are you saying that the postdoc should postpone the experiments and focus on the pubs and his career or the opposite?

  • potnia theronsays:

    No, I'm saying there are multiple demands, with different timelines for payoff. Being a PI means balancing all of these things. My PD is becoming capable of doing that.

It is very easy to get lost in urgent. Sometimes it's easy to get lost in important, and lose track of urgent. I have found that as I age time flows differently. When I was younger, Things had to be done now! Things fell if not into the urgent basket, at least into the oh crap, its time to panic about this, now, basket. As a trainee the perceived and real pressures of getting results, finding a job, and just moving on in life are often overwhelming.

Learning to balance important and urgent is part of the professional skills that PD's learn. They're probably critical to long term mental health. Learning to focus down on one thing, for a space of time, but then being capable of moving on to the next and focusing on that one is hard. But necessary. For my postdoc, yes, writing and getting out papers that demonstrate productivity as a PD is both important and urgent. On the other hand, doing this set of experiments may be less urgent (for the postdoc) but represent something that has the potential to be very important, just not necessarily on the current time line. And, this has given me another vignette to put into a letter of recommendation.

5 responses so far

  • qaz says:

    And what is that difference that hit you between the eyes like an icy snowball?

    As I get older I find myself more and more in a situation where important is urgent. I had assumed that was a combination of other people depending on me, on the now many things that I have to do filling all of space and time, and on the faster speed that the world runs than when I was a punk kid.

    • potnia theron says:

      That not everything that is urgent is so damned important. And things that are important may not be as urgent as one feels at any given moment.

      I learned to question what exactly is important.

  • Sam says:

    At my institution the HR director (or is it Executive Director) thinks EVERYTHING she sends is important and urgent. That employee picnic? Yep, IMPORTANT!!!! URGENT!!!! You do NOT want to miss your free charred burgers and forced smalltalk with admins.

    Wellness info? IMPORTANT!!!! URGENT!!!!!

    • potnia theron says:

      Hey! your wellness is important. And, perhaps urgent. And lay off those burgers.

      • Sam says:

        I've been a "Wellness Ambassador" for the past year. She assigned me the position. She never asked me or talked to my chair so I refuse to respond to any of her IMPORTANT or URGENT emails about what I should do to improve my depts/college's wellness. If anything, I am peer pressuring them into trying new cocktails.

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