ForumsTips & TricksUrgent vs Important

Urgent vs Important
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Posted: Jan 10, 2009
Score: 4 Reference
I like to distinguish between urgent tasks vs important tasks (as in The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People). Urgent tasks have to be done relatively soon. Important tasks are the ones you need to do to achieve your goals.

I use due date to capture a task's urgency. And I use priority to capture a task's importance (irrespective of urgency). It works pretty well. It makes it less likely that important tasks will get lost among all the urgent ones (and visa versa). And whatever my context, I can quickly switch between urgent mode vs importance mode by sorting on due date or priority.

Since I am using due date in a somewhat artificial manner, I have these issues, but they are not too bad:
1. Sometimes it's difficult to distinguish between a real due date vs one I imposed to express urgency.
2. Sometimes I have to reset due dates on a bunch of tasks if they didn't get done on that day, and this causes a domino effect of resetting dates on subsequent tasks.

The ideal way to solve this would be to have an additional field similar to priority. I would use one to indicate urgency (high, med, low), and the other to indicate importance (high, med, low). Then due date would only be for real due dates. I suppose I could use a tag to indicate urgency, but then I lose the ability to sort by urgency because there are other tags.

BTW, I like the idea of an algorithm (like the importance algorithm) that takes into consideration a number of factors, but I wouldn't call it an importance algorithm. In my world importance is an essential characteristic of a task. However, I could see an algorithm that would take importance, urgency, and due date into consideration, and derive a priority (priority being more subjective). But maybe that's just semantics :-).

Anyway, I'm interested in hearing if anyone else needs to distinguish between urgent tasks vs important tasks and how they are doing it. And if they run into same issues I'm having or not.

Toodledo Founder
Posted: Jan 10, 2009
Score: 1 Reference
I've been using the star to indicate urgent and then the priority for everything else.

Posted: Jan 10, 2009
Score: 1 Reference
That's not a bad idea. Even better would be if the star could have 3 states because there are degrees of urgency. I imagine it as a 3-state toggle (rather than another droplist) that toggles between red, yellow, blank (meaning high, med, low).

Only issue is I've been using star for quick ad hoc task manipulation. It works great for this. Sometimes I need to eyeball my tasks and quickly star a bunch for some temporary purpose:

* For example, I might be in some unusual context, and decide best use of my time is to quickly run down the tasks, star a bunch of them that are relevant in this unusual context, and then work heads down on these starred items for awhile (filter by star, work through them, and when done, unstar any remaining items because it was a temporary setting).

* Or I might decide I need to get organized, and all tasks related to project xyz need to go into a new xyz folder. So I run through the tasks, starring the ones related to this project. This makes it much easier to do a mass update to the new folder (and unstar them when done).

Posted: Jan 23, 2009
Score: 1 Reference
May contexts would help with the task organization you are looking to achieve...just a thought

Posted: Jan 23, 2009
Score: 0 Reference
For me if a task is urgent, it's a Next Action. If it's of medium urgency it's Active and if it is not urgent, it's someday.

I don't worry about importance normally. If it's not important it really shouldn't be on a list (IMO) But, like everyone I guess, sometimes there is too much to do, wither in my next action or active list, so I will star the ones that I want to focus on first..

Posted: Feb 08, 2009
Score: 0 Reference
Posted by Jay:
Even better would be if the star could have 3 states because there are degrees of urgency. I imagine it as a 3-state toggle (rather than another droplist) that toggles between red, yellow, blank (meaning high, med, low).

Urgent vs. Important is tricky. I've tried may different approaches through the years (since reading Covey), but I'm still not satisfied. The key issue for me is that by nature, I really want to make my Important items the top priority, but I don't dare do it because the Urgent items will bite your backside.

I love the notion of using Next Actions for what's next, but frankly, I have a lot of moving parts in my life and I choose not to dedicate the time needed to manage using Next Actions or Due Dates as both require maintenance that I don't find worth the effort. Also, with due dates, I can't tell the difference between hard due dates and a "want to" due dates.

During my weekly review, I tag my This Week items (in all folders for all contexts) as "Next Actions". Then I use the star to mark the First Things First items and my must dos. During the week, I use the Next Action filter to focus on my items for the week, and the stars help me keep track of my urgent and important tasks.

I second Jay's idea for more star colors to deal with degree of urgency. Frankly, this is the one thing I really miss from Vitalist. They really did their stars well.

I would REALLY LOVE to have the ability to use star colors to give me a visual "priority" within the Status. Red means Urgent. Green means Important. Blue means whatever.

Having the extra stars would allow me to use my weekly review to set up my week like today, except that I could visually spot my key items once all hell breaks loose during the week.

Just some thoughts!

This message was edited Feb 08, 2009.

Posted: Feb 11, 2009
Score: 0 Reference
One thing that I have done to help me with urgent (but not really important) tasks is to reserve one of the priority settings for urgent tasks, and also use stars for urgency.

Presently if I have an urgent but not important tasks it is listed as "High" priority and it is starred. Nothing else gets the "high" priority designation. If any task is truly vital, important, then it automatically gets the "Top" priority designation from me. Medium is for tasks that need to get done but are neither urgent nor important. Low priority is reserved for "Someday/Maybe" tasks.

If a four-square Urgent/Important grid is ever added to Toodledo I would use it. But I don't see that coming anytime soon, though. (If it doesn't add to iPhone usage, then it is "Really, Really Low" priority on the features list, methinks).


This message was edited Feb 11, 2009.

Posted: Apr 09, 2009
Score: 0 Reference
I am new to ToodleDo, but have set up my Outlook to calculate a "priority" by using separate importance and urgency fields. The importance has three levels - essential to accomplishing goals(=3), helpful (=2), and not really goal related (=1). Urgency goes from "critical" - meaning that I have to drop everything to get it done on time (=5), "urgent" (=4), "on-track" (=3), "float" (=2), "no deadline" (=1).

If you multiply them together, you get a pretty good sort order that only pulls less important tasks to the top of the list if they are relatively urgent.

I would love to add a factor that looks at estimated work before "hard" deadline tasks yet - but it looks like ToodleDo does that part already.

Posted: Apr 16, 2009
Score: 1 Reference
After much experimentation I've settled on a system that works well for me (especially in conjunction with the importance algorithm). In order to get it to work, though, I had to think about importance/urgency slightly differently. Rather than treating them as two separate entities, I ask myself "when would I like to have done this task by, and how essential is it that this task is done by that date?", and use a combination of the priority, due date & star to indicate this (the star acts as a "bump" to raise the importance level by 1 to enable a more fine-grained answer to the question).

For example:

P3* = "it is absolutely essential that I do this task by the due date" e.g. very important task with an absolute deadline
P3 = "I really should get this task done by the due date" e.g. important task with a fixed deadline (but where it wouldn't be a disaster if I missed it), or slightly less important task with an absolute deadline.
P2* = "I want to have done this task by the due date" e.g. important task that I'd like to get done by a particular date, or less important task with a fixed deadline.
P2 = "I would like to get this task done by the due date"
P1 = "It would be nice to have done this task by the due date". e.g. fairly important task, but where the date is just a vague guideline, or non-essential task which should be done by a particular date if it is to get done at all.
P0 = "It would be nice to have done this task by the due date, but it doesn't matter if I never get it done at all" - mostly tasks that aren't essential at all, and where the date is only a guideline (these tasks tend not to get done, but I prefer to have them on the list to have the option of doing them if time allows, or if I'm in the right context and don't have something more essential to do).

Tasks that don't really have a time element to them (i.e. very low urgency) don't get due dates; I evaluate how essential the task is relative to my life in general. So a starred Priority 3 undated task would be one that I consider essential to do at some point, but where it wouldn't really matter whether I do it now or in two year's time (importance sorting means that this would show up at the same level as a priority 2 unstarred task which is due in a few days, which I would say is a fairly accurate representation of how these tasks should be prioritised. A task I consider absolutely essential to my life but not at all urgent shouldn't be pushed down the list by much less important but urgent tasks).

I realise my description probably makes it sound complicated, but actually, it's a very intuitive system, and only involves asking yourself one question: "how essential is it that this task is done by a particular date?". It works really well with importance sorting, giving me a very accurate view of the "real" priority of my tasks. The only disadvantage is that it does require some maintenance for tasks that don't get done by their due date; I have to periodically go through and adjust the dates, but this isn't really a problem as it forces me to keep my priorities under regular review, and highlights how I might need to refine my prioritisation.

Posted: Jun 06, 2009
Score: 0 Reference
Saskia.x thanks for good suggestion and clear explanation. Since I am reluctant to add another use that I have for Star, I am experimenting with your idea with the following modification:
I enter a Due Date for task and then Tab to Due Time and type
111 or
222 or
333 or
444 or
then enter enter to accept Task.
TD will automatically fill my number entry in as 1:11am etc. and such a due time is obvious to me, since I am not a night owl, that it must be some coded message to myself. The 1:11am for me means, this is an absolute deadline with serious consequences if missed e.g. pay taxes. I expect that as I do my weekly review if I am not completing my Due Date by 1:11 and 2:22 tasks close to 99% of the time that there is something very off with my life, but that if I am often postponing ones that are 5:55am and they have priority < 2 then this is perhaps simply being overly optimistic about my getting to less important things in my life.

I like the ? that you ask yourself "when would I like to have done this task by, and how essential is it that this task is done by that date?"
Again thanks, Edward

P.S. To Jay the OP: I'd say I am using Priority to indicate importance and my artificial Due Time as an indicator of urgency. I use Star to either bump up things in the importance sort, but more frequently as a temporary way to manually (not by search) way to select various tasks so that I can quickly see them in the Main View|Star tab

This message was edited Jun 06, 2009.

Posted: Jun 12, 2009
Score: 2 Reference
Covey shows a 2x2 matrix, with 4 quadrants. why not give each quadrant a prority value ?

An example set up could be :

priority 0 : low importance and not urgent
priority 1 : low importance and urgent
priority 2 : important and not urgent
priority 3 : important and urgent
priority -1 for the someday / may be

I kind of use this set up, and it works.
every day I review all tasks priority by priority, and I star the ones I select to be done today. Then use only the starred list, until it is empty. Then go back again to priorities, to select another bunch of tasks according to priorities.

I like this word, "priority". It is not importance nor urgency. you can put priority hierarchy according to your own criteria, whatever they are.

Posted: Jul 06, 2009
Score: 0 Reference
I am looking exactly the same thing! - A way to have Covey's four quadrants on Toodle do. I have to to put up with using priorities or stars I guess but it looks ugly! I really think it would be a great feature if this is added to toodle do. All we need is just too simple fields for all tasks: 'Urgent'(Yes/No) and 'Important' (Yes/No) It would make a wonderful addition and it would make toodle do much more attractive to lots of people including everyone who has read the hugely successful '7 Habits' book by covey. Come On Toodle do! Go ahead and do this please!!

This message was edited Jul 06, 2009.

Toodledo Founder
Posted: Jul 06, 2009
Score: 1 Reference
You can use the "Star" for one of those, and then use "Top Priority" for the other one. Wouldn't that work?

Posted: Jul 06, 2009
Score: 0 Reference

Replying to sumuhan, there is an app called What Do I Need To-Do? that utilises Covey's model.
It allows you to set urgency and importance on each task and files them into the correct quadrant in the matrix.

The link to is on iTunes is

some more info here

Hope this helps.

Posted: Jul 06, 2009
Score: 1 Reference
There are a number of ways you could implement this on Toodledo. I would probably just use Tags For Important/Unimportant and Urgent/Non-urgent. Then you could set up saved searches for each quadrat like:
Q1)Tag is Important AND Tag is Urgent
Q2)Tag is Important AND Tag is not Urgent (or you could use a Tag for non-urgent and do Tag is non-urgent)
Q3)Tag is not Important AND Tag is Urgent
Q4)Tag is not Important AND Tag is not Urgent

Posted: Jul 07, 2009
Score: 1 Reference
Note that What Do I Need To-Do doesn't do the Covey quadrants correctly. Top left is not the Urgent/Important quadrant.
Andrew Pasulka

Posted: Jul 18, 2009
Score: 2 Reference
Since Importance can be jiggered at the Priority tag, we get 4 levels of Priority (nice granularity). Priority is a way of taking care of the good clients first, or put as higher priority those delegated tasks that might take a little time to get information back for the next action in the sequence.

With the Tag, I can set Urgency (U1 for very high urgency to Ux). Ux should probably go no further than U3 or U4--even U1 and U2 would suffice in most situations, I think.

Thanks to your suggestions and ideas, I've come up with this list for myself:

U1 = Very high urgency--house is on fire
U2 = High urgency--next few days, with no hard-landscape deadline*
U3 = Approaching urgency
U4 = Out on the horizon (@someday-maybe level of urgency)

*I really prefer to use Due dates as genuine due-dates--a client needs a task done in time for a presentation next Tuesday, for example. Estimated due dates should not go on the hard landscape of a calendar, IMO.
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