Byron's Babbles

Important, Not Urgent!

Posted in Coaching, Educational Leadership, Leadership, Strategic Planning by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on February 8, 2015

IMG_0640 Peter Drucker was the master of focusing his time on the important, not the urgent. He led a focused life doing what he felt he was called to do. Drucker knew how to work on the truly important issues and abandon all the rest (Maciariello, 2014). We have our own purpose in life that should include balance between work and pleasure. But there will always be a decision to make between the important and the urgent.

In advising leaders, Drucker believed in focusing on their processes of leadership, organization and management, including the development of people, building community, and planning for succession (Maciariello, 2014). A pretty good list of focal points if you ask me. Keeping this in mind it is important to remember: You are responsible for allocating your life.


In this week’s lesson I learned of Harry Hopkins, one of President Franklin Roosevelt’s top advisers during World War II. Because he was dying of stomach cancer toward the end of his service, he was forced learn how to do the important and not the urgent. He was able to cut out everything but truly important and vital matters. Churchill called him “Lord Heart of the Matter” and believed he accomplished more than anyone else in wartime Washington. I have added the book The Hopkins Touch: Harry Hopkins and the Forging of the Alliance to Defeat Hitler by David L. Roll to my bookshelf to read this year.

Drucker believed effective leaders do not start out with the question, “What do I want to accomplish?” They start out with the question, “What needs to be done?” He believed, “If there is any one secret of effectiveness, it is concentration.” We must learn in the midst of multiple demands, to give priority, and the necessary amount of time and focus, to the important rather than to the urgent (Maciariello, 2014).

Maciariello (2014) suggested forming a habit of pausing to distinguish the difference between the important and the urgent demands on your time. In order to determine the decisions and work that is important, you must answer the question, “What do I want to be remembered for?” The answer that you come up with will give your life focus and purpose.

I’ll leave you with a question to reflect on: How Have You Allocated Your Life?


Maciariello, J. A. (2014). A year with Peter Drucker: 52 weeks of coaching for leadership effectiveness. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers.

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