Navigating Priorities: Urgency vs. Importance for Small Business Owners

Running a small business is like trying to keep a plate spinning on a stick while juggling a dozen other things in the air. Urgent matters clamour for attention, demanding immediate action. But here’s the truth: just because something is urgent, it doesn’t mean it’s more important. In this post, we’ll dive into the crucial distinction between urgency and importance to help you strike a balance.

The Urgency Avalanche

Imagine a bustling restaurant kitchen during the dinner rush. Orders are flying in, tickets are piling up, and the chefs are moving at a frenetic pace. Urgent? Absolutely. But if the chefs neglect to maintain the quality of the dishes in order to handle the urgency, the whole operation will suffer in the long run. That’s the urgency trap – a constant cycle of putting out fires, while the foundation of the business is at risk.

The Weight of Importance

Now, let’s shift our scene to a master carpenter crafting a custom piece of furniture. Every joint, every measurement, every detail is meticulously planned. This project may not have screamed for immediate attention, but its significance lies in the craftsmanship and the satisfaction of the client. These are the important tasks – the ones that shape the future and reputation of your business.

Juggling Act: Urgency vs. Importance

  1. The Email Avalanche vs. The Client Connection
    You’re drowning in a flood of emails, each one marked “urgent”. It’s tempting to stay glued to your inbox but take a step back. Is there a client who’s been waiting for a personalized update? Connecting with your clients on a personal level might not be urgent, but it’s undoubtedly important for building long-term relationships.
  2. The Fire Drill vs. The Strategy Session
    Picture a fire drill in a corporate office – everyone rushes out, but is anything fundamentally changed? On the flip side, investing time in a strategy session might not seem pressing, but it’s where you steer the ship. It’s about making decisions that have a lasting impact, rather than just reacting to immediate crises.
  3. The Social Media Buzz vs. Brand Development
    Social media is a powerful tool, and it often demands constant attention. Yet, building your brand’s identity and voice is equally crucial. Spending time honing your brand’s message might not give you instant likes or shares, but it lays the foundation for a loyal and engaged audience in the long run.
  4. Daily Administrative Tasks vs. Business Development
    Administrative tasks like managing emails, scheduling, and paperwork can quickly accumulate and demand immediate attention. Meanwhile, dedicating time to business development activities, such as building strategic partnerships or exploring new market segments, might not feel as pressing. However, neglecting business development in favour of daily tasks can hinder your business’s potential for sustained growth and innovation.
  5. Customer Complaints vs. Employee Training
    Imagine a scenario where a customer lodges a complaint about a recent service experience. It’s tempting to jump into immediate damage control mode. However, it’s equally crucial to prioritize ongoing employee training. While addressing the complaint is urgent, providing consistent training ensures that similar issues are less likely to occur in the future, ultimately enhancing the overall customer experience.

Revisiting the earlier example of a busy kitchen, a seasoned chef has a good idea of what will be required during dinner service and knows what and how much of each ingredient to prepare before the dinner rush. Small business owners can benefit immensely from adopting a similar approach in their operations. This practice, known as ‘mise en place’, involves carefully organizing and preparing everything needed for a seamless cooking process. For entrepreneurs, this means setting up systems and processes ahead of time to handle urgent matters effectively. By investing in proper tools, streamlined workflows, and well-defined protocols, you create a safety net that allows you to respond to urgent tasks without constantly diverting your attention from more important matters.

Automation plays a pivotal role in this preparation. Imagine a kitchen where each ingredient magically appears at the chef’s workstation just as they need it. In the digital realm, automation tools take care of routine tasks, ensuring that they’re addressed promptly and accurately. Whether it’s automated email responses, scheduled social media posts, or data tracking, these tools act as the kitchen brigade, allowing you to focus on the artistry of your business.

Moreover, well-designed automation doesn’t just handle urgent tasks; it also gathers invaluable data and insights. Just as a chef might adjust a recipe based on taste tests, data from automated processes can be analyzed to fine-tune your business strategies when time permits. This iterative approach not only refines your response to urgent matters but also elevates the overall quality of your operations. In essence, preparation and automation create a foundation that empowers small business owners to navigate the urgency vs. importance dilemma with confidence and clarity.


In the midst of urgent tasks, it’s easy to lose sight of what truly holds weight. Urgency often demands immediate attention, but it’s the important tasks that leave a lasting impact. By integrating thoughtful preparation and practical automation into your business approach, you create a reliable framework to address urgent matters efficiently. This mirrors the culinary concept of ‘mise en place’, where careful organization sets the stage for a smooth cooking process. Automation acts as a reliable support system, managing routine tasks while also providing valuable data for refining your strategies.

Remember, it’s not about trying to do everything, but about doing the right things and doing them well. Through a balanced approach that incorporates preparation, automation, and a discerning assessment of urgency and importance, you can find the equilibrium that leads to sustained success. With this foundation in place, observe how your business not only prospers in the immediate term but also flourishes in the long run.

About the Author: