Urgent, Important, Existential

If you’ve spent any time in business you’ve probably had to consider how you juggle your to-do list. Eisenhower’s ‘Urgent/Important’ matrix is a popular and useful tool here: map everything to one of four boxes. Deal with the ‘urgent & important’ first (out of necessity), then the ‘important but not urgent’ (your real priorities). Delegate the ‘urgent but not important’ (if it needs doing at all) and say ‘no’ to everything else.

Simples, right?

Except that the matrix is missing a column: existential. And not only is the column missing from the matrix, its contents probably aren’t on your to-do list.

Existential threats to businesses are increasingly present but so fast-moving that they are not always very visible. Just like the perfect pass that I talked about in a previous post, you don’t see them unless you take time to look up.

The last thing you want is to be dealing with existential threats when they’re also in the ‘urgent’ row. By this time it’s probably too late. So it’s important to make time frequently to step back, look up and see. Right now I’d suggest an annual review should be the minimum frequency for this exercise. Six months is close to being mandatory. Three might be best practice.

It doesn’t have to be time-consuming: that’s why we created Intersections. And unlike the ‘important’ items on the to-do list, it doesn’t have to be you that does this. At least not alone.

Sometimes the best people to spot existential threats to your business are outside the organisation. If you have an accountant, solicitor, marketing agency, management consultant or business coach that you trust, point them to Intersections and ask them to run the exercise against your business. They’ll need some of your time and input. But what they come back with might surprise you.

This is the way to populate your ‘existential’ to-do list. If it works, put a diary date in for three months time to do it again.

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Tom Cheesewright