The Urgent Often Overtakes the Important

Dwight Eisenhower is one of my favorite leaders.  I think he is one of the most underrated Presidents in the history of our country.  He is underrated because he served during a time of mostly peaceful expansion.  Sometimes the measure of a great leader is not what he does, but what he doesn’t do.  It takes a humble, self-confident leader to be willing to let things take care of themselves without trying to make their own mark on the outcomes.

This blog is titled with a quote attributed to President Eisenhower. The actual quote from Dwight Eisenhower was, “What is urgent is seldom important.”  Either way it is said, I think this quote is one that many professional accountants could learn from.  In the deadline driven world that CPAs live in, it is easy to get caught up in the next task or the next report that must be completed.  In doing so, however, we can lose site of the more important things we should be doing to help our employers and clients.

The problem is we can’t just ignore the deadlines.  The IRS and SEC don’t take kindly to missing deadlines.  At best missing deadlines results in unnecessary fines and penalties, and at worst, someone can end up in jail.  So the question becomes what can we do to make sure the important is considered, and the urgent doesn’t usurp all of our time.  The first thing we can do is recognize deadlines early so meeting them does not become urgent.  Reality is, that doesn’t always work.  The sudden M&A deal or unplanned for system outage can destroy the best of plans.  But it is possible to build in unexpected events into the plans.  You should never have a plan that requires everything to work perfectly.  I think anyone with a little experience will tell you such a plan is guaranteed to fail.

The other thing we’ll need to do is spend a little time each week – even if it is just a hour – thinking about what is important and how we can plan to spend more time on those things.  Will the plans you make to spend time on important things work every week? No.  But I can guarantee you won’t spend any time on the important stuff if you don’t deliberately make plans to do so.


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