What It Means to Prioritize as Urgent, Important, and Non-Urgent

People with ADHD can struggle with daily planning if they don't have a way to prioritize their tasks. With that in mind, our high-performance daily planner is designed to help users categorize priorities as follows: urgent, important, and non-urgent. Categorizing priorities helps users understand the order in which to complete their tasks.


We cannot take credit for this principle. It's a common business principle that borrows from the well-known Eisenhower's Urgent/Important principle for solving problems. For our purposes though, it is not about solving problems. It's about prioritizing tasks.


A Way to Organize Workload


In 1954, then President Dwight D. Eisenhower had his plate full. He was overseeing a post-war expansion of the American dream while simultaneously dealing with ongoing reconstruction from World War II and the military conflict in Korea. In a speech before the Second Assembly of the World Council of Churches, he explained how he organized his daily work load.


Eisenhower quoted Northwestern University president Dr. J Roscoe Miller in talking about two kinds of problems: urgent and important. He went on to explain that urgent problems are not important problems and vice-versa.


If this sounds confusing, just stop a minute and think about it. Urgent problems are not just important problems, they are things that need to be addressed right away. Important problems still need to be addressed, but they can be addressed later. Therefore, they aren't urgent.


Urgent, Important, and Non-Urgent


We take a similar approach with our ADHD daily planner. We have chosen three categories rather than two for the simple fact that the ADHD brain thinks slightly differently. Three categories are the bare minimum for ADHDers. Some prefer to have more.


As a basic framework, here is how the three categories work:


  • Urgent – Urgent tasks are tasks that cannot wait. Perhaps you scheduled your car for its annual safety inspection on Monday morning. Come Monday, that's not a task you can put off until Tuesday. It has to be done today.


  • Important – Important tasks are tasks you don't want to put off indefinitely but still aren't urgent enough to put at the top of the list. Sticking with the car example, it might be time for an oil change. It doesn't necessarily need to be done on Monday. However, you do want to get it done before the week is out.


  • Non-Urgent – Non-urgent tasks are the lowest on the priority list. They are things you would like to do but are under no pressure to get them done right away. Washing the car would be a non-urgent task. It can be done after the safety inspection and oil change.


Prioritizing tasks may not seem like rocket science. Perhaps it's not. But to certain people, especially those with ADHD, task prioritization is both crucial and somewhat challenging. It's crucial in the sense that failing to prioritize can ultimately mean failing to complete necessary tasks. The challenging aspect is to actually sit down and think about priorities.


There Isn't One Right Way


In wrapping up this post, we want to make it clear that the Next Level Daily high-performance planner was specifically designed to be as flexible as possible so that users don't feel like they are roped into something that doesn't work. We mention this to say that there isn't one right way to prioritize tasks.


The three categories presented in this post are nothing more than suggestions. They can be a framework for developing your own prioritizing system. Whatever works for you works for us. If you find our system helpful, go ahead and use it.