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The Four-Letter Question for 2008: WIRU

Happy New Year!

In our final post of 2007 I postulated, in my Midwestern, self-denying, Protestant upbringing way, Clark’s Rule of Priorities: Do First What You Want to Do Least.

To kick off 2008, here’s a four-letter corollary I call WIRU (“Why Are You … ?”)

WIRU addresses the difference between urgency and importance—it stands for “What’s Important is Rarely Urgent.”

We all tend to confuse urgency and importance. I think Stephen Covey was the first self-help guru to popularize the notion that most people spend far too much time in the “urgent” zones of their lives—and not enough in the “important” zones. Here’s how I recall Covey’s conception of the four different “quadrants” in which we can spend time:









Now consider some common tasks and into which of the four quadrants they fall:




1. Some e-mail

2. Bill-paying

3. Appointments, some family matters, housework, etc.

1. Most e-mail

2. Most Web browsing

3. Chatting, entertainment, half the other stuff I do every day


1. Most family matters

2. Deadline-driven work

3. A tiny portion of e-mail

1. Developing personal relationships

2. Work on long-term goals

3. Planning

4. Exercise

See a pattern? Most of us spend too much time in quadrants 1, 2, and 3. Our goal, of course, should be to spend as much time as possible in quadrant 4.

The WIRU acronym can be used to help prioritize daily activity. Before devoting a chunk of time to something, I try to step back and ask myself, ‘Why Are You choosing to do this now? Is this important—or just urgent?’magnifying_glass2.jpg

For example, it may not be “urgent” for me to exercise, but boy, is it important. It might not be “urgent” for me to work on my doctoral thesis, but from a long-term fortune and fulfillment perspective, few things are more important (hmm, ears burning …)

Here’s some powerful advice via my buddy Mark Fritz: “Procrastination means giving up what you want most for what you want now.” Constantly tending to so-called urgent tasks is one way of putting off truly important work.

So here’s my resolution for 2008: Every time I crack open my e-mail program or tackle some other “urgent” job, I’ll try to pause and pose the four-letter question to myself: “WIRU?”

See “How to Set Priorities” and “Risk of Happiness

4 Comments to The Four-Letter Question for 2008: WIRU

On Jan 7, 2008, Dwight commented:

Thank you for the blog articles you post. They have been helpful to me several times.

On Jan 8, 2008, Tim commented:

Thanks, Dwight. That the posts are helpful means everything. Best to you and yours in 2008!

On Jan 15, 2008, Connie commented:

“Procrastination means giving up what you want most for what you want now.”

Thank you for this advice, it has really helped some things hit home with me. It’s amazing how much of my life I am devoting to the first box (what I want “now”) instead of the things that are really important.

Wonderful, thoughtful post!

On Jan 15, 2008, (by Tim) commented:

You and me both :-) I struggle with it every day.

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