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Do You Have Gotta-Do-It-First-itis?



Can you picture yourself here?

* Headed to the office or studio passing through the kitchen only to see the dishwasher needs to be emptied. Well, it won’t take that long. Let’s do it first and just get it done.

* Back on track headed to the office or studio only to be distracted by the laundry basket. Well, let’s just throw that one load in. It will only take a minute or two.

* Looking at the messages that came in the night before. One was from a friend down the street. Well, what could she want? It’s just a quick phone call, and it will be out of the way.

* Now you are in your office and ready to get to work. Wait, let’s just check the email. Oh, some of these look really quick to answer. Let’s just do them first and get them out of the way.

Did you just lose half your day because you had what I’ve termed “gotta-do-it-first-itis”? And, do you have this problem more than one day a week? Welcome to the club. I think we all think that we can do the one quick task and then get on with what’s on our agenda. Problem is that that one task can lead to another. They are all quick.

Are you familiar with the late Stephen Covey’s 4-quadrants from his book Seven Habits of Highly Effective People? Tasks can be either urgent and important; important and not urgent; urgent and not important; or not important and not urgent. The problem with “gotta-do-it-first-itis” is that you are spending too much of your time in the not important and not urgent box. You figure if you can just do those things first, they’ll be out of the way and you’ll have enough time for what is important. Meanwhile, those items that are important and not urgent tend to move toward become important and urgent.

Here are some examples to help you distinguish between the quadrants:

Urgent and important: deadline driven projects, crises

Important and not urgent: planning; relationship building

Urgent and not important: interruptions, like phone calls and email

Not important and not urgent: trivia and busywork, time wasters, like Internet surfing

Stephen Covey based his work on the Eisenhower Matrix, developed by former President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Eisenhower saw that prioritizing your tasks into these categories resulted in specific work strategies for each. This is how he approached each:

Urgent and important: Do First

Important and not urgent: Schedule

Urgent and not important: Delegate

Not important and not urgent: Don’t do

How do you get out of do-it-first-itis? First, start your day with an agenda of what you need to accomplish that’s in the important and not urgent category. Don’t overwhelm yourself with too many tasks. Start with three that you want to accomplish and if/when you finish those, you can add another. Hopefully, you won’t encounter too may distractions of the truly urgent/truly important. Second, schedule those not urgent, not important tasks for outside work hours.


The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule,  but to schedule your priorities.
Stephen Covey
What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important.
Dwight Eisenhower
Action expresses priorities.
Mahatma Gandhi

Do you have ways that you’ve eliminated “gotta-do-it-first-itis?”

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2 Responses to “Do You Have Gotta-Do-It-First-itis?”

  1. Bunnie Cleland said:

    Yes, I gotta do it first-itis, sometimes called But(t) first.
    I will do that, but first I will do this, but first I must do that…
    So to accomplish my work, I must schedule my priorities, but first I need to clear off my desk to find my papers, but first I must empty the trash that is too full to put more papers…
    Thank you, this does help to IDENTIFY a problem.

  2. Morna said:

    Bunnie, thanks for adding to the conversation. For me the agenda makes a big difference – and finding those papers the night before.

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