Figuring out What's Important

By Evan Coulter

Evan Coulter

Evan Coulter

I put my daughter on the bus to middle school last week, and like any parent, I thought of the passage of time. From tiny infants to adolescents headed off to the wider world, kids are a great reminder of grasping what’s important to you.

All of the events happening in the news bring a lot of emotion to the forefront. Many of us are worried or anxious. We may even become depressed by bad news. But I think it’s important, even in the midst of national anxiety, to know what’s urgent and what’s important. I don’t want the urgent things to outweigh the important things.

So, how do you make a balance between the two? I think you have to make the commitment to ensure urgent things are taken care of but not to push the important things aside while doing so. This might mean scheduling time in your day to “protect” the important things, whether that’s getting home in time to take your daughter to ballet or committing to a volunteer project on a Saturday. In our family, our evening dinners are special. We don’t watch TV or get on our devices. We check in with the kids and discuss how their day went.

I translate the balance between what’s urgent and what’s important to work. We encourage our employees to use the paid time off (PTO) they’ve accrued. And we want them to dream big! Take that trip you’ve always wanted to do. Visit a national park or a favorite lake. Since we have a lot of younger employees, many of them have never earned PTO at previous jobs, so it’s a new concept. We hope they take their time to get out in the world. We know they’ll come back refreshed with new ideas.

We tell our team: Do what’s important to you! Your teammates will cover for you when you are gone, and you’ll take care of getting things done when they go on vacation. We schedule to accommodate vacations in the shop, so there’s no reason not to take time off.

Here are three tips for leaders who want to encourage their teams to take care of the urgent, but not let the important slip by

Lead by example. We recently took our popup camper to the Tetons where we had an amazing campout with our extended family. Show your employees you value time away to reconnect and refocus.

Think ahead. Starting early in the year, encourage employees to get their vacations on the calendar. They can firm up specifics later, but for now, start your schedule planning to cover those PTO-heavy months. 

Consider the long view. It may be hard for younger employees to envision retirement or even the next five years. Are your employees enrolled in the company 401K in high numbers? Do they have a clear career path at your organization? In addition to next summer’s vacation planning, encourage your employees to build a firm foundation with financial literacy, retirement planning and career development.

So, what about you? What’s important to you? What urgent thing in your life maybe needs a bit of reining in? Good luck as you move between the urgent and the important.

Evan is VP of Business Operations at UCEC.


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