This article examines our predisposition to tackle perceived urgent problems over more important issues and suggests ways in which we can correct this habit.

Getting Started

Introduction to the article (perhaps by having everyone read it)

Everyone, at one time or another, has felt overwhelmed by the number of pressing tasks facing him or her. This feeling can sometimes result in a period of stagnation during which no tasks are addressed but rather an overwhelming sense of resignation prevails. It is important for every one of us to have a strategy to address times when this occurs in order to avoid this period of stagnation and resignation. This lesson will have the students, in pairs, examine their own personal reaction to these periods and discuss ways in which these challenges can be addressed.

Subject Area(s) covered

Life skills, careers

New Terms to explain


Materials Needed

Access to the article

Study and Discussion Activity

Key things students can learn from this lesson

  1. A sense of urgency can be assigned to a task which is truly not urgent.
  2. We have a tendency to complete perceived urgent tasks ahead of more important ones.
  3. Sometimes we assign urgency to a task so that we give it priority and complete it thereby generating a sense of satisfaction that comes from completing a task.
  4. We can develop strategies to address times like this that will assist us in overcoming these tendencies.

Action (here’s how we’ll do it)

  • In-class students should be paired up for this assignment while online students should, with the help of the teacher, select a classmate to work with.
  • Once this has been done, assign the following tasks to each student who should complete them independently before working with their partner.
  • The students should think of a time when they felt overwhelmed by all the things they had to do.
  • Once they have thought of that time, assign the following questions to be answered independently:
    • What did you do?
    • Once you decided to begin to address the tasks, how did you decide on the task you would do first?
    • What criteria did you use to prioritize the list?
  • Once the students have answered the questions, they are to present their answers to their partner and discuss the responses with each other, looking for any similarities or differences in approach.
  • With this completed, they should read the article and write down anything new that they learned from the reading.
  • Once again, they should compare their responses with their partner.

Consolidation of Learning

The students should discuss whether they would alter their behaviour based on what they have learned and explain in what ways that behaviour would change.

Success and Additional Learning

Success Criteria:

The students will:

  • demonstrate an understanding of how people have a tendency to identify items as urgent and explain the reasons for doing so;
  • identify actions that can be taken to avoid or utilize this tendency in order to be more effective.

Confirming Activities

  • Revisit the situation outlined at the beginning of the lesson and outline any differences in approach that would be taken based on what has been learned.

Helpful Internet Searches

Activities to do together

  • As a means of consolidating the learning that came from the lesson, you and your partner could discuss what priorities in life you have and how these priorities impact on whether things are seen as urgent or important. The following website could assist in this discussion.

Prioritizing your work and life –