Field of Science

Important but not urgent

An article I read about running a lab emphasized using the distinctions shown in the figure to prioritize our activities.

Some things are both important and urgent, and these we should do right away. Other things are neither important nor urgent, and we probably shouldn't do them at all. The problems arise with the things that are important OR urgent, but not both. How do we decide which to do?

It's all too easy to rush around doing things that are urgent even though they're not particularly important to our big-picture goals. But that's a mistake. Instead we need to constantly make an effort to do the things that are important even though there's no rush and they could be put off.

This is scary if you're not absolutely confident about your ability to tell what's really important. Some urgent things probably won't get done at all; what if they were more important than you realized???

Anyway, I'm confident that preparing the big grant proposal that's due in February is very important, even though it's not yet urgent. I find writing in this blog much easier than writing in a 'draft proposal' file, so I'm going to try to do much of the proposal thinking and explaining here.

The proposal is to the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (Canada's version of NIH). It will probably go to the Infectious Diseases panel (I'm not sure that's exactly what it's called). I'm going to propose to answer most of the questions I've been raising here, under two subheadings:
  • How does H. influenzae decide to take up DNA?
  • How does H. influenzae take up DNA?

  • These questions cover most of the research we do. I won't include one post-doc's work, on how and why H. influenzae cells lose the ability to take up DNA, as she is independently supported by a fellowship, and as I want to reserve this project for a separate grant proposal to NIH (important but not at all urgent until we have preliminary data).


  1. Do you think it is work submitting a grant proposal to both NSERC and NIH for my work?

  2. I feel that the words "edible" and "inedible" should be incorporated into that table somewhere... I'm not sure why.

  3. NIH has a ton more money than NSERC. But our chances may be better with NSERC. But NSERC is especially stingy with researchers who already have CIHR money.

  4. You can turn the comment-photo display off in 'settings'.

  5. That chart should be printed on toilet paper! Now, that would be imortant.


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