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27 Mar

The deceiving urgency and how to avoid it

Datum: 2017-03-27 17:24

There is some­thing para­dox­i­cal­ly won­der­ful and thrilling about not pri­or­i­tiz­ing at all, but just impro­vis­ing every­thing, putting out fires and doing what is either urgent, hap­pens to come into our field of view or what we are asked by oth­ers to do.

We def­i­nite­ly do not want to be the one who turns a blind eye to oth­er people’s needs; we help, we come to the res­cue, we say yes — to any­thing, espe­cial­ly if it is urgent. Sure, it stress­es us out, but that warm, com­fort­ing feel­ing deep inside tells us that we are doing the right thing when we drop every­thing and help some­one else. After all, it was urgent. In a way, hav­ing urgent things fall into your lap may feel as a bless­ing since they some­how rid us of all doubt regard­ing what has to” be done right now. No one could ever blame us for not extend­ing a help­ing hand, because we obvi­ous­ly have lots of urgent mat­ters to attend to more or less always.

Wear­ing you out
But, this approach will cost you in the long-run. The inflow of urgent tasks and issues to attend to will nev­er dry up and dimin­ish, since we nev­er get around to doing things that were not urgent a few days ago, until they too are urgent. Once you go down this road, you fall into a nev­er-end­ing cir­cle. Every­thing is always urgent, and our work­days are con­stant­ly stained by stress and pressure.

We do not have time to catch our breath before anoth­er urgent mat­ter requires our atten­tion. We hur­ry, and if we are lucky, fin­ish just on time. And we are forced to swal­low our frus­tra­tion when we yet again have to deliv­er some­thing that did not at all have the high qual­i­ty we know we are good for, since there just was not enough time to give it our very best.

Doing the right thing
But, the one who pri­or­i­tizes in a more sys­tem­at­ic fash­ion will get to expe­ri­ence anoth­er kind of won­der­ful feel­ing. It is that warm, com­fort­ing know­ing that what we are doing right now, is with­out ques­tion the right thing to be spend­ing our time and ener­gy on at the moment — even if it is not urgent and all kinds of tasks and cries for help (that all appear to be urgent) are swirling around us.

Only because some­thing is urgent, and alert­ing you to it being so in an unmis­tak­ably noisy man­ner, it need not actu­al­ly be impor­tant. If we pri­or­i­tize more of the tasks that are impor­tant, we will suc­cess­ful­ly accom­plish more of the goals we strive to reach in the long-run.

You are prob­a­bly famil­iar with this line of rea­son from the com­mon­ly referred to, but also com­mon­ly dis­re­gard­ed, urgen­t/im­por­tant-matrix.

Then, lat­er ver­sus here, now
But pri­or­i­tiz­ing the impor­tant things first and con­scious­ly choos­ing not to do what might be urgent but not equal­ly impor­tant, is to many a tad uncom­fort­able if you are not used to it. In order to do so, we need to anchor what we pri­or­i­tize doing before some­thing else in our long-term plan and vision, which often tends to not be suf­fi­cient­ly tan­gi­ble in the present moment. It is much eas­i­er to rec­og­nize that some­thing call­ing for our atten­tion right now is urgent, than see­ing how some­thing else will lead us towards where we want to be head­ing fur­ther down the road.

If you there­fore clar­i­fy what the cri­te­ria for deter­min­ing if some­thing is impor­tant or not is, it will become much eas­i­er to pri­or­i­tize accu­rate­ly. The pri­ma­ry cri­te­ria for if some­thing is to be regard­ed as impor­tant” or not is often whether or not it con­tributes to the attain­ment of the goals you are respon­si­ble for, but it could of course be some­thing com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent that is more rel­e­vant to your business.

What mat­ters is that you con­scious­ly estab­lish a criteria.

Do this
If you want to, do the fol­low­ing today:

  1. Ask your­self what ought to deter­mine if tasks are impor­tant or not with regards to your work. Define at least one cri­te­ria of what is impor­tant, for exam­ple that the task should con­tribute to the attain­ment of the goals you are respon­si­ble for reaching.

  2. Dur­ing the week to come, stop for a sec­ond or two when­ev­er you think of some­thing to do, when you are about to write some­thing down to remem­ber to do it lat­er, when you are sug­gest­ed to do some­thing, or when some­one asks you to do some­thing — and reflect on if the cri­te­ria is met and hence if the task is important.

  3. If the task is not actu­al­ly impor­tant, you can say no, thank you” or yes, but lat­er” with a clean con­science and feel­ing cer­tain you made the right assess­ment. If you should choose to do the task now any­way, hav­ing paused and reflect­ed on its impor­tance will still be valu­able and a step in the direc­tion of even­tu­al­ly estab­lish­ing a method for pri­or­i­tiz­ing in a more sys­tem­at­ic and con­scious way.

Same zest but less stress
If you estab­lish cri­te­ria by which to pri­or­i­tize more con­scious­ly rather than always just doing what appears urgent, you will get to enjoy that won­der­ful and grat­i­fy­ing feel­ing of cer­tain­ty you used to get when putting out fires and com­ing to the res­cue regard­ing all those urgent tasks, but with­out always being so stressed.

You will act more in accor­dance with your long-term inter­ests and goals since you eval­u­ate and deter­mine what to do and not to do by using con­scious­ly set cri­te­ria for what con­sti­tutes an impor­tant task, and you can there­fore relax know­ing you are doing the right thing — regard­less if you do that urgent task, or focus on one that is more impor­tant in the long-run but not yet urgent. You will have more fore­sight and rarely fin­ish things last minute. Now, doesn’t that sound like a sig­nif­i­cant improvement?

What is your method?
I have recent­ly pub­lished my sec­ond book, which is actu­al­ly about pri­or­i­tiz­ing. The sub­ject def­i­nite­ly inter­ests me, and this is why I am very curi­ous to hear of your tips, trix and meth­ods since I def­i­nite­ly have not cov­ered all angles, aspects and approach­es yet. So, what are your thoughts on pri­or­i­ti­za­tion? Com­ment below and share.