The Tyranny of the Urgent

Sep 29, 2017 | 212 Articles, 212 Media Studios, Organization

You have task lists, projects, and day-to-day work that needs to be completed. You might even get time for creative thinking and training from time to time.

However, something unexpected can suddenly come up and wreck your day. It’s a last-minute client request. Or an employee that forgot to invite you to a critical meeting. Or worst of all, someone failed to plan well, causing your schedule to be altered. We are all aware of these scenarios—when externals impact your ability to complete your work.

There’s another issue to be aware of: The tyranny of the urgent!

This is a phrase I was taught by one of my employees years ago. She said urgent projects prevented her from completing the most basic of tasks. When a major client called the office or sent an email, she felt compelled to stop everything and respond. When I assigned a new task, she prioritized it above all other tasks. Neither situation required her to do so, nor did I expect her to make my requests her top priorities. It was built into her personality.

After more investigation on my part, I determined that she lived her life this way. If her phone rang, she stopped everything to answer it. She felt a need to respond to every email as soon as possible. If invited to a meeting or asked to be on a conference call, she would drop everything to make it happen, rather than explaining that her schedule was already committed.

Sadly, she under-performed on a regular basis. She either found herself working nights and weekends, or she simply missed due dates and caused others to become frustrated with her inability to “get her job done.”

Surprisingly, this is a common mindset. Can you let your phone go to voicemail? Do you use the “do not disturb” feature when working on a task? Have you ever declined a meeting invite, instead asking for an alternate time or date? Does your inbox have to be empty or nearly empty each day? If any of these ring true, you might be allowing the short term to impact your success in the long term.

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