Life is crazy, busy, hectic and oftentimes we end up rushing from one task to another, trying to extinguish yet another burning problem so we could continue on to the next one.
With all of those demands tossing you around almost all day long, which cause you a tremendous amount of stress along the way, it’s no wonder why the society has become obsessed with meditation, yoga, or self-care (or better to say, their lack of).
Most of the time, this frantic lifestyle is a direct result of having too many urgencies on your plate.
But wait for a second and think about them.
Are ALL of those urgencies REALLY urgent?
You can bet your sweet donut they’re not!
Even though we all think we know what urgent means, and there’s no room for negotiation, wiggling, or escaping them.
I admit I was also the one viewing it in the same way, until not so long ago…
Take a moment to reflect on the Urgent… I can wait.
Done with it?
Or you have something urgent to do, and don’t have the time for it right now?
Anyhow, here’s my (new) view about it.
(and yes, there is a way to escape from some of them!)
The view on the Urgent from the logical standpoint
So what are the urgencies, really?
I don’t know about you, but here’s my list of urgencies as an example:
- Significant sudden health issues, my own, or my family’s (always the first and foremost important to me)
- … (empty space, because nothing can be even close to that one)
- Home-related events (significant faults in adequate functioning, especially water or electricity related)
- Approaching an important deadline (and not having what it takes for it)
- Natural disasters that need my action on them (flood, earthquake…)
- An (almost) empty fridge (Aaaaaa!… Panic!…)
- Finding financial support (aka money!) when an unexpected expense occurs
- Going where even the emperor walks to – when it becomes unbearable (if you know what I mean… and, yes, laugh out loud, but deep down inside, you know it’s true…)
Now, as you can see, some (or even the most) of the things I listed here can actually be avoided if planned right.
And those are the real urgencies – to my mind, at least.
(If you thought about some urgency that can’t be planned and it’s not on my list, please let me know! Really! I would totally like to get familiar with it!)
By viewing the list, you can see that most urgencies belong to the personal-related life sphere, and a very small part are business-related.
And although this is my example list (plus it’s not a comprehensive one), I honestly doubt anyone’s would be drastically different.
When some of the true urgencies happen, there’s little to nothing you can do about it.
All you can do is to act on it in order to get the urgency resolved as soon as possible.
And with a little bit of juggling with the rest of the tasks that accumulated in the meantime, you’ll be back on the track as soon as you can say supercalafragalisticexpialadoshus.
(or maybe even sooner) 😉
It’s comforting to know that these types of emergencies do not happen often, though.
And now, let’s visit the real world
“Yeah, yeah… That’s all great in a parallel universe, but I’m constantly receiving urgent tasks at work. And what should I do then?” you may be thinking.
Better yet, I’m SURE you’re thinking!
It really has become quite common to face a number of “urgent” tasks at the workplace, and sometimes they seem to be the default setting.
But, you know better by now that some of them, or even all of them, are (really) not urgent.
(now excuse me for a little digression, I just want to get this straight. I’m talking here about the urgent tasks which your co-workers/boss/clients “pleasantly” surprise you with. if you, however, are the main one responsible for the urgent tasks pile-up, maybe you should better read about ways to beat procrastination)
Ok, let’s get back on track!
The urgent emails
I’m sure you’ve already had experience with “urgent” emails at the office, which tend to disrupt you from the current task.
Even if you do manage to reply to the email in a reasonably short amount of time, you’ll still need (to waste) a couple of moments to pick up where you left off.
Now, just imagine (or you already know?) the “urgent” emails randomly and continuously keep popping into your inbox.
(urgh… a scary thought!)
- Stay away from your email client(s)! Resist the urge to check up on emails every now and then. Instead:
- Designate the time when you will be focused on reading/answering the emails – maybe as a break between other important tasks of yours, or near the end of the day. Try to see what works best for you.
- Remember, an email can be urgent, but to the person who wrote it. There’s a very good chance nothing will happen that can’t wait a couple of hours until you read it.
- If you feel bad about not instantly replying to every urgent email you get, and you think you’ll receive (at least) one, configure an auto-respond email. There you can state when will you be available, and/or provide a phone number a person can reach you (but stress it’s for truly urgent matters).
The urgent paperwork
The second issue you’ve may have encountered is the “urgent” reports (or some other form of paperwork).
I know I had my fair share of those, and they really irritate me!
I mean, come on!
Since when the report became urgent?!
The deadlines for the reports are well-known weeks in advance!
So, how to respond to these requests?
- Determine how urgent it is. During a conversation, you may discover that the urgent task can be done in a couple of days (or even a week), even though it sounded like it should be done this very second. And this info gives you a new point of view on it.
- If the person wants your help on the report, discuss the importance and also consider the workload of the requested task. That way you can determine if/how/when you can respond to the request.
- On the other hand, if the task is completely handed over to you, that’s a whole different story. First of all, remember this is the task the other person knew about well in advance, and at the end, decided to delegate it to you. What does it say? It means it is not an important task to that person, and that the person which delegates it to you in such short notice (and I will give myself the full freedom to say it) does not respect you, or your work. But, now what?
- You could also delegate it to somebody else (but, then again, it wouldn’t be fair, right?).
- Or, you could ask to extend the deadline for the task. Keep it clear that the task would be better prepared if there would be more time for it. That way the person delegating the task to you will be informed about the quality of work that can be expected regarding the given timeframe, and at the same time will be the one deciding the time boundaries (and the desired work quality).
- If it is something really important (and I honestly don’t see how this is possible, but let’s just assume), discuss the possible trade-off, an exchange, or compensation for the necessary work.
Some additional elements to consider when encountering work “urgencies”
- Think about how much the tasks handed to you as “urgent” matches to your job description. Helping a colleague from time to time is undoubtedly the right thing to do (if you have the time for it), but are YOU really the one who should respond to all those demands?
- Be cautious with acceptance of the “urgent” tasks. People could start to perceive you as a person willing to accept (almost) any matter handed over, which might result in even more “urgent” tasks landing on your desk. That’s not the way you want people to think about you, right?
- If you do accept the “urgent” task, make it clear it’s not ok to get it at such short notice and that you’ll do it (this time), but that’s not something it should be happening (often) in the future.
- If you currently have some of your own urgent and important work projects, just briefly explain that you cannot help/do it right now. Period. You may be surprised by receiving a complete understanding.
- We’re talking about interaction with people here. So, through everything mentioned, one has to have enough emotional intelligence and the knowledge of the interlocutor’s character. That way the matter can be truly productively discussed, without either side feeling insulted, upset, frustrated, angry, or any other negative feeling which might come out of such delicate subject.
- I will dare to say this additional consideration. Some work environments just don’t have adequate leaders and management staff, and as a consequence have (massive) issues with time management. If you work in an environment that is constantly pressing you with the “urgent” tasks, and you’ve tried all the tricks you know as to how to handle them as best as you can but the “urgencies” keep pouring in, (and in, and in, and you feel constantly stressed about them)… maybe it’s time to rethink about your job. After all, health is the ultimate wealth, and in the long run, it will be impaired due to chronic stress. Just take this as a theme for thought.
Whew, that’s it for now!
If you were the one who actually thought about the Urgent (remember? the line from the top of the post?), do the following:
- Give me five! Way to go! A little brain gymnastics is always good!
- Post your observations in the comments below so I could know them, too (I’ve already handed you mine). 😉
Have to go now!
Have some “urgent” things to do! (ha, ha…) 🙂