6 P's: Defining Urgent

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How do you cope with the screamingly urgent, when there's so much noise you don't know which voice to listen to?

The challenge with running your days by the urgent meter, is that people very quickly learn that to get your attention, they need to put on more pressure and scream louder. This in turn adds more and more pressure - as you turn up the heat you begin to create the perfect environment for burnout.

Here are some questions you need to answer:

  • Why are you doing the job you're doing?

  • What are you measured on when it comes to the outputs that you are required to achieve?

  • What moves the needle forward in your role?

  • What does success look like and how do you get feedback that you are winning?

  • Is your workload realistic?

  • Is there enough time to get done all that you are required to do?

  • If not, is it because you are inefficient, need more training or overworked?

The answers to these questions will help define what is really important as against what shows up as urgent. Something becomes urgent when it is important, there is not enough time to get it done but it needs to be done quickly - generally sooner than planned.

The problem often lies in not getting to the important when we should be - because we're so busy fighting the fires of urgency. I love this adaption of the military adage "Proper Planning & Practice Prevents Poor Performance". While we can so easily look at this and smile not many of us are able to say we do it well on a regular basis. 

Here are some ideas for you, if you are relating a little bit too closely to the above.

  • Be clear on your priorities and know what is important. What do you get paid for, when you boil your job down to your key essential tasks ?

  • Who are you accountable to and what would they say was most important for you to achieve in a day?

  • As mentioned last week, plan your day the night before. This is one of the most stated best practices for managing both your time, your mental energy and focus. The secret, of course, comes in then following the list you have made.

  • Understand your habits. Realise which ones are working well for you and which ones are being detrimental. For example, what do you do as a first action when you get to work, after you've made your coffee and chatted to your workmates? For many people the answer to this is to open email - if this is you, check you are doing it deliberately, not reactively.

  • Get someone to hold you to account in the area you need to focus on: it may be preparing the list for your next day the night before; or not opening your email when you first arrive at work, or being clear on when you're able to be interrupted and when you need do not disturb time.

Working in a state of constant pressure very quickly creates a feeling of overwhelm which in turn leads to feeling incapable, incompetent and inefficient. We do not do our best work in this state. We rob ourselves, our company and our team of our potential. Additionally, your level of enjoyment for the job will not be as high and therefore our productivity is seriously affected.

Defining what is important and what makes it into the urgent space of your day is a practice. Ensure you are putting your effort and energy into the area that gives the greatest return - make some time to answer the questions above. Work out what you need to do to and get acting on that plan today!

Here's to your success