“Anything less than a conscious commitment to the important is an unconscious commitment to the unimportant.”

Stephen Covey
Author: First Things First

My Source Experience - Journal

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This Week´s Inspiration

The Tyranny of Urgency Addiction

Do these comments sound familiar?

  • “I want to spend quality time with you, but I have to work. I have a deadline. I know you understand the situation.”
  •   “I can’t seem to find the time to exercise. I know it’s important, but after 10-hour days, I simply don’t have the energy for it. Maybe when work gets slower . . . ”

Today’s society has progressed to the point where in some work environments, we are judged negatively unless we operate with urgency addiction. We are seen as slackers not committed to the cause and not willing to pay the price for success. 

Urgency addiction can also be a way to make us feel exhilarated and useful. When the feelings become strong enough, we become addicted to the perpetual motion. Being busy becomes the goal.

In fact, being urgently busy has become a status symbol. For some strange reason, we have consciously or unconsciously linked busy-ness with importance. If you are not busy, how could you possibly be important? Yes — like many of you reading this e-zine — I am an offender; I like to be in perpetual motion and ALWAYS busy, with many looming deadlines.

This e-zine, for example, needs to be finished before I leave on holidays. My 9-year-old son Tim is coming over to the office in a few minutes to have an evening with Dad but my mental energy is being pulled to the tyranny of the urgent: meeting the writing deadline versus the importance of spending quality time with Tim.

Do you have an urgency-addiction challenge? 

The following questions are not a scientific survey. They are intended to let you know whether you are letting urgency addiction run your life. 

If you generally focus on the important things, odds are you know someone with some level of urgency addiction. This information may help that person.

Answer these questions on a continuum from 1 to 10.

  •   1 = I Strongly Disagree. 
  • 10 = I Strongly Agree.
_____ 1. I feel restless when I’m not at work or if I am disconnected from the office.
_____ 2. I only do my best work when under pressure.
_____ 3. When I am working on one project, I am often preoccupied about another.
_____ 4. I give up quality time with important individuals to handle something urgent.
_____ 5. I rarely take a break and often work through lunch.
_____ 6. I feel guilty when I am taking time off or relaxing.
_____ 7. I am always on a time crunch, rushing from one urgency to another.
_____ 8. The adrenaline rush from a new urgent crisis is more satisfying than the steady accomplishment of a longer-term result.
_____ Total

Obviously the higher your score, the more you have an urgency mindset or an operational urgency framework. 

If your total score is:

  • below 40: you have a low urgency mindset;
  • 41 to 60: you have a strong urgency mindset; 
  • 61 +: the possibility of urgency addiction exists for you.

In real life, it is impossible to have everything in the calm, peaceful, and important categories. The point to this process is for us each to be aware of the value system from which we operate primarily. Do we thrive best from crisis to crisis or do we have a value-driven life, based on what is important? 

The difference is this: if we are constantly putting out fires, it’s pretty difficult to implement fire prevention techniques or strategies.

Addiction infers an uncontrollable behavior or way of acting that is rarely, if ever, healthy. For some individuals, being intense is a natural tendency; these individuals need to make the distinction between prefer and have to

The question is: are you controlling your life or is your life controlling you? In the end, your life is your responsibility — a reflection of your own thoughts, actions, and behaviors.

How do we shift from the urgent to the important

  • Urgent items demand your attention NOW! They should, however, be activated only after you decide when to take care of them.
  • The challenge we face with most important items is that they are non-urgent, which means they are only activated with your input, not the other way around like urgent items. Getting your real priorities straight will require your input. 

Thinking that someday you will be able to do what you really want to may infer a shift from the urgent to the important for you. 

Personally, I admit to having too much urgency included in my lifestyle and work. I have an objective ― a plan I am working toward to reduce this feeling of urgency.

To implement any change or improvement requires that you be crystal-clear about what is important in your life. 

  • Of the important aspects of your life, which ones are not getting enough attention? 
  • Where are urgency items consistently taking way from the important things in your life?

One basic example is email and spam. We become addicted to responding immediately to everything, versus prioritizing and planning our responses. I recently added a spam filter to my email; this saves me at least 15 minutes a day cleaning up this junk. I have also set a specific time for responding to email — rather than being interrupted every 5 minutes by another apparent urgency.

Of course we could spend much more time going deeper into the elements of urgency addiction, but we’ll save that for another ezine. Right now, I have some other important items to attend to. 

I ask you to take notice of your responses to the mini-survey, to see where you are with this potential addiction. Then step-by-step, work your way through the action items to focus more on the important and less on the urgent.

This Week´s Action Steps

Decreasing the Tyranny of the Urgent

  1. Acknowledge that a life built solely on the adrenaline rush of urgency is not healthy.
  2. Respond to the survey questions in this e-zine to establish your potential level of urgency addiction.

  3. Based on your responses to the questions, determine how the tyranny of the urgent is affecting your life and decisions.

  4. In your mind or on a piece of paper, establish a list of the things, people, and items most important to you.

  5. Now compare your important list to your actions and behaviors. Do they match up? If not, why not?

  6. Take ownership and responsibility for your condition. Even an urgency-based job such as a fire fighter increases the requirement for a plan for taking care of the important items when not at work.

  7. Be brutally honest about the urgent items you can ditch, avoid, or remove.

  8. Give yourself permission to have a time of transition. Don’t feel guilt or have urgency about reducing your urgency addiction!

  9. In the end, it’s your opinion and peace of mind that matters. No one can, on your behalf, tell you the best balance for you.

  10. Above all, be honest about your situation. No personal benefit is achieved through misleading yourself.

Until next time, keep Living On Purpose!

Ken Keis

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