Fighting the Urgency Addiction

Fighting the Urgency Addiction

In the book, The 5 Choices, the authors discuss how to combat society’s addiction to urgency. The idea of urgency addiction is that we enjoy the revved-up feeling of doing things and checking them off, so we start subconsciously looking for things to check off, even if they don’t matter. We might even start to crave the constant busyness in our lives to the extent that we find it very hard to pause and think for any extended period of time. Like all addictions, urgency may feel good in the moment, but when we step back and look at how little we’ve actually accomplished, we feel worse. Sometimes we avoid this realization by simply staying busy all the time—so we don’t have to see if what we’re doing really matters. Those that suffer most from the urgency addiction are those that thrive under pressure. There is something about the adrenaline rush of being under time pressure that can excite and tease our creativity. The implication is that if you are busy, then someone must need you for something and, therefore, you must be valuable.

In order to combat the urgency addiction, Stephen R. Covey (in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People) recommends we divide our activities into four categories or quadrants depending on their importance and urgency:

The 4 Quadrants

Urgency addicts tend to spend all of their time in Quadrants One and Three, while they neglect Quadrant Two. However, Quadrant Two is most essential for determining long-term success and fulfillment. But how do we break our urgency addiction and start spending our time in Q2? Here are a few places to start:

Plan Plan Plan. Being organized and making lists is critical if your goal is to be more productive. At the beginning of each day, update your planner and determine which tasks are most important. Then you can approach each day with a plan of what you want to accomplish and how to maximize your time. Having a daily plan is valuable because it allows you to communicate challenges and track performance results. Learn more about planning and how to use the Prioritized Daily Task List with our Planner Training Course.

Ask Questions. The key to getting into Q2 is to pause your Reactive Brain long enough to clarify what is coming at you, then decide whether it is worth your time and energy. We refer to this vital process as Pause-Clarify-Decide (PCD). This basically means that we take a brief instant to ask the question: Is it important? With an understanding of the Time Matrix you have a framework to help you clarify whether or not something is important, then you can make a better decision about what to do with it. Other questions might be: When does this really need to be done? How will this impact the project we’re working on? Is there another resource or method for getting this done? Where does this fit relative to the other priorities I am working on?

Identify Barriers to Success. Getting distracted by emails or procrastinating can decrease your productivity. As you begin this process, some people may get a bit put off or offended because you are sharing less time in lengthy meetings and on directionless phone calls. But you have to be fierce in getting rid of time spent in Quadrants One and Three so you can focus your time in Quadrant Two. This is a small but necessary price to pay for accomplishing your goals and becoming more productive. 

We are not saying it’s bad to be busy. The problem is when busyness, rather than accomplishment, becomes the goal. Quadrant 2 can be a very busy place. However, because it is filled with exciting, impactful, and high-value work, it brings the added joy of a meaningful life. 

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