When everything is urgent, nothing really is
Having a sense of urgency is critical for organizational success. Speed is a competitive advantage. Teams who brand fast decisions, experiment often, and movement to marketplace swiftly tend to exist more than successful. However, there’s a large difference between having a sense of urgency and a workplace civilization in which everything is always urgent.
Are yous constantly running from one coming together to another? Or letting your inbox, Slack alerts, or calendar dictate how you lot work? When everything is urgent, we end upward focusing on doing pocket-sized, day-to-day tasks rather than on achieving more pregnant, impactful things.
Constant urgency – the desperate pressure to be doing more, faster – harms productivity and motivation. However, not all urgency is bad. The trouble is unnecessary urgencies that distract our energy and attention from the work that really matters.
Moving From a Reactive to a Proactive Civilization
Dealing with conflicting priorities is not something new. Already in 2011, well-nigh executives (64%) complained that they had too many conflicting priorities.
Rushing and running in many directions doesn’t mean your team is making progress. At that place’s a departure between speed and hysteria or anxiety. Operating under constant pressure – constantly reacting to external events – turns urgency into a toxic force. We end upwardly spending our days (and nights) dealing with self-inflicted fires.
Moving fast is non an indicator of squad success – focusing on (and achieving) the correct things fast should be the goal.
Urgent is lazy. It’south easier to label everything as urgent than to have the time to prioritize. Urgent removes accountability from managers who laissez passer all the pressure to the team. People have to work on more than “initiatives” only because their bosses doesn’t desire to make tough decisions or push back on their respective managers.
Urgent is power considering managers often define priorities without involving squad members. They confuse what’s important to
with what’s vital for achieving squad goals.
Urgent is stressful considering managers equate a land of abiding alarm with high performance. They make people jump from one burn to another instead of doing meaningful work. Thus, they create a culture of grind, burnout, and resentment.
An always-urgent civilization focuses on busyness, not outcome. It rewards people who are constantly busy doing something instead of encouraging them to pause, reflect, and think.
Every bit Basecamp CEO Jason Fried wrote in
It doesn’t have to be crazy at piece of work, “It’s no wonder people are working longer, earlier, later, on weekends, and whenever they accept a spare moment. People can’t get work washed at work anymore.”
Non all urgency is bad, however – the problem is when everything feels urgent.
At that place are always going to be moving pieces. Life is messy. No matter how much you lot programme, things usually get more complicated. And then there’s people: someone’s priorities, delays, emotions, or agendas always get in the way.
Urgency, when used in moderation, creates traction. It helps break inertia and moves team members into action. However, when urgent is the normal, teams lose focus. They chase shiny objects rather than tackle strategic projects.
Every bit Dermot Crowley wrote on
Urgent!, “Urgency is also a useful tool, and without it, we would struggle to gain traction with of import initiatives, deliver client work on fourth dimension, or meet business obligations. Most senior managers use urgency as a lever to drive work forward.” The challenge is that they acquaintance a calm environment with a lack of productivity.
The solution to this dilemma, equally Crowley explains, is non to take an contrary extreme position and try to wearisome everything. The respond lies in dialing down the urgency to a more sustainable level – where the urgency is neither acute (very strong) nor chronic (very long).
The author believes that nosotros cannot eradicate urgency, but we can minimize unproductive urgency and avoid those last-minute things that waste our fourth dimension. Nosotros will never control unexpected events. However, we can control how we react and avoid letting them dictate what is or isn’t important.
Avoid falling into the urgency trap – have steps to move from a reactive to a more productive workplace culture.
As Crowley explains, “The urgency trap is where we finish up working with too much or not enough urgency.” The reactive zone is where urgency is astute and constant. On the other hand, the inactive zone is where there’s an absenteeism of urgency. The Active Zone is the sweetness spot: urgency increases productivity instead of harming it.
In reactive cultures, everything is urgent and important. Conversely, a proactive culture is one in which the organization undertakes to anticipate and deed before problems ascend. Past focusing on the right priorities, they prevent every issue from becoming a fire.
How to Prioritize Your Squad’s Piece of work
When everything is urgent, nothing actually is. When leaders characterization everything urgent, they add unnecessary stress and feet, distracting teams from doing meaningful piece of work.
First by redefining the notion of urgency with your colleagues. Here are some of the questions I facilitate to help teams reflect upon and define what urgency actually ways to them.
Does urgent mean
important? How should the squad distinguish between an urgent crisis and an important request? Who defines what’s urgent: the managing director or the team? Where do we demand more than urgency and when do we demand less?
Having a shared notion of what urgent really ways volition save your team many headaches. Define principles that are easy to find. That something feels urgent to one member doesn’t mean it should become urgent for the team.
Prioritize important work, not just urgent
Use the prioritization matrix (aka the Eisenhower Matrix) popularized by Steve Covey to map your team’s workload and define a form of action. This framework volition help you neutralize an “e’er-urgent” culture, eliminate time-wasters, and make more space for deep work.
Once you’ve captured all of your work in the corresponding quadrants, utilize this equally your guide:
Urgent & Important:
These are your highest priorities. They demand that you act chop-chop.
Not Urgent & Important:
These tasks have a much greater affect on helping yous accomplish your long-term goals. Co-ordinate to Covey, this is the sweet spot – you’re proactive, decreasing the number of pressing bug and making time for meaningful work.
Urgent & Non Of import:
These are everyday distractions – daily fires that suck your team’s focus, energy, and time. Delegate to others or deprioritize – especially when someone else has imposed the urgency.
Not Urgent & Not Important:
These tasks shouldn’t be on your team’s to-do listing right at present. Get rid of them!
This activity is a wake-up telephone call for managers. Information technology provides a articulate flick of the bodily workload, promoting a chat well-nigh what’s rewarded: Being busy and running from i fire drill to another, or doing impactful work that matters?
Focusing on what’s important minimizes emergencies, assuasive them to be treated with the proper importance before they become a burn down.
Tip: If most of your projects fall in ane quadrant (e.g., High Urgency/ Loftier Priority), you need to ‘redraw’ the matrix to ensure the almost fifty-fifty distribution). Learn more about the prioritization matrix hither.
Who Are You Serving?
One of the reasons behind alien priorities is that teams are unclear well-nigh who they really serve. They try to satisfy too many stakeholders and terminate up pleasing no one.
Prioritize whom you serve. When facilitating the team purpose do, ane of the questions I ask people is: Who are you really serving? Well-nigh teams provide services to multiple constituents: the whole company, a specific department, one leader, the clients, the community, etc. However, defining
key stakeholder makes information technology easier to determine what’s urgent or non – every squad should have one main group they serve, not multiple.
This activity will also help you deal with managers who think everything is important and urgent. The fundamental stakeholder’s needs, not powerplays, should determine your squad’s priorities.
Integrate priorities across teams
Co-ordinate to Harvard Concern Review, almost 75% of cross-functional teams are dysfunctional. They frequently have alien agendas or legacy processes that hinder functioning. Nigh importantly, private or department-specific goals are rewarded over collective ones.
Kickoff with the end in mind: What matters the virtually to the organization?
Define criteria to establish cross-functional priorities. Establishing clear trade-offs will help you resolve conflicting priorities. Use even over statements to effectively prioritize
1 good thing
another practiced thing.
For example, shall your team prioritize urgent piece of work even over important piece of work– or the other way effectually? Should it prioritize cross-departmental goals fifty-fifty over department-specific goals?
This doesn’t mean that 1 matter doesn’t affair only rather that one matters most. When push comes to shove, your team will know what to prioritize even over what else. Establishing criteria for prioritizing work will save your squad many headaches, mainly when conflict arises.
Prioritization is a zip-sum game
Time is a finite resources. No matter how difficult yous endeavor to clasp it, there’s never enough to do everything. We don’t get more time; we brand time. That’s why prioritization is disquisitional to focus free energy and resource on the initiatives that thing.
Unfortunately, leaders frequently forget to realize that time – and prioritization – is a zero-sum game. They keep adding priorities until everything is essential and the workload is unmanageable. New priorities should supplant existing ones, not exist added to an already extensive to-exercise list.
Use this rule of thumb: Whenever you prioritize i projection, which one will you deprioritize?
Default to asynchronous advice
Urgent doesn’t always mean faster. Rushing work or focusing on the wrong priorities can waste matter your team’southward time––especially when they need to fix the mistakes caused by rushing without articulate priorities.
Rethink how you approach communication: shift from reactive to proactive.
Synchronous communication is super-fast and works well when there’s a big burn. However, for normal issues, asynchronous communication is more effective. It allows people to design their twenty-four hours around piece of work rather than meetings or calls, significant they can achieve more.
As communication becomes more thoughtful and less urgent, people tin can exist more than mindful of how they process information and react. Fewer meetings, calls, and emails means more time to actually practise things. It provides a calmer surround in which to do meaningful, high-bear upon piece of work.
Asynchronous is more effective for deep work every bit it allows us to recollect things through before making a determination. It’s more than effective for trouble-solving, thoughtful decision-making, and deep work—what should be most of a knowledge worker’s job.
Zoom calls or meetings should be the concluding resort, not the first choice.
Prepare for real emergencies
Discerning self-inflicted emergencies from real ones is crucial. It promotes a calmer working environment and induces a sense of urgency when information technology’south really needed. As well, when facing a real emergency, the team can accept it seriously and not similar it’southward just another fire drill.
It’due south useful to know how to reach someone in an emergency. An escalation rule tin can aid identify who should exist contacted and which specific channel or method to use. This helps people understand that, if the protocol has been activated, it’southward a existent emergency.
If there’southward an emergency at Slack’southward Future Forum team that requires contacting someone exterior of office hours, team members must transport a text bulletin to that person’s phone. They will never send a Slack bulletin at seven p.grand. if something is urgent. People are non supposed to cheque or respond to messages in Slack later regular working hours.
When urgency is astute and constant, information technology can impairment productivity. However, a balanced approach to urgency can plough speed into a competitive advantage. Hash out with your team what urgent really means. Motility fast in the right direction – not in every management.