Friday, August 9, 2019

Overcoming Your Urgent Addiction


Ever have a day when your day is filled up with requests by other people and you had no time to pursue your own goals? 

“Can you help me with this? Can you help me with that?” 

You then look back and realize you haven’t done a thing for yourself all day.

Urgent activities filling your day are oftentimes in response to others, whereas important activities are oftentimes the things that we do for ourselves. Most people don’t consult your goals, dreams or ambitions before they ask you to do something for them. They are just thinking about their own goals and their own desires. 

If we like other people, we don’t want to disappoint them. This may cause us to feel a little selfish when we focus on our own goals and dreams, thus influencing us to put off those things to be generous with our time for others. 

It’s easy to fall into a pattern of saying yes. However, if we keep saying, “sure I’ll do that!” we gradually give our life away to others!

What is the urgent?
Urgent tasks cause us to react, instead of allowing us to be in the driver’s seat and act towards the important, which are our long-term goals and the things we value. According to Brett & Kay McKay in Art of Manliness, we can respond to the important with a calm attitude and an open, optimistic mind, unlike the urgent tasks that often causes us to respond negatively, hurried, and defensive with a narrowly focused mindset.

For example, you’re busy at home, you’re working on an important project and the doorbell rings or the dog starts barking. The urgent distracts you from the important by taking your attention away from the important task at hand. 

This may be what is eating away at your productive hours of the day. Many urgent tasks may not be as urgent as they seem. They may feel urgent to another person, but don’t necessarily require your time and attention.  Another person’s urgent does not have to become your urgent.

Say for example, a colleague stops by your desk and has a question for you. It may feel urgent to your colleague, but is it necessary for you to respond to them immediately?  You do have your own work that needs to be completed. By taking that time out of your day to answer your colleague, you now have to refocus your energy onto your work. If this occurs with some frequency, this may lead you to feel frustrated that you still have a large sum of work in front of you, or that you haven’t accomplished your larger goals. Sometimes not catering to the urgent is necessary for your own productivity. 

However, there are times when urgent matters are important matters. Say, for example, you get a phone call from someone in your family that a loved one has gotten into a car accident and you are expected to go to the hospital to be with them. If you were to say, “I’m sorry I’m busy right now working on a project that’s really important to my goals and dreams,” you choose to ignore the urgent, but at the expense of larger values. Some might argue that you are also not attending to the important. 

Urgent is addictive.  We feel a sense of importance when people need us. It’s like we’re indispensable because everyone is asking us to provide our input. We experience adrenaline when we are busy and move from one matter to another. That flow of adrenaline not only gives us strength, but it is also addictive. We love to feel that adrenaline rush! Our body and mind facilitate urgent matters to manifest in our lives because we know that we’ll get that rush again by allowing the dynamics to form in our lives. Meaning that we subconsciously create the conditions of urgent issues because we are addicted to the feeling.

Some of my clients have that urgent addiction, such that they’re always in reaction mode.  You know the signs of that addiction because they’re full of stories about the urgent matters that they have tended to. Dealing with the urgent matter once wasn’t enough for them. They relive the urgent matter by telling stories about it and repeating the stories. It becomes a way of establishing a reputation by, in essence, bragging about how busy they are. Each time they repeat the story they get a little rush of adrenaline. Often, at the end of the year, they have a feeling of regret because they didn’t accomplish their important goals.

McKay, Brett & Kay. “The Eisenhower Decision Matrix: How to Distinguish Between Urgent and Important Tasks and Make Real Progress in Your Life.” Art of Manliness. 23 Oct. 2013, https://www.artofmanliness.com/articles/eisenhower-decision-matrix/