I recently completed a 3-week intensive work period with regular 16-hour days. Everything was urgent and deadline driven. Though I put in long hours, it felt good and on purpose. I was in the zone – clear and hyper-focused. Then the work period ended and I tried to return to a normal pace.
I couldn’t do it, at least not at first.
I had trained myself to be in urgency mode during those three weeks of intense activity, and I was having trouble turning that urgency mindset off. I continued to be alert and scanning for the NEXT THING, in a state of hyper-awareness.
My urgency focus was now getting in the way. It was no longer rooted in getting important, deadline-driven projects done, as it had been at first. I was checking and responding to email incessantly, reacting to everything as if it was the most important thing, my mind spinning. It was starting to wear me down and block my ability to do important thoughtful and strategic work.
Does this sound familiar to you? So many of the leaders that I work with are stuck in this state of urgency on a regular basis without realizing it. It raises an important question:
In the classic, Seven Habits of Successful Leadership, Steven Covey talks about the difference between the two. He breaks it down like this:
If you are operating from urgency, you will run from one thing to the next, regardless of whether it’s important. Even after those important and urgent action items are complete, you will look for something else to fulfill that feeling of urgency.
If you are operating from importance, you will still have periods of urgency (as I did during those three weeks). However, once the urgency passes, you will maintain a focus on what’s most important. Many important activities are not urgent. They include things like your leadership development, planning, creating a strategy or vision, or investing in relationship-building. If you are operating from importance, you find the time to make those happen.
Urgency is tricky, because it feels the same whether something is important or not. The leadership move is being able to make the distinction, and to choose to focus on importance.
In my case, those first three weeks were both important and urgent, but then urgency took hold. Fortunately, I caught myself before too long and made some changes. Here are some of the things I did that you may find useful.
Your important actions will look different than mine. What’s critical here is that you break the cycle of urgency and think about what those important items are. Then, identify how to make them happen. (Hint: If you don’t schedule them in your calendar, you are lot less likely to do them.)
Ready to break that urgency cycle and take your leadership to the next level? Let’s chat! Click here to schedule a quick call and find out what’s possible.