How many of you are sitting at your computers right now waiting for that next email? I know that I am guilty of that. I will sometimes sit there and just stare at my inbox waiting for that next email to arrive so that I can act on it right away with urgency. When did email become so urgent? Or, why have you and I made it so urgent? Is email really that urgent?

It is funny, because I tell people that I will get to my email within 24 hours, but as soon as it arrives, I am jumping all over it and if it is not urgent, it can sit in my inbox for weeks until I do something with it. Crazy!

How many of you stress over the number of emails in your inbox? How many of you look at your emails as soon as you get out of bed in the morning, or even hear the dings of emails all night?

Email is just one example. How many things do we let slide because it wasn’t “urgent” and we only begin to act when it is really urgent? I can hear many of you saying, “But I have too many urgencies?” Do you really? Sit and think about it for a moment. Is everything really “urgent”?

I have been working with a customer recently and the team was under performing and we could not figure out why. When I started looking at what they were doing, there were way too many people asking for things and telling the people each item was urgent and needed to be done now. After looking at what they were asking for, first, there was a lot of overlap in the requests, second, it was not clear who was responsible for what item in the request, and third, much of the urgency was because the request was given too late for the people to do it properly because they did not ask until it was urgent for them to get done.

So, I have been getting the team to slow down. I have gathered the information that was required and put it into a single report. I then assigned a version of the report to specific people and told them when it was due. Now, I have taken the “urgent” requests and made them important requests with a due date.

I ask you again, how many things are you making “urgent” in your life, when it should really be important? I believe working in the constant state of “urgency” makes us work in the state of stress all the time. Working under stress all the time is not good for us in the long run. I know that I can hear people say, “But I get more work done when I am under stress?” And, how do you feel at the end of the day? Energized or exhausted? I am going to guess exhausted.

Yes, I know that I do work under stress some of the time, but I also know that some of my best work comes when I am working on important items. You may say you get more done under stress, but I am going to say that I get more work done when I am working on important items, because I slow down and use my whole self in doing the important items. It may sound counterintuitive to slow down, but when I do, I get some of the most creative ideas and from that place, I do some of my most beautiful work. Which in the end is much better than the work I would have done under stress. 

So, take some time and really look at what you are doing and see if you are making things “urgent” which should really be important. Compare your urgent results to your important results and let me know if you see a difference.

If you need some help determining what is important versus what is urgent, let me know.