The Urgency Illusion: Are You Running Around with Your Hair on Fire? Here’s Why!

Time pressure.

The busier you feel, the more likely you are to neglect important work.

The urgent has obscured the important if you’re constantly running around with your hair on fire.

Distracted leaders finish a few ‘small’ tasks before doing important work.

Stop saying, “Let me finish these small items.” We all know that ‘later’ never comes.

Leaders who do important things end up doing fewer urgent things. For example, if you do the important work of training, you deal with fewer urgencies.

2 kinds of problems:

“President Eisenhower used to arrange his affairs so that only the truly important and urgent matters came across his desk. He reportedly discovered that the two seldom went together.” Winnipeg Free Press

“I have two kinds of problems, the urgent and the important. The urgent are not important, and the important are never urgent.” Dwight D. Eisenhower

President Eisenhower.

I have two kinds of problems, the urgent and the important. The urgent are not important, and the important are never urgent.

The urgency illusion:

People tend to choose urgent tasks they can complete quickly and put off important tasks that take longer to complete. (The Mere Urgency Effect)

The busier you feel, the more likely you are to neglect important work.

It seems easier and faster to do it yourself.

Busy leaders tend to ‘do it themselves’ rather than equip someone else to do it. Leaders who are consumed by urgencies believe they don’t have time to equip people to do some of their tasks.

Frantic leaders chase their own tails.

4 kinds of tasks:

Quadrant 1 Activities:

  1. Pressing deadlines.
  2. Customer requests.
  3. Answering “important” questions.
  4. Crisis situations.

Quadrant 2 activities:

  1. Relationship building.
  2. Coaching and training others.
  3. Personal development.
  4. Rest and recreation.
  5. Planning and strategizing.
  6. Exercise.
  7. Medical checkups.

Quadrant 3 activities:

  1. Disruptions. Answering questions.
  2. Recurring issues that others should handle.
  3. Some meetings.
  4. Some emails.
  5. Scheduling.
  6. Decisions that should be pressed down the chain of command.

Quadrant 4 activities:

  1. Surfing the Internet.
  2. Office drama.
  3. CC’d items.

In an age when running around with your hair on fire is desired and admired, important work gets pushed aside.

How might leaders escape the trap of confusing urgent with important?