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Why there is not enough time and energy for the most important things and what to do about it
Why there is not enough time and energy for the most important things and what to do about it

The urgency trap is to blame. We figure out how it works and how not to get into it.

Why there is not enough time and energy for the most important things and what to do about it
Why there is not enough time and energy for the most important things and what to do about it

How many times at the end of a hard, busy work day have you realized that you seemed to be spinning like a squirrel in a wheel for many hours and solved many problems, but did not devote time to really important projects? How many times have you promised yourself to take up personal matters that are meaningful to you: sports, creativity, study, but could not even start them for months? If this has happened to you, then, like most people, you have fallen into the trap of urgency.

What is the urgency trap

Research from Johns Hopkins University School of Business has shown that more often than not, we abandon interesting and important tasks in favor of urgent ones. And we are literally predisposed to postpone significant projects until later, first of all, taking on those that, as it seems to us, need to be done right now.

This is called the urgency trap. It leads us to stress, emotional exhaustion and, oddly enough, loss of money. Researchers have found that we tend to take on a task that seems more urgent, even if we pay less for it than for a task with a softer deadline. This happens for several reasons.

Why do we fall into the urgency trap

1. We suffer if we cannot complete the task

This was found out back in 1927, and then it was confirmed more than once: people feel uncomfortable if there is an unfinished business hanging over them. This feature of thinking was called the Zeigarnik effect. And since urgent tasks, as a rule, are small enough and do not take much time, we cannot postpone them, because then the next item on the to-do list will not be crossed out. And we grab onto these small tasks, solve them one by one and cannot stop. As with a packet of chips: until you eat everything, you will not calm down.

2. We are stuck in a tunnel and do not see anything around

That is, we find ourselves so overwhelmed by short-term affairs that we literally cannot exhale, look at our schedule from the outside and evaluate what is really important and what is not. This situation can be compared to tunnel vision: we do not see the complete picture, but only a fragment that is in the center of our attention right now.

3. We are unable to organize the working day correctly

If the processes are not debugged through your fault or through the fault of the management, routine tasks begin to literally consume time and effort. Let's say you are too lazy to create templates for documents and letters - and each time you spend many precious hours working with documentation or incoming mail. Or your project manager hasn’t agreed with the client to make all the edits at once, and you have to be distracted by new comments countless times.

4. It seems to us that if we ignore an urgent task, disaster will happen

An evil leader or client will come and he will swear a lot, you will be deprived of money, the sky will fall to the ground, we will all die.

All these notifications of new messages, calls, edits, additional small orders create the illusion that they cannot be postponed. Although, in fact, there are not so many really burning tasks.

How to avoid being trapped in urgency

1. Start your day with important and non-urgent tasks

The classic time management books say the first thing to do is "eat the frog." That is, to do away with a small and not very pleasant task. There is logic in this approach: after making a difficult call or answering boring letters, we feel like winners and on the rise we take up other things.

But there is a risk that the first "frog" will be followed by the second, then the third, the fourth … And now it is evening, the "frogs" have been eaten immeasurably, but hands have not reached the really important tasks. Therefore, you can try the opposite: start the day with what is more significant, but not urgent, and only then move on to all this heap of small tasks.

2. Learn to take a break

Do not rush to immediately respond to new messages and carry out any small assignments and requests. Inhale and exhale and appreciate how urgent this really is. If the task suffers, postpone it by prioritizing the larger and more valuable project.

3. Try to work in blocks

Let's say 40 minutes for important tasks and 15 minutes for urgent tasks. Set a timer so that small routine does not suck you too much, and as soon as it beeps, go back to big things. Most likely, a call or letter will be able to wait for the next 40 minutes.

4. Combine things

Many little things can be done while you are riding the subway, standing in line at the post office, waiting for a child from a drawing lesson. It is unlikely that it will be possible to engage in a dissertation, a book, a report or a plan at such moments, but it is quite possible to quickly respond to messages, fill out some forms, make minor edits.

5. Remember that urgent tasks will never end

It is a very big mistake to think that now you will quickly clean up all this routine: make an appointment with a doctor, answer letters, order your child new sneakers, fill out a report card - and then, with a light heart, you will take up important work and personal projects: update your portfolio and resume, read a book in a foreign language, look for information for research. Alas, this will not be so. Small things will continue to fall on you until you take control of them.