• Patrick McAndrew

The Problem With Urgency


It’s very easy to get caught up in the busyness of life.  For many of us, it always seems like we have a million things going on.  Our schedules begin to pile up with a healthy dose of obligations that we must fulfill by a certain deadline.  In some ways, this is a good thing.  Setting deadlines and efficient to-do lists allow us to be productive and, in a larger sense, accomplish some of our most worthwhile goals.


It’s no secret, however, that some of us are much more productive and much more efficient than others.  Have you ever had a similar task as someone, perhaps a homework assignment, research paper, or an important project at work, and that someone seems to get it done ten times faster than you?  When you feel like you just begun and this someone has just finished.  It doesn’t add up!  That’s because they are utilizing their time more wisely and efficiently.


The big enemy in all of this is the idea of ‘urgency’.  This is a real problem that is, more often than not, overlooked.  We bow down to the almighty urgency.  If we receive a text, we answer it.  If we receive an email, we answer it.  If we receive a notification, we check it.  If we receive a phone call, we answer it.  We are at the whim of the universe, which is constantly bombarding us with urgent tasks that apparently need to be addressed as soon as they are on our radar.  But do they really?


Stephen Covey’s famous book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, discusses the idea of urgency a lot.  He breaks everyday tasks into four quadrants, those being:

  • Unimportant and Not Urgent

  • Unimportant and Urgent

  • Important and Not Urgent

  • Important and Urgent

We, as a society, spend a large amount of our time in the ‘Unimportant and Urgent’ quadrant.  A minute here and a minute there adds up to a lot of time.  Many of us are working on tasks that don’t add up to much and don’t matter in the long run.  They seem important because they are masked in urgency, but they are mostly useless noise.  This issue with the urgent, but unimportant, has become expeditated with the always-on mentality of the digital age.  We aren’t helping ourselves with our constant connectivity.


While there are things that come up that are both urgent and important, such as a family emergency, most of the important tasks fall into the ‘Important and Not Urgent’ quadrant.  This is how we don’t accomplish our goals.  This is how we don’t get work done.  We know we have work we must do, but we procrastinate because it is not urgent.  This is the quadrant which requires self-discipline, motivation, and perseverance.  If we spent more time on important tasks which are not necessarily urgent, we would accomplish much more and have a lot more time to ourselves.  We wouldn’t be bogged down by the busyness: busyness which is brought on by our occupation with the urgent, but unimportant, tasks.


We simply need to be more respectful of our time.  We are so willing to waste away our time that we don’t reserve it for the work and play that really matters.  Don’t let urgency trick you into being busy with unimportant tasks.  Focus your energy on the tasks that accomplish and work towards something.  You will know when you are on the right track when you are getting work done quicker, more efficiently, and when you find yourself with a little extra time on your hands.

© 2020 Patrick McAndrew