Three Ways to Separate the Urgent from the Critical from the Very Important – REQUIRES IMMEDIATE ATTENTION!
I receive more than a few emails every day with that bright red exclamation point prominently displayed. These notes all seem important and imply that an immediate response is required. And, I always do read them immediately. Then there are those notes, invites and messages that include words like Urgent, Critical or the dreaded ASAP in the title line. The messages are hot and always get the most of my attention too. They imply that someone’s hair is on fire or nuclear holocaust is impending. There are a lot of them.
THEN THERE ARE THOSE NOTE IN ALL CAPS AND USUALLY IN THE COLOR RED. It is a trick to double ensure that our attention is snagged. The message could be from a Nigerian prince, The Boss, a bill collector or the fire department. We have to read them.
What are we supposed to do? How do we decipher what’s important with this constant barrage of imperatives? Is what the boss wants always the most important? What about the customer? What about the team? What about my blood pressure? It’s almost like a workplace contest to see who can cause the most stress with emergencies.
The options to deal with this constant sense of urgency may be simple. Here are three ways you can deal with the urgency barrage:
- Rely on Your Judgment – The most important decision we make every day is to decide what’s important. And only you know what is truly important. Who knows better than you how your contribution will make the organization more successful? Make the decision about what is important or others will make it for you – and you may not like what they decide. What is important could be the accumulation of many small significant activities. Waiting for something that is earth shatteringly important is to wait for something that may never happen.
- Develop Your Own Sorting System – Like sorting grades of eggs, we all need to sort the source of all the urgent messages we receive. The boss is probably going to be sorted near the top of the stack. Any thing from the family marked urgent will be ahead of the boss. Anything from an airline regarding your flight will be way up there. Then, there are all the others that need to be sorted. Remember what is critical to others might or might not be critical to you. The chronic offender, like Chicken Little, should probably be ignored.
- Don’t Be Fooled and Distracted – Then there are those messages, sometimes from friends, that rage, “Stop everything you are doing to watch this”. What do we do? We stop everything to watch what is usually the latest cool YouTube video. We laugh, we enjoy it, we probably pass it on, but is it urgent and does it require a work stoppage? No. Don’t get faked out by the faux urgent.
It is now to the point when I appreciate it when someone tells me you don’t need to read this right now – it is not that important. Or the important thing you need to know is in paragraph three. Or, this is not urgent, deal with it when you can. Maybe it’s time for all of us to take a deep breath when it comes to urgency, develop our own measured system in what we send and receive and remember that the most important message is not at the top of the incoming mail from someone who guarantees you a job for $75/hour at Amazon.
I can tell you one thing – when it comes to importance, checking Facebook or Instagram first thing every day or worse, all the time, is not in the top three on the urgency scale.