Are You Addicted to Urgency?

Time management methods can help you become more organized and more focussed. But is that all time management is about? Is it not about becoming happier and more fulfilled? Some fulfilment comes from urgency. But as we’ll teach you in this blogpost, urgency can be bad. So how to cure the addiction to urgency?

At the end of the workday, a workaholic who spends all this time putting out fires and running from one urgent matter to the next will feel completely exhausted. Stephen Covey calls this exhaustion an addiction to urgency. Sometimes a crisis can leave you stressed and exhausted, but sometimes it can be exhilarating, you have a chance to prove yourself.

Feeling good.. in the eye of the storm

Covey says that there is a momentary sense of euphoria from getting things done, this euphoria is almost like a chemical dependency. However, there are some long term consequences if you are dependent upon urgency to feel good. Covey’s solution is simple: divide your actions into four categories, or quadrants. Each quadrant has other importance and urgency. You might know have read about this Quadrant Four Model, also known as the Eisenhower Matrix.


For those of you who don’t know the quadrants:

Quadrant One

This quadrant contains activities that are both urgent and important. Think about crises, pressing problems and projects with a deadline due soon.

Quadrant Two

This quadrant holds all activities that are important, but not urgent. This includes long term planning, self-improvement and other scheduling and planning ahead.

Quadrant Three

This quadrant is bad. It holds all urgent, but unimportant activities. Like drop-in office visitors and meetings that seem to never end.

Quadrant Four

This is even worse than quadrant three. Quadrant four contains all activities that are neither important, nor urgent. These are mostly mind dulling tasks, like administrative or time-consuming repetitive tasks. Almost any task that does not help you improve your skills or intellect are quadrant four.

A cure for urgency addication

Stephen Covey feels that an “urgency addict” spends most of his or her time in Quadrant One and Three, thus neglecting Quadrant Two. However, Quadrant Two is most important for planning, improving and preventing. Quadrant Two contains the most essential things for determining long-term success and overall achievement. Covey suggest, to make the best use of time, ignore Quadrant Three tasks and use that time to focus on Quadrant Two. Neglecting Quadrant One is nearly impossible, because the items in this quadrant are genuinely important and urgent. However you can neglect Quadrants Three and Four. Quadrant Four is pretty useless anyway. Quadrant Three has some value, but that is just based on the urgency. Ultimately you want to spend as much time in Quadrant Two as possible. As spending time in Quadrant Two will help you make Quadrant One smaller, because you are planning and working on prevention of crises.

How to shift gears and focus on importance instead

But this is easier said than done, just like any addiction you can’t just stop. Covey recommends that you start by taking some time from Quadrant Three and put it into Quadrant Two. Doing preventive work will shrink the amount of Quadrant One activities. So gradually you will have less and less urgent matters and more satisfaction due to this new found motivation. The flipside? Some people might be offended because you might spend less time on phone calls without a clear direction or a lengthy meeting. However, you will be glad you made the choice to mitigate urgency. Making some enemies is better than rushing towards a burn-out.

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