Nicole Havelka Consulting Blog
in Change Leadership - Community - Creativity - Organizations - Ritual

4 Ideas for Beating the “Tyranny of the Urgent”

Recently I led a team-building activity for a management team at a health care company. I led this relatively new team in creating a team ritual that would help them spread positivity among the teams they lead. We used some craft supplies and items from the recycling bin to build prototypes of a ritual. In just 20 minutes with smiles on their faces and laughter in their voices, they created some pretty fantastic mock-ups.

After presenting their ideas, they decided to have a (at-least) monthly “megaphone,” a newsletter/email that included stories of people who were doing the best at caring for their clients. An awesome idea embodied by a prototype of a megaphone they made from a recycled yogurt container. What creative fun!

Team Building: Fashioning a “megaphone” from a recycled yogurt container and ribbon.

Then the energy shifted pretty dramatically. They soon mentioned that they often have these good ideas, but they don’t execute them. They wanted to hold themselves accountable to making this good new idea. They wanted to involve even more people from the company in making this ritual come to life. But, how did they do that when there was so many other  things to do?

Their challenge is the same as most of us, I think. The “Tyranny of the Urgent” always wins. What I mean is that the crisis of the day or the most urgent task will always take the top spot on your to do list. Once you start a day in “urgency mode,” you then spend your day leapfrogging from one crisis-driven task to another.

The good news is that there are some ways to get out of this urgency game and focus your time and energy on what you really want to get done. Here’s four things that I’ve tried and tested to help me stay focused.

Time blocks. A coach of mine recently suggested this practice to me and it has worked fantastically. On my calendar, I block the time I need for regular tasks — writing, business administration, lead follow up, etc. I don’t schedule other meetings or even answer emails during this time. And, if I do need to schedule a meeting during one of the blocks, I move it to another place on my weekly schedule. Things are much more likely to get done this way. Haven’t you noticed that my blog is getting posted regularly again? I now have a time block to get it done.

Calming/Focusing ritual. I’ve written before about how I start my day with meditation that sometimes includes a morning walk as well. I am usually far calmer and able to make better priorities if I start from a place of calm centeredness. And even if my day gets derailed by an unavoidable crisis, I am calmer in handling it.

Ignore the Squeaky Wheel. Is there a person or situation that keeps sucking time because it often erupts into a crisis? Ignore it. (If it’s not a life or death situation.) At least for an hour or two while you do your time blocked tasks for the day. Then call or email back. You might be surprised. The person(s) involved just may solve the problem themselves.

Block out a Day. Set aside a day every month or so to work on those projects or ideas that you just don’t have time during a normal day to work on. Bring your whole team. You might be surprised by the amount of creativity that emerges from a day away!

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