Defeating the tyranny of the urgent.
Based on hundreds of surveys of time management seminar participants over a thirty year period, “rush jobs” are among the top ten time problems faced by managers and staff alike. It seems that they are on the receiving end of tasks and projects that have to be done “right away” or “ASAP.” A bevy of urgent tasks requiring immediate attention on a daily basis produces a breeding ground for stress. And stress is the enemy of both physical and mental health as personal productivity.
Here are a few suggestions for handling the rush jobs that you must face during the course of your day.
1. Question the importance of all rush jobs. They may be urgent but not important. Important jobs have intrinsic value. They can impact your personal goals or your company’s bottom line. Urgent jobs simply have a short time frame. If you don’t do them right away it’s too late. But too late for what? The consequence of not doing them may be negligible. Some of them may be best left undone.
2. As soon as you receive a rush job to do, whether from your boss or someone else, question the deadline. It may have been chosen arbitrarily. The time to negotiate a different deadline is at the time you receive the assignment, not when you find that you are unable to meet it.
3. For each rush job, ask yourself the question, “What’s the impact on my job, my career or this company if this task is not completed on time?”
Recognize that you can’t do two things in the same time frame. Do one thing at a time, starting with those that are the most important. Stress only aggravates the situation.
4. Get into the habit of scheduling time to work on the priority tasks in your planning calendar right away to avoid procrastination. Many jobs become urgent simply because of a delay in starting them. Immediately upon receiving a priority assignment, break it into smaller segments if necessary and schedule times in your planner to work on them. This also creates both a commitment to do them, and a visual display of your workload and the time still available for other tasks.
These tasks can only be displaced by more important tasks, regardless of their urgency. Any less important tasks can be added to a “To Do” list and worked on when and if there is time left over or delegated to others.
Remember that it’s not how many things you do but what you accomplish that counts. Don’t lose sight of your goals. Concentrate on the 20% of the activities that produce 80% of the results.
5. Say “no” more often. Be assertive. Realize that by saying yes to a rush job, you may be saying no to something more important. If you have entered previous tasks in your planner, you will know when you have to say no. If you struggle with how to actually say no, refer to my e-Book, “How to say no when you want to say yes,” published by Bookboon.com.
6. Don’t hesitate to ask for help. You can’t be all things to all people nor do two things in the same time frame. If you’re in a position to delegate, do so. But don’t waste time on trivial tasks that would produce little reward for the company.