Conquer the Tyranny of the Urgent in Two Steps

August 14, 2015
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tyranny of the urgentWe all share common challenges to maximizing our productivity level. First, there are only 24 hours in a day. Secondly, if we are actively applying Dale Carnegie’s Human Relations principles, we have more professional and personal relationships than ever before, but less time to foster them.

Charles E. Hummel published a groundbreaking essay on this subject in 1967 entitled, The Tyranny of the Urgent. In essence, Hummel categorizes daily tasks according to two criteria—urgent and important. The premise of the Tyranny of the Urgent is that if we do not actively allocate or plan for our time, someone else will take it.

Hummel steers productivity seekers into the first quadrant or the area ‘Urgent AND Important’ where activities such as customer meetings and sales proposals are assigned high prioritization, and rightly so. On the other end of the spectrum, activities such as socializing at work are defined in Quadrant four as ‘Not important AND Not Urgent.’

Here are two key steps to conquering the Tyranny of the Urgent in order to maximize your productivity without compromising relationships.

  1. Prepare for tomorrow today. Compiling your to-do list the night before will enable you to optimize peak performance hours which are during the first two hours after becoming fully awake. Robert C. Pozen, author ofExtreme Productivity: Boost Your Results, Reduce Your Hours, recommends tweaking your to-do list to maximize productivity. For example, test each task to ascertain if they can be delegated or delayed for another day. The goal is to ferret out important tasks only you can do and those that must be done promptly. Delegating tasks to others demonstrates that you trust them while giving them an opportunity to learn new skills and grow. Allocate time in the next day’s schedule for each task you must perform based on estimates so that you have ample time to complete those with high urgency.
  1. Turn technology upside down.  Today’s level of hyper-connectivity has sent expectation levels soaring. Carve out blocks during the day when you will solely check email. It sounds counterintuitive to the common practice of multi-tasking assignments while checking email, however many studies prove multi-tasking does not work. You can set email alerts for important vendors and top customers in case you absolutely must respond ASAP, however don’t allow the balance of your email to interrupt you when focused at the task at hand.

A co-worker may ask in passing if you’ve seen the email about a certain subject—that she sent just a few minutes ago. One of Dale Carnegie’s Human Relations principles is to, ‘Throw down a challenge.’ Instead of retorting like a deer in headlights, “I don’t think so; did you just send it?” Calmly reply and throw down a challenge, e.g. “I’ve found that designating time to check email enables me to be more efficient and productive. I’ll check it out this afternoon. You should consider allocating specific time to check email—you may be blown away by your increases in productivity too!”

This post is brought to you by the good folks at Dale Carnegie Training of Central Indiana, providers of professional development and management development courses and information in Indiana. We would love to connect with you on Facebook.

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