Don’t get stuck in the ‘urgent trap’

Urgency Trap

On a daily basis I am told by friends, family and clients that they struggle to get everything done. They wish for just a few extra hours a day so they can tick things off the ever-growing to-do list. It doesn’t matter whether they are a stay-at-home parent or top executive, equally they find themselves caught in what I call the ‘urgent trap’ where ‘need-it-by-yesterday tasks’ get in the way of the ‘important stuff’.

You most likely feel the same? Days get consumed by emails, pressing client requests, children demanding attention (not that I compare the two of course!) instead of spending quality time on the things we need to do to learn, to grow, to develop (I’m not just talking about businesses, this applies to families too) to be in a constant state of flow and productivity.

Events happen all the time, some are in our control but many are not. It’s life. But it’s time to take control of your life and what you do – you get to say when, where and why. You can decide how much you are going to achieve in a day and how many things you will tick off that to-do list. Get real with yourself, your clients and your family. Don’t be afraid to start saying things will take three days instead of one – yes they may not like the sound of it initially, but the reward for you will far outweigh that initial disappointment for them. Realistically they probably didn’t expect a one-day turn around anyway!

So how do you escape the ‘urgent trap’? It’s simple and it comes down to being really clear about what you want, what you need and PLAN when and how to achieve it.

Before leaving the office, or before crawling into bed, spend 5-10 minutes to plan for the next day. Make it a habit. If you have a plan you will be more motivated and focused.

DON’T check your emails first thing (you will only get caught up attending to other people’s urgent requests and before you know it, half the day may have past attending to things that were not on the plan)

DON’T log into Facebook and other social media either (be honest, you know it’s the ultimate time-waster!)

Use the time when you know you are most productive to work on the more challenging tasks. Schedule time to get important jobs done without interruptions. Let phone calls divert to your voice mail and turn off email notifications. Seriously, it’s only for a few hours, you can do it! If that scares you too much, think of the consequences of not getting a particular job done. Chances are by not doing it you will be more stressed later in the day/week/month, you will end up doing a rushed job you’re not proud of AND then there is the overriding sense of frustration of not getting it done at all… because you ‘ran out of time’.

ONLY YOU can manage your time. If you don’t have enough of it then set your alarm and get up one hour earlier.

Yes I know this may sound hard. With two young children (nearly 4 and 2 ½ years old) I understand tiredness (to be honest I can’t remember the last time I had a full night’s sleep!) but I also understand the importance of achievement and getting things done. I would love to be super-mum and super-businesswoman but I have to be realistic about what I can do and who I can do it for. I say ‘no’ to others a lot more than I ever used to but that’s ok, it means I get to say ‘yes’ a lot more to myself, my family and my business. I also get to tick the important things off the list too! And when the ‘urgent things’ pop up that are beyond my control (sick children, broken appliances etc.) it’s all a lot less stressful because I know that with good planning I’ve already done the ‘important stuff’ with time up my sleeve to deal with the emergencies.

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