Be more productive: Avoid the tyranny of the urgent

The urgent can be defined as that which cries out for attention, whether or not it is important.  It could be a phone call, an e-mail alert, a desperate plea for help, or an unexpected interruption.  Giving attention to the unimportant urgent makes you less productive.

How to keep your attention on the right things

1.  Know what is important.

Keep your goals in your mind’s eye as you evaluate each new task.

  • What are you hoping to achieve in the next week, month, or year?
  • Are these activities going to help you reach your goals?
  • Which of these activities is going the yield the greatest results?

The key to effectiveness is thus to give your attention to the most important activities.  When something is working well, double your efforts.  If it isn’t working well, change course quickly and focus on that which works.

2.  Create systems that accomplish your goals without stressing your resources.

Experiment and find which methods of doing the important things work best for you.  Always look for more effective ways to do things.  The ideal management system should function automatically with little or no input from you.  Never manage what you can eliminate altogether.

3.  Remind yourself that you can’t do everything alone.

You are only human, and therefore have to be strategic as to what you give your attention to.  It may be difficult to say no to the urgent, or to leave things undone.  When this happens, try to see the big picture, your vision, and which activities will help you achieve that.  However, if you are neglecting important tasks, you can consider delegating or outsourcing them.

In summary, the key to increased productivity is to recognize the few important things you need to do and let go of the rest.