Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The tyranny of the urgent.

Life is short. There are important things to do, but the “urgent” things often attempt to crowd out the important. Outside of work these conflicts are easier to manage. I’ve found a couple of ways to divert an attack of the urgent.


Lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part.

I have this saying on a small 3 x 5 postcard that I keep behind me on my personal workplace bulletin board. Just because somebody asks you to do something, doesn’t mean you have to do it. "No" is an option. I’ll often say, “Let me think about it. I’m in the middle of something important.” Or a real show stopper is “Can you put that request in writing. That way I’ll know just what you’re asking for.” Usually that works, but not always, so I have a plan B:


If you want it bad, I’ll give it to you bad.
If you want it real bad, I’ll give it to you real bad.
How bad do you want it?

Anyone who has read my blog for long knows that I’m a bit of a smart-aleck. That personal attribute carries over into real life, or vice-versa. As a result I’m able to use the above quip fairly effectively without being offensive. It often helps me fend off unreasonable requests.


I do however get called upon to drop what I’m doing and do something urgent, but not important. I may try a bit of negotiation, but then I do it. I do have bosses, and they have bosses. Reason only goes so far. ;-)

But… I’ve found that because I use the first two options, I end up doing less of the third.

Another result of fending off unrealistic urgent requests is that I have time to do what’s important and be available to those who genuinely need my help. Sometimes my urgent help. But it’s not automatic. I have learned to manage “the tyranny of the urgent.”


  1. this is a lesson I must learn... someday.

    My girlfriend always points out the countless situations where I've let my work walk all over me.

    "I do have bosses, and they have bosses. Reason only goes so far."

    How true that is.

    PS You're so consistent with your blogging! I'm always so impressed.

  2. "Lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part." When I left work I thought I wouldn't need that any more (I had something similar among my favourtite sayinsg for my staff).

    However, with a teenage son I need it more than ever!!!

  3. A smart-aleck, eh?

    You were saying something earlier about 'whining rights'.....?

    I have a feeling you're not gonna let me live that post down. That's okay, though...bring it!!

  4. Scriptor -- ah yes -- children, the other source of unsolicited "urgency." I still experience but more infrequently as my kids are adults. ;-)

    Saphron -- "Whining Rights" -- Taking your blog in a larger scale, you're no whiner. ;-) But thanks for that one post so you could serve as a prototype for me to over-react to in my unique smart-aleck way. ;-)