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About Everything Wiki » Productivity » Why is there not enough time and effort for the most important thing and what to do about it

Why is there not enough time and effort for the most important thing and what to do about it

29 May 2023, 13:55, parser
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How many times at the end of a hard, busy working day did you realize that you seemed to have been spinning like a squirrel in a wheel for many hours and solved a lot of tasks, but did not devote time to really important projects? How many times have you promised yourself to do important personal things for you: sports, creativity, study, but for months you could not even start them? If this has happened to you, then, like most people, you have fallen into the trap of urgency.

What is the urgency trap

Research M. Zhu, Y. Yang, C. K. Hsee. The Mere Urgency Effect / Journal of Consumer Research , which was conducted at the Johns Hopkins University Business School, showed that most often we abandon interesting and important tasks in favor of urgent ones. And they are literally predisposed to postpone significant projects for later, first of all taking up those that, as it seems to us, need to be done right now.

This is called the urgency trap. It leads us to stress, emotional exhaustion and, oddly enough, loss of money. Researchers have found that we tend to grab onto a task that seems more urgent, even if they pay less for it than for a task with a softer deadline. This happens for several reasons.

Why do we fall into the urgency trap

1. We suffer if we can't complete the task

It was found out Your Desire to Get Things Done Can Undermine Your Effectiveness / Harvard Business Review back in 1927, and then repeatedly confirmed: people feel uncomfortable if unfinished business hangs over them. This feature of thinking was called the Zeigarnik effect. And since urgent tasks are usually quite small and do not require much time, we cannot postpone them, because then the next item in the to-do list will not be crossed out. And we grab onto these small tasks, solve them one by one and can't stop. As with a pack of chips: until you eat everything, you will not calm down.

2. We get stuck in a tunnel and can't see anything around

That is, we find ourselves so overwhelmed with short-term affairs that we literally cannot exhale, look at our schedule from the outside and assess what is really important and what is not. This situation can be compared to tunnel vision: we are not seeing the full picture, but only a fragment that is in the center of our attention right now.

3. We can't organize the working day properly

If the processes are not debugged through your fault or the fault of the management, routine tasks begin to literally devour time and effort. Let's say you are too lazy to create templates for documents and letters — and every time you spend a lot of precious hours working with documentation or incoming mail. Or your project manager has not agreed with the client to make all the edits at once — and you have to be distracted by new comments countless times.

4. It seems to us that if we ignore an urgent task, a catastrophe will happen

An evil manager or client will come and swear a lot, you will be deprived of money, the sky will fall to the ground, we will all die.

All these notifications about new messages, calls, edits, additional small orders create the illusion that they cannot be postponed. Although in fact there are not so many really burning tasks.

How not to be trapped by urgency

1. Start the day with important and non-urgent tasks

Books on classic time management say that the first thing you need to do is "eat a frog". That is, to end a small and not very pleasant task. There is a logic in this approach: after making a difficult call or answering boring emails, we feel like winners and on the rise we get down to the rest of the business.

But there is a risk that the first "frog" will be followed by a second, then a third, a fourth… And now it's evening, a lot of "frogs" have been eaten, and hands have not reached the really important tasks. Therefore, you can try the opposite: start the day with what is more significant, but not urgent, and only then move on to all this pile of small tasks.

2. Learn to take a break

Do not immediately run to answer new messages and fulfill any small errands and requests. Take a breath and exhale and assess how urgent it really is. If the task suffers, postpone it, putting a larger and more valuable project in the first place.

3. Try working in blocks

Let's say 40 minutes for important things and 15 minutes for urgent tasks. Set timer so that the small routine does not suck you too much, and as soon as it beeps, go back to large-scale cases. Most likely, a call or an email will be able to wait for the next 40 minutes.

4. Combine business

Many little things can be done while you are riding the subway, standing in line at the post office, waiting for a child from a drawing lesson. It is unlikely that you will be able to do a dissertation, a book, a report or a plan at such moments, but it is quite possible to quickly respond to messages, fill out some forms, make minor edits.

5. Remember that urgent tasks will never end

It is a very big mistake to think that right now you will quickly sort out all this routine: make an appointment with a doctor, answer letters, order new sneakers for your child, fill out a report card — and then you will take up important work and personal projects with a light heart: update your portfolio and resume, read a book in a foreign language, look for information for research. Alas, it will not be so. Small things will continue to fall on you until you take them under control.

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