How can you tell if you're too obsessed with urgent?
Do senior people at your company refuse to involve themselves in decisions until the last minute?
Do meetings regularly get canceled because something else came up?
Is waiting until the last minute the easiest way to get a final decision from your peers?
Smart organizations ignore the urgent. Smart organizations
understand that important issues are the ones to deal with. If you
focus on the important stuff, the urgent will take care of itself.
A key corollary to this principle is the idea that if you don't have
the time to do it right, there's no way in the world you'll find the
time to do it over. Too often, we use the urgent as an excuse for
shoddy work or sloppy decision-making. A quick look at Washington
politics (under any administration) is an easy way to understand how
common this crutch is. No responsible business (or diligent family)
would spend money and resources the way our government does when faced
with an “emergency.” Urgent is not an excuse. In fact, urgent is often
an indictment–a sure sign that you've been putting off the important
stuff until it mushrooms out of control.
The most important idea of all is this one: You will succeed in the
face of change when you make the difficult decisions first. It's easy
to justify running for your plane when it's leaving in two minutes and
you're only five gates away. It's much harder to justify waking up 10
minutes early to avoid the problem altogether. Alas, waking up early is
the efficient, effective way to deal with the challenge. Waking up
earlier may seem foolish to the person lying in bed next to you, but
when you enjoy the benefits of a pleasant stroll to the gate, you
realize that your difficult decision was a good one.
Organizations manage to justify draconian measures–laying people
off, declaring bankruptcy, stiffing their suppliers, and closing
stores–by pointing out the urgency of the situation. They refuse to
make the difficult decisions when the difficult decisions are cheap.
They don't want to expend the effort to respond to their competition or
fire the intransigent VP of development. Instead, they focus on the
events that are urgent at that moment and let the important stuff slide.
A quick look at the gradually failing airlines, retailers, and
restaurant chains we all know about confirms this analysis. They're all
content to worry about today's emergency, setting the stage for
tomorrow's disaster. Better, I think, to wake up 10 minutes early, make
some difficult decisions before breakfast, and enjoy the rest of your
day [Seth's Blog]