Overcoming Urgency Addiction
There’s a very real malady affecting business these days. It’s not widely discussed, although it’s gotten the attention of a few writers and consultants. I wouldn’t be surprised if this condition costs corporations billions of dollars. It certainly dilutes individual development and productivity, and can undermine self-confidence, creating a sense of overall personal emptiness.
What is this great menace? An addiction to urgency, aka Urgency Addiction.
Neuroscientists tell us that when we experience success, our brains release a substance known as dopamine, which causes feelings of pleasure. Understandably, we want more of this, which we can get by repeating the types of actions that caused the previous chemical shot.
The problem is that this phenomenon occurs even after very small successes – like answering an e-mail, cleaning out a file folder, or sending a text message. The happy juice keeps on coming, and hours later we’ve spent an entire day doing nothing meaningful.
There are several methods for fighting urgency addiction. A few helpful books are: First Things First, by Stephen Covey; Getting Things Done, by David Allen; and Deep Work, by Cal Newport. Francesco Cirillo’s Pomodoro Technique and Dan Sullivan’s Entrepreneurial Time Management System are also excellent
For those trying to break urgency addiction, I recommend a few practical steps:
— Determine your highest and best use. I’ve borrowed this term from the world of real estate, where it means calculating the maximum value of a commercial property by envisioning the ultimate utilization of that piece of land. What is it that you do that contributes the most value to your goals, life, and/or organization? In what areas of productivity do people consider you a gifted genius? It will likely be something you love and that makes you feel energized. This is where you should focus.
— Decide how much time you can realistically devote to your highest and best use. Schedule blocks specifically for this purpose. Put those on your calendar like appointments with your boss or most important client. Then fight with all your strength the urge to preempt that plan.
— Find your deep work environment. It may have to be somewhere outside your normal workspace. If that’s not possible, headphones playing favorite music, a “Do Not Disturb” sign, and turning off a few apps might do the trick.
— Have a trusted system for capturing distractions. While you’re engaged in deep work, thoughts will undoubtedly come to you about other tasks and commitments. You need a way to record these for handling later. The key is that you must absolutely trust this system to the point that the distraction will be completely out of your mind once it’s captured.
— Then work on only what matters most until the scheduled session is over.
Yes, it’s difficult. And it takes practice. But the result is freedom from urgency addiction and more time spent doing what brings the greatest value to the organization and joy to us as individuals. That’s a high worth pursuing.