Perhaps one of the major reasons you have not set the right priority for your life is that you’ve become tyrannized by the urgent. What does that mean? It means that you have allowed the urgent things in your life to dictate your activities, without realizing that you are neglecting the truly important things, the good works that God has prepared for you to do.
In his little booklet, “The Tyranny of the Urgent,” Charles Hummel writes: “We live in constant tension between the urgent and the important. The problem is that many important tasks need not be done today, or even this week. Extra hours of prayer and Bible study, a visit to an elderly friend, reading an important book: these activities can usually wait a while longer. But often urgent, though less important, tasks call for immediate response. . .”
Ask yourself, what if I don't respond right now? Next time there is a phone call, email, text message or a live body in your office take a breath and a minute to evaluate that "incoming communication" and ask yourself: Does this (email, text, phone call, person or event) strongly affect the course of events for this community? Or does it simply call for my immediate attention because I bought in to the urgency with which it is presented to me? Separating out the 'urgent' from the important' is the first step in time and stress management.
Step 3: Prioritize your (urgent, important) incoming communication and time slot them for action.
Especially if you are on site, you know that one of the most 'urgent' things with which you deal are warm bodies in your office, who have some perceived emergency, or who just need to come in and alleviate boredom by sucking up your time and keeping you from accomplishing an 'important' task. Yes, its part of the job but you can help yourself by keeping published (newsletter, website, sign on your door) hours of availability, and sticking to it wherever and whenever you are able. Unless it is mandated by your Board, keeping yourself open to continual office visits by errant residents is largely self-induced time-waster and stress-inducer (where did the day go?).
Reacting to Urgency, v. Acting on Importance. Though it may be temporarily satisfying, reacting immediately to situations as they come before us, as if we were a bug on a string, will, over the long haul, make us feel as if we are out of control, as if we are at the whim of external forces. And we are. This continual out of control feeling is terribly stress-inducing.
Acting on urgency can create very unrealistic expectations. There is a serious unseen downside to continually acting on urgency and being personally available to all incoming communication. Once you have set the "availability bar" higher than is continually achievable (and likely out of contract) it's very hard to come back to the world of mere mortals. From that point on, every time you are unavailable to answer an email or phone call immediately - and it will happen - you will be tagged as "unresponsive."
The Tyranny of the 'Urgent'
Your cell phone/Blackberry/PC has an off switch. Use it liberally. Your cell phone does not have to be on when you are sitting at your desk unless you are expecting an important call. It doesn't have to be on when you are in a meeting. It doesn't need to be utilized immediately when you hop in to your car. Unless you are on call, or it's your only phone, you can turn it off when you go home at night. Using the "off" button keeps you from being distracted by the 'urgent' and lets you focus on the 'important,' such as dinner with your family. Don't worry - any caller will get your voice mail or auto-response indicating when you will be picking up messages.
It takes serious effort on your part not to be tyrannized by the urgent. Not falling in to the common community management trap of reacting to urgency as if everything is crucial and 'important' takes very serious discipline on your part. Initially that discipline itself may feel stressful as you break your addiction to reacting to urgency. In the long run, as this discipline becomes part and parcel of your work habit, you will find yourself managing your time and your stress to your greatest advantage. Less urgency = less stress = better time management = better community management.
As Mr. Hummel says, "Your greatest danger is in letting the 'urgent' things crowd out the 'important'." Taking a cue from that quote, we realize must take control of our reaction to 'urgent' issues by managing how they present themselves and how we initially - and subsequently - respond.
Even as little as 5 years ago, when we managers left the office we would be reasonably assured that we wouldn't be (too) bothered by work-related communication on our drive home, at home, or at our son's soccer match. Those days are over you say? Only if you let them. If we stand back a moment, and take a breath, we begin to realize that much of this communication could actually be dealt according to its true level of importance. John Maxwell said, "Before you put off until tomorrow what you could do today, study it clearly. Maybe you can postpone it indefinitely." In our business there is little we can postpone indefinitely, but it does point out that, well, maybe we can give ourselves the small luxury of not responding instantaneously to the 'urgent' when it takes us away from the truly 'important.'
Think about it. Everyone wants something from you, and they want it right now. They email, they text, they call, they track you down. We are crushed by incoming communication that is never off which greatly extends (without warrant) our work day: Cell phones, Blackberrys, text messages, email. This bombardment of continual communication creates a sense of urgency, thus giving all incoming communication a false sense of importance. And because it appears so important, many of us always, always immediately answer those incoming communications regardless of whether they are truly 'important', or merely 'urgent'. This poor habit sucks up valuable time within our workday and our work week, keeping us from more important tasks. Less time to complete tasks = real stress. Make no mistake: Instant communication - unchecked - can be your biggest obstacle to successful time and stress management.
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