Monday, November 18

Tyranny of the Urgent: Impacting the Personal

Years ago The Navigator published a booklet titled Tyranny of the Urgent. It is a classic with perceptive insights into time management.

Not too long ago, a friend of mine and I were having breakfast and we talked about how hard we work for someone else and how little comparable energy we seem to put into our own passions, our own work, our own dreams.

We've all experienced the challenges of time management, of the "urgent" getting the most immediate attention. Although the urgent isn't always "urgent." It may be the thing that is demanding the most attention, but it may not be the most important thing to which you need to be paying attention.

A colleague and friend of mine used to talk about working constantly in a "hair on fire" mode. That wasn't good. It was reactive, which meant that people rarely felt as though they had the luxury of time to stop and think through solutions, options, or just do a reality check.

Rafe Esquith used that phrase differently in his book Teach Like Your Hair's on Fire; his was the story of a remarkable teaching career in Los Angeles. The phrase bespoke energy and passion, but not without thought and insight.

All of that was brought home recently when I was confronted with a situation that forced me to rethink my own responses to the tyrannies of the urgent and "hair on fire" moments in my life.

This isn't a change like flipping a switch, at least not for me. I know I will have to be consistent about checking my responses to the situations around me and those that affect me. I know I will have to be more consistent about pausing to guard against responding reactively to the urgent that might not be urgent, or responding to the "hair on fire" that might not really be a fire. And I have to keep myself in mind so that I do not stifle my own passions and my own dreams.

I think it's a challenging balance so that I'm not so self-directed that I become inwardly insular, aka selfish. But though I seem to have a deep need and sense of responsibility to take care of others, even strangers, I need to take care of myself to. I need to be the best possible me I can be. Every day.

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