Wednesday, January 27, 2021

A different urgency

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For many people, work consists of a series of urgencies. Set them up and knock them down. Empty the in-box, answer the boss, make the deadline.

Over the next few weeks, there may be fewer urgencies than usual. That’s the nature of coming back from a break.

What if we used the time to move system deficiencies from the “later” pile to the “it’s essential to do this right now” pile?

Improving a system returns our effort many times over.

Fix your supply chain. Dig deep into your communication rhythms. Figure out the priority list. Quit the tasks that are holding you back. Walk away from dead ends. Add rigor to your processes. Understand the difference between the things that feel urgent and those that are truly important.

None of this works if you do it temporarily. The point is to create and fix systems with finality. Identify a class of projects that your team will do instead of you and then never do them again. Reorganize your data archiving approach and then stick with it. Build a system for lifelong learning and then maintain the commitment.

In any given moment, an urgency that feels like an emergency gives us the permission to abandon our systems and simply dive in and fix it, as only we can. And this permission is precisely why we get stuck, precisely why the next urgency is likely to appear tomorrow.

Resolutions don’t work. Habits and systems can.

Most of us are so stuck on the short-cycles of urgency that it’s difficult to even imagine changing our longer-term systems.

Amazingly, this simple non-hack (in which you spend the time to actually avoid the shortcuts that have been holding you back) might be the single most effective work you do all year.

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