#004 – Slaves to the Tyranny of the Urgent: The Constant Battle Between the Important and the Urgent

In our pursuit of balancing the compass and the clock … the important vs the urgent … there is a need to understand how to process the urgent matters.  Urgent matters force themselves on us constantly.

Act Now - Red Button

Urgent matters can so force themselves on us, that they can be a “tyrant” in our lives.  There is little we can do about that.  However, how we respond to them is our choice.  And as such, you can choose to be a slave to the urgent, or you can declare your independence.

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In this episode, I share on the following topics:

  • The things in life that push urgency on us
  • Technology: friend or foe?
  • Why we secretly love the urgent
  • The Urgency Test … a 16 item test to determine the impact of urgency in your life
  • The 4 quadrants as Star Wars characters

I also share 7 Action Steps you can put into place to start downsizing the impact of urgency in your life:

  1. Write down your feelings when you think of the word “urgency” and “important.”
  2. List some sample activities in all 4 quadrants.
  3. Rob from Quadrant III and IV to feed Quadrant II.
  4. Learn a new identity.
  5. Consider outsourcing.
  6. Realize that Quadrant II can change.
  7. Plan your important Quadrant II areas for next week.

Episode Resources

In this episode I mentioned several resources, including:


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Question: What are some of your urgent matters?  How are you planning on dealing with them in some way this coming week?  You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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4 thoughts on “#004 – Slaves to the Tyranny of the Urgent: The Constant Battle Between the Important and the Urgent

  1. Hi Brandon,
    I LOVED this episode of your podcast and plan to re-listen to it again in the future. First, just a bit of background about myself to help you undersatnd my perspective. I was newly diagnosed with adult ADHD almost 2 years ago and started to take adderall. TO be honest, I am still not totally sold on the diagnosis, but what I can’t argue is the difference that adderall has made in my life. And it almost feels like, too, my brain has been learning gradually since taking the medication to operate in a more organized manner. So it has been a steady improvement in some ways. However, your podcast has actually made me realize that the adderall has also increased a sense of urgency to my life, which is why it feels good. (I had never really thought about this sense of the urgent vs the important before.) Anyway, I feel like I’ve been going way overboard in trying to learn about productivity and trying to BE organized – in a way that it has taken over the part of my life where i’m supposed to just be DOING it. (instead of organizing ways to do it.)

    So, while I have gone from not being able to use lists at all, to actually sometimes letting these lists and other tools help me now: one thing that you mentioned really stuck out to me. You said that many of these productivity tools only encourage the sense of urgency. So are there any tools at all that you would recommend then that would not only encourage the urgency? Or ways to use these tools to so as to have a balance between trying to be productive and being productive?

    From the episodes that I’ve listened to, I really appreciate your practical suggestions. On my part, sometimes it’s implementing these ideas that is a huge hurdle for me. Indecision is one thing – and it really sounds so simple and yet it is strangely debilitating: So many things that I have to do, and more importantly, want to do – but what do I do first? I try to tell myself to just do something, anything. But many times what end up happening is that I’d be on my way to doing that one thing, and before I even consciously realize it, my brain would have already directed me to do something else! So in trying to either chase my thoughts and switch between tasks constantly, or in trying to pin down my mind so that I could stay on task – I’d get exhausted very easily. And then at that point, the easiest thing to do would be just to do something completely mindless, which doesn’t even really give me any pleasure. But what it does give me is the rarely experienced respite of not having to struggle with my mind battling to decide what to do.

    And now that I am much more conscious of where my point of struggle is, which is really the point of decision, I have been trying to use external tools to help me be decisive and not think too much. So I thought the whole GTD system would be great, as their whole point is to not think after you have put down everything and to just do. But I’ve now realized that “to not think” is just not a realistic goal to ask of myself given my personality. And somehow GTD became such a project in and of itself that I feel like at some point it began to overwhelm me too much. I am still using it partially, as in at least I am writing down many things that I’d need to do, which in the past would have just not been taken care of. But like you said, just this anxiety of always having to record every little task itself has added so much of a sense of urgency in my life, and it drains me.

    Anyway, before I write a book about this :), let me just ask and see if you might have any suggestions. Do you yourself use any “system” to help your organize? What do you think might help in my situation?

    Again, love your podcast, including your wacky analogies! In fact, I loved the analogies even though I’m not exactly a Star Wars fan. And I really enjoy the fact that you use quotes and examples from so many different things like movies and songs. There’s something that is beautiful in your talk about productivity as opposed to many purely goal-oriented, dry, humorless and somewhat lifeless kind that I have been exposed to. I find that so refreshing and necessary!

    So, thank you again, Brandon!

    • Anekua,

      Thank you so much for this amazing reply. I loved reading all of it, and apologies for the delay in responding. I’m getting used to this whole “web presence”. 🙂

      I hope it is ok with you, but I hope to read your letter on my next podcast. I will address some of your questions there … and here as well.

      First, I love how you are experimenting. Keep doing that! That is great. The problem with picking up books and systems is often it can come across as “cookie cutter”. It is like buying a book about raising daughters … the only problem is that the author isn’t raising MY daughter. So, there may be things that work for me, and others that don’t.

      So I would encourage you to keep after it, and have fun with it! Don’t let society beat you down on how you “ought” to be, or “should” be. Don’t let them “should” on you, and don’t “should” on yourself either.

      You are unique! Amazing, beautiful, and complex! There is NO ONE else on this planet like you!

      Remember this … if two of us are exactly alike, one of us isn’t necessary. 🙂

      I say all of that simply to say … what works for you ultimately will be unique to you. While picking up pieces from books or even my podcast I hope will point you in the right direction, don’t assume anything is bad if they don’t work for you.

      We can certainly get down into all sorts of technicality and apps. What works for me is that 1) I spend periodic time thinking through what are the most important things to me, and 2) I do my best to schedule those in my week the following week.

      I don’t always succeed.

      And that is ok.

      The goal, to me, is that I’m not letting life pass by without conscious focus toward what matters most.

      So, I would say, if any system you use causes more anxiety, “should”ing, or urgency focus, then that is NOT what works for you.

      Could be that writing down your “first things” and posting them all over your house might work for you. Or record them on your phone, and play it to yourself once a week, or daily.

      I constantly try out new things. And quite honestly, some things just don’t work for me. They make me more stressed out, more focused on myself, and less happy. So I dump them. Other times, I tweak and modify them to fit me better.

      For example, I got a lot of the “first things” ideas from Steven Covey. I bought his software for Microsoft Office and really tried using it. But I can’t. It is great, but that approach just doesn’t work for me. But, I took many of the ideas from that software, and started doing them … just in MY way.

      Hope that makes sense. Feel free to follow-up with any questions.

      I would just encourage you to see this whole thing as a fun adventure. Sure, I imagine ADHD isn’t the most fun thing, or fun news to receive. But I see ADD/ADHD not as a disability or a deficit, but as a trait, a way of being. It is characterized by a host of qualities, some positive, some negative. Your task is to understand those positive qualities, while limiting the damage done by the negative. The standard, medical approach looks at ADD entirely as a disorder. By disregarding the positive attributes, this approach often creates new serious disabilities: shame, fear, loss of hope, lowered self-esteem, broken dreams.

      So I would encourage you NOT to buy into those things! People with ADD typically are creative, intuitive, original, and full of positive energy. They tend to be independent thinkers. They are persistent to the point of being stubborn. They usually are quite sensitive, but often cover this over with a kind of bravado. They are big-hearted and generous. They often have charisma or a special something, a twinkle in the eye, a zany sense of humor, or an ability to inspire others. With the right kind of guidance, these people can become hugely successful in their lives.

      It is important to have a plan for developing your talents and interests. This will take time, but it is key. You build a life not on weaknesses you have repaired, but on talents you have developed. Of course, fixing weaknesses can help you in developing your talents, so the two go hand in hand.

      Keep me up-to-date with your adventures, and what you find that works for you!

      And thank you for all your kind words and comments about the podcast.

  2. Hi Brandon, I just wanted to say, I’m glad I found you. I’ve just started to listen to your podcasts a few days ago and, not only did you have me at, “I don’t like to journal” from a previous episode, but the Star Wars / 4 quadrant metaphor was so bang-on, I had to say something. I thought I got it before but now completely understand it – and can now identify and ignore Hans Solo. Lol! Looking forward to diving into the rest. Thank you!

  3. Hey Brandon, I started listening to your podcast 2 days ago and listened to this episode twice now. I’m on episode 8 and loving your podcast. I’m currently in sales and have run into a funk and created some bad habits. Some changes have taken place in my firm and I can’t seem to get back to where I was. I was one of the top salesman last year and this year have dropped towards the bottom. Seems like I’m just reacting and not being proactive. I deal with things as needed but not doing the extra work to stay on top of my game. I have been neglecting quadrant II and it is painfully killed my productivity. Your pod cast has helped to open my eyes and see things from a new angle. I appreciate what you are doing and look forward to your podcasts.