When I was in my early 30s, my dad gave me a copy of Stephen Covey's Seven Habits of Highly Effective People
I was utterly fascinated at the idea of a crucial difference between urgent and important.
And then it blew my mind to learn that they were not opposites either.
Instead, they formed this cool quadrant.
Yes—the grid is cool!
These four quadrants are really fun brain-candy. The idea is to pay attention to which quadrant you are spending your time in. If you spend most of your time in Quadrant 2—yay! You win! You are a Highly Effective Person.
But urgency is compelling . . .
and women tend to be the ones who deal with the urgent, pressing problems of life and other people (bosses, colleagues, kids). Most women I know have days and even weeks fueled by adrenaline.
And truth be told--it actually feels amazing at first. When we are faced with a crisis or a deadline, that surge of adrenaline clears out the sludge and gives us a sense of focus, purpose and direction.
But our bodies are simply not made to run on adrenaline. Years ago, one of my friends shocked me when she said, in an airy yet tired voice: Oh yes! My adrenal glands are shot. My doctor says that's true for most women.
So it is an actual life challenge is to learn to fuel ourselves with plentiful sleep, nutritious food, and deep-focus (Quadrant 2) instead of the adrenal-gland-killing state of Quadrant 1.
Wait--breathe with me here.
Here are 3 tips to gently shift out of your addiction to emergency
TIP 1: Notice your body. Next time there’s a crash in the next room or you see your ex’s number on your caller ID, notice the tingly surge of adrenaline run through your body. After it is gone, do you wish you could feel energized like that again? Pay attention to your body's desire to create more of that juice.
TIP 2: Become curious: Hmm—am I chasing someone else’s urgency or emergency? If we are used to running on adrenaline, it may feel good to keep it going. Someone is always having an urgent moment, and if you are used to spending more time in Quadrant 1 than Quadrant 2, handling other people’s urgencies just becomes a way of life.
(But not the way of your life--so stay in that energy of curiosity and . . .)
TIP 3: Invite Discernment. Is something feels urgent, ask yourself: is this something I need to deal with now or not? If the answer is yes—deal with it. You are in Quadrant 1. But if the answer is no, you are in Quadrant 3—and you get to discern: Do I put this on a list to deal with in my Quadrant 2 focused time? Or can I just let it go?
And one final bonus tip! The traditional advice for Quadrant 4 is to eliminate or reduce. But it is more realistic to make a plan for those mindless clicks. You may decide to set a timer and spend 5-10 minutes on non-urgent, non-important tasks as a way to relax in a waiting room or as a wind-down into something more mindful: meditation or a relaxing bedtime routine.
If you want a deeper dive into Urgent vs. Important, join my private Facebook Group: The Bottom Line is You! I have a video on this very topic, plus a growing library of COVID-responsive videos on emotional hygiene and productivity at home.
CLICK to join my private FaceBook group: The Bottom Line is YOU!
Lynnea Annette is an executive life coach who supports professional women who feel the stress of working hard and being under-appreciated.