The Tyranny of the Immediate

One of the biggest challenges to being efficient and productive is interruptions. Some interruptions are legitimate and need to be addressed right away. This requires the artful re-prioritizing mentioned in a previous article.

Most interruptions are just that, interruptions, and do not need to be addressed immediately if at all. Technology has presented us with infinite opportunities for being interrupted. E-mails, text messages, mobile phone calls, instant messages, tweets, and meeting requests are just some examples of interruptions facilitated by technology with which previous generations were not challenged.

What all of these have in common is the appearance, at least initially, that they are urgent. While some may indeed be urgent, it is very likely that most are not. When something appears to be urgent, it is tempting to give it priority. Suddenly, it will effectively rocket to the top of your task or goal list even though it may not really belong there. In a matter of moments, it has undermined all your careful planning and prioritizing. This is the tyranny of the immediate—the perceived immediate rules.

To be successful and stay on task, do not fall victim to the tyranny of the immediate. Be very discerning before you let a text message suddenly commandeer your afternoon. Before you let that happen, ask yourself. “Where does this issue belong on my task list—category A, B, C, or not at all?” It is tempting to respond like an ambulance driver to a new challenge. It can be exciting. But before you do, make sure it is what you really need to be doing. Don’t fall victim to the tyranny of the perceived immediate.

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