Our Urgent World: Taking Back Control and Being Proactive

Article by Dee DeWitt, Edited by Dee DeWitt


How often do you receive an email, text message, voice mail, Facebook post, or some other message?  For the sender of these messages, they are most often urgent … and always important … to them.


But are they important to you?  Are they helping you achieve your important work goals, or, do they pull your focus away from what is important, forcing you to react to others all day, every day?


It seems that every second, more communications are being sent our way.  And our normal response is to try and stay current with all of the communications.  It’s human nature to want to respond quickly … to keep our “in box” free of clutter.  So we reply to the latest communications as quickly as possible, letting others control our work lives and our schedule. 


And since the flow of communication never ends, we find that we spend most of our life reacting to others instead of being proactive in working to achieve our own goals.


For those of us with long-term aspirations and goals, this is a challenge.  And our goals may suffer as a result.


So the question becomes, how do we make our ideas happen .. our visions a reality… how do we reach our goals … while the world around us is constantly trying to pull our attention in other directions?  Here are a few suggestions:


Block out Private Time Early in the Day.  Admittedly, not everyone has a job that allows them to schedule their own time.  However if possible, try to block out the first 2 or 3 hours of the day for research, reading, planning, etc.  How many of us have said “This day didn’t go as planned”?  If we don’t take control of the beginning of our day, it is all too easy for all the incoming communications to take control away from us.  Instead, use the early part of each day to learn, absorb, reflect, and let your creative self think.


Keep More than One To-do List.  Most of us keep to-do lists.  But are they things we want to achieve, or, are they filled with items that are simply reacting to others’ demands?  When we are allocating our focus and attention, create one list for items that are urgent (responding to others), and another list that are has your important action items.  Our own goals and priorities deserve a list of their own.  They should not compete against everyone else’s urgent items we’re forced to respond to.


Save Your Correspondence for One or Two Short Time Periods Each Day.  Rather than replying to others’ communications throughout the day, set aside one or two small time periods to respond to others.  Have a set time every day, and keep it short so that you are forced to respond concisely.  It’s the idea of compartmentalizing your work and taking control of your work day.


Focus on Action Steps instead of Worry.  Many times, when urgent matters do come to our attention … we tend to focus on the potential negative outcomes.  In other words, we worry about the potential bad.  We all do it, and for most of us it takes concentration not to worry (and causes us to delay taking action).  But worry is a time-waster.  It distracts us from achieving our goals, from focusing on the important things.  So when urgent items come to our attention, the best way to deal with them is to break them down into small action steps … and then attack and complete those action steps.  And once we’ve taken action to resolve a problem, we must learn to recognize the outcome is no longer under our influence.


So … react to others all day, or proactively work to achieve our goals and visions?  It’s an easy answer, but challenging to accomplish each day without unless we consciously take back control.


“If you employed study, thinking, and planning time daily, you could develop and use the power that can change the course of your destiny.”
W. Clement Stone


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Posted on 15 April, 2010 in Career, Productivity
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