Living beyond urgent

There’s a great collection of old Seth Godin articles for Fast Company magazine.

Here’s an extract from one I wish I’d successfully inhabited in 2019:

If It’s Urgent, Ignore It

Smart organizations ignore the urgent. Smart organizations understand that important issues are the ones to deal with. If you focus on the important stuff, the urgent will take care of itself.

A key corollary to this principle is the idea that if you don’t have the time to do it right, there’s no way in the world you’ll find the time to do it over. Too often, we use the urgent as an excuse for shoddy work or sloppy decision making. A quick look at Washington politics (under any administration) is an easy way to understand how common this crutch is. No responsible business (or diligent family) would spend money and resources the way our government does when faced with an “emergency.” Urgent is not an excuse. In fact, urgent is often an indictment–a sure sign that you’ve been putting off the important stuff until it mushrooms out of control.

The most important idea of all is this one: You will succeed in the face of change when you make the difficult decisions first. It’s easy to justify running for your plane when it’s leaving in two minutes and you’re only five gates away. It’s much harder to justify waking up 10 minutes early to avoid the problem altogether. Alas, waking up early is the efficient, effective way to deal with the challenge. Waking up earlier may seem foolish to the person lying in bed next to you, but when you enjoy the benefits of a pleasant stroll to the gate, you realize that your difficult decision was a good one.

Organizations manage to justify draconian measures–laying people off, declaring bankruptcy, stiffing their suppliers, and closing stores–by pointing out the urgency of the situation. They refuse to make the difficult decisions when the difficult decisions are cheap… Instead, they focus on the events that are urgent at that moment and let the important stuff slide.

A quick look at the gradually failing airlines, retailers, and restaurant chains we all know about confirms this analysis. They’re all content to worry about today’s emergency, setting the stage for tomorrow’s disaster. Better, I think, to wake up 10 minutes early, make some difficult decisions before breakfast, and enjoy the rest of your day.

Seth GodinIf It’s Urgent, Ignore It

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