January 26, 2022

What extra work did you agree to take on this week?

When you accepted, did you mean it — or did you feel forced into agreeing?

The ‘Tyranny of the Urgent’ often makes it seem like we have no choice but to agree.

Urgent is not always important.

Worse, these urgent demands often come as ‘executive asks’ from superiors. The challenge of the executive ask is discerning when a question is just a question and when it means taking on more work. Many people get this wrong — and end up taking on work they didn’t need to.

This happens because we operate under stress, constantly reacting to chaos, friction, and resistance to figure out what real priorities need our time, attention, and energy.

It gets more muddled when we have competing and conflicting priorities.

Urgent requests often drive an emotional response. In the initial fear spike, it might seem easier to agree and handle it instead of taking time to evaluate the request, push back, or consider the implications.

Here’s the rub: Every time you say yes to a request, you automatically say no to something else — often your top priorities.

Without clarity of our focus, we end up taking on too much of the urgent work and get too little of our important work finished. And then we end up feeling defeated on Friday (sound familiar?).

The key to delivering value is solving the right problems. We have to finish to unlock the value.

What did you say yes to this week? Will saying yes impede your ability to deliver value?

What did you say no to? Does saying no let you solve more of the right problems?

What guides those decisions?

About the Author Michael Santarcangelo

The founder of Security Catalyst, Michael develops exceptional leaders and powerful communicators with the security mindset for success.

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