For those of you who haven’t met me in the real world, let me first explain some of my character assets and liabilities.
I’m what every personality test on the planet would describe as “highly dominant” in a workplace setting. (In a personal setting, I’m quite different, but that’s a story for another day…)
At work, I’m extremely task-focused, almost to the detriment of my professional relationships. I do everything fast—from walking to talking to achieving. Give me a project and let me run–and I mean RUN. I love to be busy and in-control and even a little overwhelmed. That’s how I operate. I’m the “get it done” person in every sense.
Much of the time, I consider this a professional asset. But lately, it started to feel more and more like a personal liability.
You see, being that fast moving, fast talking, fast doing individual means I constantly have a sense of urgency. In fact, I often find slow, methodical people difficult to work with. My quick, laser-focused approach to whatever needs to get done has yielded much success in the past, so it’s been easy to foster the belief that my way is the best way.
Of course, it’s not. At least, not always. Just like eating Cheetos, there’s a point when too much of a good thing becomes a very bad thing.
When you have a heightened sense of urgency (like me) combined with a heavy workload, several things can happen:
- Everything starts to feel urgent, which creates massive anxiety and makes focusing on any one thing difficult.
- It becomes impossible to distinguish between the truly urgent and the less urgent (but highly important) tasks.
- It’s hard to know where to begin when everything feels like an A1 priority.
- It’s easy to disregard personal routines (like self-care, staying organized, etc.) so you can use that time for getting MORE THINGS DONE.
- It’s tempting to move too quickly, which ultimately leads to mistakes or low quality work (which costs time in the long run and potentially harms your professional reputation).
- It creates stress for everyone around you because they feel your craziness radiating like the heat of a thousand suns.
So this is where I was a few weeks ago. My sense of urgency was (ironically) killing me slowly. For several months, I had been plagued with nagging anxiety and a feeling that there was too much to do and not enough time. Over a somewhat prolonged period, I became more and more frazzled (a feeling I absolutely despise!) until finally I had to confront it.
I know some of this is simply the plight of the modern worker and I’m not alone. But I reached a tipping point. It was time to take a good hard look at my behaviors and make some much needed adjustments.
If you’ve been a reader of this blog for any period of time, you know I never a share a problem without also offering a solution. So, for those of you who are reading and thinking, “Oh. My. Gosh. She is literally talking directly to me. This is exactly what I’m dealing with right now,” you’re in luck.
Here’s what I’m doing to right the situation. Perhaps you can try some or all of these things yourself.
- I’m consciously reminding myself that NOT EVERYTHING is urgent.
- I’m carefully looking for tasks that can be eliminated or delegated—things I’m taking on that are unnecessarily adding to my stress or pulling my attention away from truly important tasks.
- I’m working closely with people around me to better understand my real priorities.
- I’m keenly observing those slow, methodical people who used to drive me nuts and trying to emulate their calm, systematic ways.
- I’m re-dedicating to personal routines (like exercise, staying organized, and eating well).
- I’m trying to fully focus on one thing at a time. Multitasking is not my friend.
- I’m keeping the “big picture” front and center, and trying to remember what really matters most both at work and at home.
- I’m giving myself breathing room. When I feel that crippling sense of anxiety creeping in, I stand up and walk away from my desk for a minute.
- I’m asking for (and accepting) help from others, even when that means giving up some control and slowing down to explain things.
These things are certainly helping, but it’s an almost constant workplace struggle. I still think having a sense of urgency at work is a good thing. It shows you take your work seriously and are committed to efficiency. You don’t have some lazy “I’ll get to it when I get to it” attitude. You recognize that business is constantly moving and success doesn’t favor a slow poke.
The trick is using that sense of urgency appropriately and not letting it run the show.
Yes, it’s important to accomplish things at work and, in my opinion, doing so quickly is a valuable added bonus. But it’s even more important to accomplish the right things in the right way. Not everything can be done today, nor does it need to be. I’ve known this for a long time; now I just have to accept it and learn to operate this way.
I’m curious: Do you have a heightened sense of urgency? If so, how do you control it? Please share your experiences in the comments!