Without a sense of urgency desire loses its value.
Living with a Sense of Urgency
There are some real and tangible reason why you’re not where you want to be in your life. It could result from unhelpful beliefs, dreadful habits, conflicting goals or values, and a plethora of other ways you have found to sabotage yourself. You might in fact have worked through these areas on some level, however for one reason or another, you’re still stuck in your old ways. Your life is stagnating and you just can’t seem to find the consistent motivation you need to move forward.
All the above are very valid reasons why things aren’t moving forward in your life. However, working through these areas individually is often very time consuming and tedious. If only there was a much simpler approach that would get you out of this stuck state and allow you to move your life forward with greater momentum? Well there is…
The most successful people in the world have their own personal battles. They also have unhelpful beliefs, dreadful habits and conflicting goals and values. Their lives are far from perfect. However, despite these issues, they still find a way to accomplish their goals and objectives. How do they do this? Well for starters they don’t make any excuses about their life or circumstances. And secondly, they live daily with a sense of urgency. This sense of urgency forces them to work harder and smarter throughout the day. This leads to steady progress and improvement over the course of a week, month and year, up until the point they achieve their desired outcomes.
It is this sense of urgency that is probably missing in your life. You simply have no urgency to get things done, to achieve your goals, to overcome your problems, etc. Without urgency, there is no motivation — there is nothing forcing you to get up early in the morning to pursue your goals, and there is certainly nothing enticing you to stay up late when tasks haven’t yet been completed. You’re simply too comfortable where you are in your life at the moment and this is preventing you from moving forward.
Yes, of course you might very well be dissatisfied with your life. You have so much to live up to and so much to achieve. However, things aren’t that bad. You have access to many of the things that make life satisfactory and bearable right here, right now. This might not be ideal, but it’s fine and acceptable. You don’t feel like moving forward because you simply don’t have enough reasons to help stimulate your motivation. If only someone could just turn on the switch to power-up your sense of urgency… how different would your life be?
The Evolution of Urgency
To begin living with a sense of urgency it’s important to understand how it originates and manifests in people’s lives. Well, there are actually two ways a sense of urgency can be created. One way is forced upon you by external events, people and circumstances, and the other way is created from within.
Here is a very blunt example of the first way that urgency is created. Just imagine for a moment a mafia boss kidnapped you and made all these threats against you and your family. He mentions that the only way to ensure everyone’s safety is for you to attain your goals by a certain date. Immediately this creates a sense of urgency and forces you to take the necessary action steps to attain your desired outcomes — does it not?
The second way urgency is created comes from within. Here you create either a real or imagined sense of urgency that spurs you on towards your desired outcomes. It doesn’t really matter how you end up convincing yourself to take urgent action in pursuit of your goals, as long as it creates within you a strong desire to attack your goals with purpose and get things done intelligently and quickly.
The Requirements for Living with Urgency
In order to create a sense of urgency you must be fully present in the moment. Urgency only exists in the moment. Obsessively thinking about the future will only manifest in anxiety and worry — which could paralyze you and lead to procrastination. Remaining in the present will help you to focus fully on the task at hand to get the job done in the most effective and efficient means possible. This of course doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t think about the future. Taking future deadlines into consideration is very important when it comes to creating a sense of urgency, however, what’s important is that you don’t obsess over your future, but instead stay present in order to create a sense of urgency in the moment.
Urgency also requires a proactive approach to your tasks and projects. Being proactive means that you are constantly thinking a few steps ahead to identify what needs to get done. Being proactive also means that you are focusing on your highest priority activities — these are the 20 percent of activities that will get you 80 percent of the results.
Discipline is also required to create a sense of urgency. Discipline is important because it keeps you focused and on-task no matter how many distractions and obstacles you need to fight through in order to get to your desired objective.
Finally, to create a sense of urgency you need to combine optimism with determination to get your tasks and projects completed. Optimism will keep you motivated when things get difficult, and determination will help you wade through the difficulties that you will inevitably face along your journey.
Without all these habits-of-mind you will struggle to create a lasting sense of urgency in your life.
The Advantages of Living with Urgency
Before taking a look at the advantages of living with urgency, there are a number of disadvantages that you must be aware of:
Living with a sense of urgency does mean that you will be working at a far more rapid pace then you’re probably use to. This can lead to higher levels of stress and tension. It can even lead to the feelings of overwhelm and frustration, which can result in fatigue if left unmanaged and can also impact your ability to make effective decisions. Experiencing these emotions is inevitable. It’s not whether it will happen, it’s rather when it will happen. And if you’re not ready for when it happens, then these emotions will leave you feeling drained and unmotivated. As such you need to learn to manage all these emotions in productive ways that will help — not hinder — you along your journey.
There are of course a number of key advantages when it comes to living with a sense of urgency.
For starters, a sense of urgency will naturally boost your levels of productivity because it forces you to work faster, and therefore also think faster than you normally would. Pressured thinking will stimulate your creativity and encourage you to think outside the box about your tasks and problems. This will likewise lead to higher levels of innovation as you try and find better and quicker ways to do things in order to reach your deadlines. And as everything starts to come together and you begin to make rapid progress, you will naturally see a spike in your motivation.
So even though there are drawbacks to living with urgency, there are plenty of advantages as well that can help you to create the momentum you need to attain your goals and objectives.
Four Steps to Start Living with More Urgency
There are a number of things you must initially do that will help you to live with a sense of urgency. Without doing this background work first, you will struggle to maintain a sense of urgency in the long-run.
Here is a four step process that will provide you with the foundations for living with more urgency:
Step 1: Build an Inspiring Vision for the Future
Your first step is to set an inspiring vision for the future. This is your vision for life — a personal legend. No matter what you call it, it must be something that inspires and motivates you to live with a sense of purpose. Ask yourself:
What is my life’s vision?
What do I ultimately want to achieve?
What kind of person do I ultimately want to become?
Once you have outlined your purpose, your next task is to gain more clarity about what achieving this purpose specifically requires you to do. Ask yourself:
What goals would I specifically like to achieve?
When will I achieve these goals?
Your goals must be motivating and challenging at the same time. Without the “challenge” aspect, you will fail to find the motivation you need to maintain your sense or urgency in the long-run.
Also, when it comes to setting your goals, make sure that you outline clear short-term deadlines. Short-term deadlines are critical when it comes to creating a sense of urgency because they help you to stay focused and on-task. If for instance you only have long-term deadlines, then you might find it difficult to stay motivated today if the deadline is 12 months away. However, creating short-term deadlines for the end of this week, will provide you with the motivation you need “this week” to get the task done. It’s therefore absolutely paramount that you break your goal down into small parts and assign at the very least weekly deadlines that will help you to stay focused on achieving them.
Step 2: Break You Goals Down into Parts
Having clarified your vision of the future and the goals that you will be working towards, now comes time to break these goals down into smaller projects and tasks to make them more manageable on a day-to-day basis. You need to essentially formulate a plan of action moving forward that will get you to your desired destination. Ask yourself:
How could I divide my goals into smaller projects?
What tasks does each project need completed?
When will I need to complete each of these projects and tasks?
As you work through this process, you might realize that you don’t have all the knowledge, tools, skills, support and other resources at your disposal that will help you to get the job done. In such instances, you will need to acquire the necessary resources to achieve your desired outcome. Ask yourself:
What skills might I need to bring my vision of the future to life?
What tools might I need to attain this goal?
What knowledge might I need to complete this project?
What support might I need to get this task done successfully?
How will I acquire all these resources?
Finally, you must take time to pinpoint some of the difficulties you might face along your journey. Ask yourself:
What obstacles could I possibly face while working on this project?
What difficulties could I confront doing this task?
What setbacks could potentially prevent me from achieving my goal?
What time wasting activities must I eliminate from my life?
What low value activities might not be worth focusing on?
Take time to specifically identify all the roadblocks that you might face along your journey. The more clarity you have here, the easier it will be for you to create the sense of urgency you need to move forward.
Step 3: Find Reasons to Move Forward
It’s difficult to create a sustainable sense of urgency without first identifying the reasons or benefits to move forward. Ask yourself:
Why is completing this project important?
Why is it vital that I attain this goal?
Why must I do all this? Why now?
What are the benefits of taking these actions?
The more benefits and reasons you can find to move forward, then the greater sense of urgency you will create. However, benefits are only half the picture. You must also generate the pain you could potentially experience if you take no action or simply fail to achieve your goals within the allocated deadlines. Think about the consequences of not achieving your goal and ask yourself:
What will I potentially lose-out on if I don’t do this?
What will I be unable to do, be and/or have if I fail to achieve my desired outcomes?
What will all this cost me in the long-term and short-term?
How will all this make me feel?
Creating a sense of urgency requires that you associate pleasure towards attaining your desired outcomes, while at the same time associating a great deal of pain if you fail to get the job done. It is then your task to remind yourself daily about how awful this pain feels and how incredible the rewards will be once you attain your desired objectives. This will hopefully provide you with the motivation you need to keep yourself in a state of urgency in the long-run.
Step 4: Create Penalties and Rewards
The final step is to create penalties and rewards. Create penalties for when you fail to reach your desired outcomes within the allocated deadlines. And also create rewards for when you achieve them within the allocated deadlines. This will help to spur you on, and is likely to create the additional motivation you need to complete all your tasks and projects with a sense of urgency.
12 Ideas for Creating a Sense of Urgency
A sense of urgency isn’t something that’s created once and then forgotten about. A sense of urgency is something that you must continue to create within yourself on a daily basis if you desire to maintain the highest levels of peak performance. Just doing the foundational work is not enough. Motivation must be rekindled on a daily basis like a fire that needs extra fuel to keep it burning.
Here are some ideas that will help you maintain high levels of urgency throughout the day:
Set Time Targets and Time Limits
A time target is the amount of time you will work on a specific task. So for instance you can set a time target to work on a specific task for a period of one hour. Once set, you must continue working on that task for a full hour. This is helpful because it commits you to working on that specific task for a designated period of time without distractions.
A time limit is a set amount of time you designate for completing a specific task. You could for instance specify that you will complete a task within an hour. This might require setting a timer for 60 minutes and then having it countdown to zero. As a result you will be forced to think and work quickly during that hour without distractions in order to get the job done.
Before setting time limits it’s important that you first outline what exactly you would like to achieve and the process you will undertake to complete this task. Only after you have clarified these two things should you set your time limits.
Make sure your time limits are realistic, and yet at the same time challenging. The challenging aspect will make things interesting, and the time limit itself will give you a sense of urgency while working on your task.
Build Consistent Momentum
If you desire to do things with more urgency, it’s absolutely paramount that you work consistently on developing momentum throughout the day. You will of course move through peaks and valleys in your energy over the course of 12 or more hours. This is okay. Learn to manage this energy. What’s most important is that you keep your momentum moving forward by thinking quickly and doing things efficiently. And this all begins with simple things such as responding to people quickly and getting to the point quickly without wasting time. Keeping things short and focused will ensure you move forward without stagnating.
Think about all your meetings, appointments and the conversations you have with other people. Really focus-in on these activities and keep them as short and to the point as is necessary to get the right information across or the job done as effectively and efficiently as possible. Wasting your time on things that will rob you of that sense of urgency will only slow you down and deplete your levels of motivation and energy.
If all else fails, one of the best ways to build your internal sense of urgency is to hustle — moving your body quickly and with purpose. Moving quickly and with purpose will force you to become more alert and therefore think on your feet far more effectively. In fact, your physiology plays an incredibly important role when it comes to creating urgency. Use your body effectively and it will serve you well, use it sluggishly and it will rob you of your momentum.
Develop a Competitive Spirit
A competitive spirit will keep you alert, primed and ready to respond to threats and take advantage of opportunities that may arise. In such instances you are often measuring your progress against your rivals — to get a feel for what you are doing well, as-well-as areas where you might potentially be able to improve.
If you realize you’re behind, this will provide you with the sense of urgency you need to catch up. And if you’re in front, it might give you a reason to relax and become a little complacent. Don’t fall into this trap. For urgency to exist you must either be running away from something painful, or moving towards something that will give you pleasure. A competitive spirit should give you the best of both worlds, however if you’re already ahead of your rivals, then make sure that you set higher personal targets and standards to help keep yourself focused and motivated.
Eliminate Unnecessary Activities
The one thing that will immediately rob you of a sense of urgency is the process of bogging yourself down with tedious and unnecessary tasks that slow down the momentum you’ve been working so hard to create. It is therefore important to identify these tasks and eliminate, delegate or outsource them wherever possible.
Of course there is no avoiding some tasks. They may be tedious, however they’ve got to be done. And if you can’t eliminate them or find someone else to do them, then you’re left with no option but to do them yourself. This is not an ideal scenario, however it’s one you need to accept and embrace wholeheartedly. Therefore instead of reluctantly undertaking these tasks, turn these tasks into challenges and games, or set time limits to help you create a false sense of urgency.
Think on Your Feet
With a sense of urgency comes raised levels of productivity. However, to keep recreating that sense of urgency throughout your day, it’s important that you think on your feet moving from task-to-task.
In order to create this sense of urgency you must persistently ask yourself the following three questions:
What else could I do?
What’s my next step?
Think for a moment what a person who has absolutely no urgency would think:
- This was so boring and hard…
- I can’t believe this took so long…
- I’m so hungry… I wonder what I’ll eat for dinner?
- I wonder what Jenny is doing right now…
- I’m dreading this next task…
- Do I really have to do this?
- Why in the world do I even bother?
As you can see, these are two very contrasting examples. A person with urgency is moving quickly from one task to the next, while the person with no urgency spends most of their time complaining and distracting themselves from the task at hand.
Use Your Imagination to Create Urgency
If nothing else is working for you, and you just can’t seem to find that sense of urgency you are after, then try using your imagination to create a sense of urgency.
For instance, imagine time rapidly ticking away. Every moment you waste is time lost forever. You will never get this time back. Once gone, it’s gone, and you only have a limited time left to get things done. Use this to help you focus-in on what’s important and get the job done as rapidly as possible.
Alternatively imagine that you are struggling in last place. You’re in a race working through your tasks and projects to achieve your end goal. However, you’re last. The competition is ahead of you and you have absolutely no chance of being victorious if you lag behind. You must therefore step up your game and begin progressively catching up one step at a time.
Or imagine you’re fighting for your survival as an underdog. No one believes in you, in fact everyone doubts you, and the world is throwing obstacles in your path to prevent you from reaching your desired outcome. Use this as a tool to help motivate you to take positive action moving forward.
Stay Focused on Results and Deadlines
When it comes to creating a sense of urgency, deadlines are your friend. Deadlines will force you to be creative as you find ways to do things far more quickly and efficiently. Deadlines will also help you to stay focused on the task at hand without distractions. It is therefore absolutely paramount that you create concrete deadlines for all tasks and projects.
If you don’t reach a particular deadline, then set a new deadline, however punish yourself in some way for not reaching your first deadline. This punishment could be in the form of denying yourself your favorite food, or not listening to your favorite music, etc. No matter what it is, make sure that your brain associates pain as a result of not meeting this deadline. And if for instance the deadline you set wasn’t realistic enough, then set a new deadline that’s more realistic, but still challenging at the same time.
Value Long-term Pleasure and Rewards
To live with a sense of urgency means that you avoid getting yourself caught up within the instant gratification trap. These are the little pleasures and temptations that will feel absolutely wonderful in the moment, however you will regret indulging in them in the long-term because they will prevent you from achieving your main goals and objectives.
The key is to focus-in on long-term pleasures and rewards, and move in that direction. Think about all the benefits you will derive from attaining your goals. Yes, you might need to suffer through some temporary pain to get there, but it will surely be worthwhile in the long-run.
Value Your Time
Your time is your most precious commodity. Every moment you spend must be spent with purpose on your most important tasks and activities that will yield the highest future returns.
Before deciding to work on a specific task, take time to ask yourself:
Is this the most productive use of my time?
Is this activity moving me closer to my goal?
Is this activity potentially slowing me down?
What should I choose to focus on right now?
These questions help you to create accountability for your choices and decisions. They also help you to think on your feet to ensure that you’re focusing-in on the highest value activities that will benefit you long-term.
Challenge Yourself to Break New Boundaries
To live with urgency is to challenge yourself daily. If for instance you completed a task within an allocated time the previous day, then challenge yourself by completing it faster the next time around. It’s all about stretching yourself and stretching the boundaries of what you previously believed was possible. Only in this way will you gain a deep understanding of what it takes to live with urgency.
Take Time to Slow Down
Learning how to live with urgency is not an easy process. It will take some time. Your body and brain will need to get used to working this way. In fact, you might actually experience a lot of fatigue early throughout this process. Your body will resist breaking out of old habits and patterns of doing things. It will resist the increasing tempo of your thoughts and work routine. This is okay. This is in fact natural.
You won’t train yourself to live with urgency over night, just as much as you won’t be able to train yourself to run a marathon after one session on a treadmill. This whole process takes time. You will feel tired, and you will need to give you body adequate rest and your mind adequate respite from this ferocious pace. This is perfectly okay.
If you don’t get the necessary rest, then you may very well burn yourself out and lose motivation all-together. Therefore take time to rest and get enough sleep. You don’t need to live with urgency 24/7. However, when it’s time to work, choose to work with urgency for an alloted period of time, and then break. Over time your body and mind will get stronger and you will be able to maintain that sense of urgency for longer.
It is also important to take time throughout the day to give yourself a break, settle your mind and gather your thoughts. Going a million miles an hour might feel like you’re being incredibly productive, however it might also mean that you are not being thorough enough, or that you are missing important things that need to get done. These 10 to 15 minute mental breaks will give you time to think and reflect on what you’ve done, how you’ve done it, while helping you to figure out the best path moving forward.
Things to Avoid Doing
When it comes to living with urgency, there are certain habits-of-mind that will instantly drain the motivation out of you and leave you feeling sluggish and regretful. For instance the habits of procrastination and perfectionism will bring all the momentum you have been creating to a standstill. They will instantly rob you of that sense of urgency you need to achieve your desired outcomes.
Procrastination sometimes manifests in the form of patience. You think you are being patient by waiting for the perfect moment to take action. However, that perfect moment is only an illusion. In fact, it’s manifesting in your life as a set of excuses that you are making about why you shouldn’t do something. These excuses are distracting you from your main goals and objectives, and as a result you’ve now lost all momentum and the sense of urgency you have been working so hard to maintain. You now hope that things will happen instead of making things happen. However, in the meantime all your hoping comes to nothing as you get caught up indulging in pleasurable temptations that distract you from your most important activities.
That is in essence the cycle of how a sense of urgency can literally vanish into thin air. All it takes is the temptation of indulging in one unproductive habit, and everything you’ve worked so hard to create is lost. However, this is only a small bump on the road. Expect that you will at one time or another fall into this trap. Recognize it, acknowledge it, and then get right back on track by creating a sense of urgency once more.
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