How to fight the "urgency bias" (and work towards long-term goals) - Deepstash

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The urgency bias

The urgency bias

We usually give priority to unimportant tasks when there is a sense of urgency around them.

We’re actually psychologically wired to put aside important tasks in favor of tasks that feel more urgent. But spending our time taking care of urgent tasks can leave us feeling exhausted and unaccomplished.

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Why it’s hard to ignore urgent tasks

A few explanations as to why it’s so hard to reject urgent tasks:

  • The completion bias. Our brains crave the reward we get from checking off small to-dos from our list.
  • Tunnel vision: When we get overwhelmed by the things we have to do, we choose to act on those most available to us; these are usually emails, calls, meetings, and other low-friction tasks.

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Urgency puts us into reactive mode

The problem is that we’re continually bombarded with urgent work: emails, meetings, calls, and instead of being in control of our time and attention, we respond and act on someone else’s priorities.

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Deep attention vs. hyper attention

  • Deep attention means putting our focus on one task for a long period of time and putting aside other external interruptions.
  • Hyper attention is turning our focus swiftly between different tasks, opting for diverse information streams, and looking for a constant high-level of stimulation.

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Make the urgency bias work for you

  • Break your big projects down into simple manageable steps and then set a short deadline for each.
  • Switch from “task urgency” to “time urgency” , to choose what really deserves your attention.
  • Don’t let urgent tasks control the first hour of your day. Set aside blocks of time for emails and meetings so they don’t sneak into your focused time.

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Urgent tasks will always come up

Instead of allowing them to take over your time, make a plan for how you’ll deal with them.

Begin by defining the tasks that demand 100% of your focus and the ones that can be dealt with while being interrupted. You want to give your most focused hours to your most important tasks.

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