Urgent vs. Important (#21)
21. On the negative side, we now live in a world of instant gratification and an overabundance of information. In such a world, as is commonly noted, ‘the urgent can drive out the important’. Every message becomes a priority when instant communication insists on our attention. We seem to have no time for well-studied and thoughtful decisions on complex matters. Decisions—even important ones—are increasingly made without adequate consideration and with too little shared information. Faced with more difficulty in preparing for and explaining decisions, leaders rely on their experience. Thus, their personal values and beliefs become even more critical in framing their decision-making.
Commentary: We all want our decisions to be based on thoughtful considerations of a number of different views. However, the world of instant communication and the behavior it creates make this more difficult. Our capabilities to think have not matched the explosion of information that pushes onto our electronic devices, but the pressure to "control our inbox" by replying, forwarding or deleting messages promotes a false sense of considered decision making.
We need to develop the virtues required to cope with this information explosion:
- Discernment: the ability to know the difference between the urgent and the important.
- Thoughtfulness: the discipline not to decide until all the necessary information is presented.
- Mortification: saying "no" to the temptation to click on an article that may be interesting but has nothing to do with our professional work.
It may only take 10 seconds to read an email and dispose of it, but if we let it interrupt our work, we need to add 2-3 minutes to get our brain back on track. And remember that research indicates none of us is really able to "multi-process." We just learn to change our focus quickly which carries with it a penalty to get re-engaged with what is really important, with what our employer pays us to do.