It is not intentionally ironic that I’m posting about urgency when I’m two days late getting my posting up. Rather than being intentionally ironic, consider it Exhibit X in a life full of exhibits of the trouble with urgency.
Of course, my near-constant sense of urgency deserves some justifications:
- I am the mother of three children with diagnoses of autism. While being the mother of three children is sufficient to justify a daily sense of urgency, the added activities required when raising children with autism exacerbates this need for urgency.
- My oldest is now 15. Starting when he was about two years old, he “decided” that four hours was sufficient sleep for him, which meant I usually got four hours of sleep, too. By the time he outgrew this behavior, his younger brothers had both “grown” into it. This lasted (for me) for about 6 to 8 years and my body has not fully recovered. Since the times that I sleep and the times that I am awake are not entirely predictable, sometimes my sense of urgency is determined by the need to force myself to be awake and/or asleep at specific times that feel “unnatural” on the requisite day.
- As a freelancer, I’m constantly running into enforceable deadlines. If I don’t meet the deadline, I lose the assignment, the money associated with the assignment, and a bit of my reputation as a reputable freelancer. This always sucks, but that doesn’t prevent me from procrastinating to “rest up” or because I have earlier deadlines to meet.
- Some things are simply urgent: they arise suddenly and must be dealt with immediately.
As much as I want to justify my sense of urgency and as much as there is some truth to these justifications, the greater truth is that living off of a sense of urgency (or being driven by it on a regular basis) is unhealthy and unproductive.
The real trouble with urgency is that it reduces quality of life and it reduces the quality of our work. No matter how much we may think we do better work when being driven by a sense of urgency, the truth is that it is only “better” because it gets done. If it deserves to get done, it deserves to have the proper amount of time devoted to it. No matter how much of a rush urgency may give us, it doesn’t improve our performance, it simply clouds our judgment.
If you want to test this, then write something within a forced deadline, craft it, and submit it to yourself. Orchestrate the event so it is, psychologically speaking, real. If you can’t do that, then use a real piece of writing performed under these conditions. Then, when you’re calm and relaxed, with no pressing deadlines, go back and read what you “submitted.” Is the quality level really what you thought it was at the time? You might be surprised. I know I was.