Our addiction to Urgency

What would you think if you saw a crab canoodling with a butterfly? A hare hauling a snail shell?

Too busy rushing through your working day to give it much thought? How ironic, given these unusual couplings are symbolic of an oft-quoted maxim: Make haste not speed.

The meaning of this little adage is that activities should be performed with a proper balance of urgency and diligence. If tasks are rushed too quickly or ‘reactively’ then mistakes are more likely to be made and positive long-term results are less likely achieved.

However, so often in the workplace, and even more generally in life, a misplaced and sometimes omnipresent sense of urgency can lead us all into a world of pain; never completing tasks or completing them poorly, feeling stressed, overwhelmed or to quote one Bilbo Baggins, like “butter scraped over too much bread”.

So, where does this familiar urgency and panic routine come from?

Stress is a natural human response when we lose control over our workloads and as demands made on us, as a resource, escalate.  Stress is simply a fine balance between efficiency and demand.  A small to moderate amount of stress is ok – it can even help fuel our focus and efficacy to complete tasks, but too much has a physiological impact on our bodies and our productivity, which then kills our efficiency.

Physiologically, stress fills us with a potent cocktail of cortisol, noradrenaline and adrenaline – designed to give us a rush of blood to the head to either face the imminent danger of that 24-hour turnaround report head-on, or run for the hills.

Chronic stress has been linked to health problems ranging from heart disease to asthma to ulcers, and “the cardiovascular health risk it poses is not dissimilar to the risk conferred by cigarette smoking” says Laura Kubzansky, Associate Professor of Social and Behavioral Sciences at Harvard School of Public Health (March 8 2013).  So you see why it’s important for us all to quit our urgency cycle in the workplace; Make haste not speed.

So how do we do that? Find out next week.

Mark Rigby, PEPworldwide – New Zealand

Johan Chr. Holst, PEPww Norway, Redaktør

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