The tyranny of the urgent.

Fragment from Effective Advocacy of Animal Rights
by Bruce Friedrich

What I find most valuable in Steven Covey’s The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People is a concept that he calls “the tyranny of the urgent.” Basically, Covey suggests that most of us are so busy with the endless deluge of whatever comes up next—e-mail on your screen, the phone ringing with this or that emergency, and so on—that we don’t have time to focus on actually accomplishing something. How often have you thought, “I accomplished nothing!” at the end of the day? Covey gives us the tools to focus on making sure that those days are as few and infrequent as possible by helping us focus on prioritizing what is necessary, effective, and goal-oriented, rather than on whatever happens to be immediately in front of us. Things like taking classes, improving your advocacy skills, organizing your life, and, of course, the actual work of doing what is necessary to reach as many people as possible—these are the areas where we should focus our energies in order to be as effective as possible.

All of this seems obvious when we hear it out loud, but the fact is that most of us do not view the world this way. Especially for those of us who are working to make the world a kinder place, the suffering, the misery, and the issues that we are up against are so pressing and omnipresent that we often work very, very hard but not as effectively as we could. Instead, we do what comes along, whatever is most immediate, rather than what will be most helpful. We read every article about animals and respond to every e-mail message that comes with a headline in all caps. But most articles don’t help our activism, and if we replied to every urgent e-mail alert, we could end up doing nothing else.

One thing I now do is to end each day with a list of things I will accomplish the next day. I will sometimes turn off my e-mail and not answer my phone so that I can finish a book edit or a project analysis, review new undercover videos, or prepare a memo for a long-term strategy. These sorts of things are not urgent—they could wait—but they are very important. I turn off the onslaught of “urgent” stuff that really doesn’t need my immediate attention, and I accomplish something.

Great advice Andy. Thanks for posting!