Sense of Urgency

by Jhoanna O. Gan-So for Manila Bulletin & HR Club Philippines


I enjoy cramming.  There's nothing like the adrenalin rush that goes through your veins knowing that the eleventh hour is fast approaching.  I noticed that whenever I crammed, my senses were more alert; my mind was clearer and my memory, fresh.

Beating deadlines is exhilarating, until of course, you experience an extremely stressful situation where things really go wrong and your project falls apart because you miscalculated the time of your cram-fest.  Then you'll have to suffer the consequences of your actions and experience the humiliation that comes with dropping the ball which leads you to swear, "Never again will I do things at the last minute."

Having lived my earlier years with rampant cramming, I learned my lesson well.  In my opinion, cramming is not necessarily bad because it develops quick thinking, fast learning and grace under pressure.  Doing it a few times may prove to be a great learning experience, but making a habit of it on the other hand, is another story and quite dangerous.  So instead, I had to temper my cramming tendencies and channel it to something more positive.  And that is, having a Sense of Urgency.

Cramming and having a sense of urgency have one thing in common:  it requires rushing things, which brings about a burst of adrenalin.  Both will give you an alert state of mind.

However, having a sense of urgency is actually the opposite of cramming.  Unlike cramming, wherein you wait to do things at the last minute, having a sense of urgency makes you finish things way ahead of time.  Both will give you stress.  But the stress that you get from cramming is negative, while having a sense of urgency will give you positive stress and a better outcome.

Having a sense of urgency is preferable because it enables you to finish things ahead of time, which will allow you to have a more relaxed time the next day.  I realized that I liked the feeling of rushing things, but I even like the feeling of accomplishing things ahead of time more.  It is a great feeling to know that you have done your job ahead of everybody else and that you can now rest while everyone else is just starting.

If you develop a sense of urgency, you become more efficient.  Your boss will like you better.  More importantly, you'll get more relaxed playtime after, knowing that you already finished the work and it is out of the way.

So how can you develop a sense of urgency?
Here are a few tips:

Set An Earlier Deadline

If your boss gives you a deadline, set an early deadline for yourself.  I once had a group mate in college that asked our group to start right away, even if the projects deadline is at the end of the semester.  I can still remember her panic-stricken face saying, "Bilisan natin!" which was kind of comical because the professor has just given the project brief that day and we had 3 months to work on it.  We did ride with her though and worked on the project as if we were rushing to meet the imaginary deadline.  The result was fantastic.  We finished the project during mid-semester, just right about the time when other groups were just slowly beginning to work on it.  That made me realized that it is so much more fun rushing work ahead of time.  The feeling of being done while everybody else is just starting is priceless.

Get things out of the way

Usually when you have tons of pending things on your To-Do-List, it is hard to concentrate on the task at hand.  These nagging items on your list, pile up to the point that things get toxic.  It is quite difficult to have a sense of urgency if everything is your list becomes urgent.  So the trick is to divide and conquer.  Get the simple things out of the way, so that you have more time to do the important stuff, ahead of time.  Instead of procrastinating, do not allow things to pile up.  Get one thing out of the way at a time, as soon as you can.

Motivate Yourself
One good way to have a sense of urgency is to motivate yourself.  The best motivation is to have the heart for your work, your job, your company and the people you work with.  If you truly care about doing a great job, you will make it a point to complete it on time and not carelessly leaving things undone.  But if you need that added push, you may want to incentivise yourself by promising a reward after completion.  Then picture yourself enjoying the reward while you are working to complete your project.  That way, you will want to finish things right away.

Just do it...Now!

Lastly, if you want to develop a sense of urgency, JUST DO IT... NOW.  Charles Dickens says, "My advice is to never do tomorrow what you can do today. Procrastination is the thief of time.”   Take it from the experienced.  Just do things now, as soon as possible.

May we all have a good sense of urgency so that we can improve our work-life.