The Tyranny of the Immediate

I've been reading about and trying to make more sense of the "Tyranny of the Immediate", a situation to which I seem to fall victim all the time.  The phrase can be applied to all manner of scenarios – indeed if you Google it you'll come up with references to everything from the housing market to prayer.  What do I mean by it and how does it affect me?  Basically it is the daily conflict between what is deemed to be urgent at that moment versus what is important in the longer term. 

In my day-to-day, this takes one of three forms: 
  • Things or people busting my plans for the day/week/month with something that is just so urgent that it can't wait; 
  • Misunderstood priorities and/or dependencies in a project or infrastructure delivery leading to a short-sighted tactical solution; 
  • Short-termism in career and personal development – looking at what skills are needed now and studying for those, without considering the long term goals.   

Thinking more about these things, you can see that each of these are progressively longer term considerations and so you have to use a range of techniques to deal with these issues.  Some of these are things I already try to do; others make sense and I am trying to incorporate them into my overall approach.
  1. When I need to get some short-term focus, I turn off alerts, emails, social media, background music etc – I find any distractions are focus killers; 
  2. I try to understand what is urgent vs what is important.  Take time to be proactive and anticipate upcoming demands; through engagement, prepare for as many eventualities as possible by assessing demands and build pre-defined responses where possible; 
  3. Don't be tempted by the lure of instant gratification – there will always be a price to pay for anything that promises an immediate return; 
  4. Take time to think.  Reflect and analyse, what has worked, what hasn't, and learn from it.  The long term effects of anything can only be properly assessed by spending the appropriate time in consideration.  Look for the best holistic strategic solution and make the urgent response fit within that; 
  5. Broaden my experience – spend time with people in other areas of the business,  customers, other businesses.  See their challenges and their solutions, their successes and failures.  Understand what's important to them and what a good day looks like, and learn from them; 
  6. Spend time stretching my own capabilities – developing critical thinking, looking beyond my immediate familiar areas of expertise and I am constantly surprised at what I can apply to my day-to-day.  I try to read and write as much as I can. 
I'm working on these now, as part of my journey, and as I grow and develop, I'll try to share those baby steps.  Any other tips and tricks?


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