62. The Urgency Trap

When every one of your tasks is urgent, you quickly lose control. In fact, when trapped by urgency, your stress increases, your judgement declines and your anger and anxiety become front-and-center. So how to get out of the urgency trap and start getting yourself some ease, meaning and joy at work? The answers might surprise you!


In the episode of Crina and Kirsten Get to Work our hosts tackle one of the most significant negative impacts on your ease, meaning and joy in the workplace – URGENCY!  Yes, the topic is the hair-raising, spine-tingling, sweat producing, pulse racing and shallow breathing of urgency. 

When something big or just everything feels urgent, we experience:

  • A rise in stress hormones
  • Executive function decline
  • Memory, judgement, impulse control deteriorate
  • Anger and anxiety centers of the brain are activated

And once we experience those things, we experience:

  • Low energy
  • Cravings
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Poor concentration

Before you read on – just consider for a moment the bullet points above – a buzzkill on your ease, meaning and joy!

When every task is the most urgent, it limits our mind’s ability to think creatively. Problem solving is nearly impossible, and we resort to rushed, bad decisions that cause our team’s more time and effort in the long run to correct.

Urgency also gets in the way of the things our higher selves want to accomplish – diversity, equity and inclusion, which require us to consider our biases and question our assumptions and conclusions.  While we all experience urgency – white culture seems to embrace the nettle of urgency in an almost reverent manner.  Sometimes we white folks equate our self worth with the urgency of our attention to someone or some task.  WHITE SUPREMACY CULTURE: Characteristics

And while Crina and Kirsten like to give you good news, there is bad news here – our brains are hard wired to respond to urgency.  In fact, in order to get our urgency rush, we will give up bigger rewards over the long term.  See the reading below for the data and science behind “our brains on urgency.”

If we know urgency has negative effects on our physical, psychological and emotional capacity – and how effective we are at work, how do we minimize urgency – and note – our gals are realistic – urgency is our forever friend, but we have some boundaries with that frenemy urgency:

  • Set realistic work plans – and check you optimism (which in other areas Crina and Kirsten generally encourage, but optimism can really take us to a bad place if we are not realistic about work plans
  • Set aside time for planning
  • When we do planning – plan for urgency, what is your response
  • Think like an ER doctor – assess, prioritize and make a plan – An ER doctor on triaging your “crazy busy” life
  • Don’t assume that “urgent” means “immediately”
  • Stop hurrying  – awareness
  • Push back against your inner urgency bias by:
    • Making lists
    • Challenge your own thinking – because we know we have an urgency bias

For those who want to dig in deeper – here are some great reads on the topic:

When every task is top priority

My Sense of Urgency Is Killing Me (Slowly)

When Everything Is Urgent, Nothing Really Is

When everything feels urgent, choose significant instead

How to manage your time better by fighting “urgency bias” — Quartz at Work (qz.com)


The Psychology of Urgency: 9 Ways to Drive Conversions