The possible erosion of the word “urgent” …

by 18 Sep, 2020Time Management

Having been in the legal industry for over 20 years, the one word that seems to give me stiff shoulders is “URGENT”. It’s a word that’s being used so often now, it seems like the new “normal”. Sometimes a more polite version is used in the form of “as soon as possible”, which leaves the deadline hanging in the air. There is no timeline specified.

I do agree that in the legal industry, more than one matter can become urgent but sometimes it is just used so that the work gets done as a priority. Especially if you’re working for more than one person in the same organisation, some people want to “jump the queue” and the only way they can do that is to say that their work is urgent.

Some of the things that come to mind when I see the word/s “urgent” or “as soon as possible” are the following:

  • Remember “the boy who cried wolf”?
  • Mistakes by someone else become your ‘urgent’ problem.
  • Poor planning.

I have found that some of these people that are in a constant state of emergency, move too fast and have a desire to get everything resolved. In the process, they make things quite stressful for others that are working with them. However, these kinds of people are often the most productive and are often praised for their work and turnaround times.

There are a number of disadvantages with treating everything as urgent. Here are a few of them:

  • There is an increased risk of making mistakes purely because of the pressure and with this comes the inability to think clearly, thoroughly and pay attention to detail.
  • When the default position becomes “urgent”, colleagues and other staff members then begin to ignore the urgency and work through all of the “urgents” as best they can. Misunderstandings and poor morale in the organisation are the resultant effects.

The good news is that we can work around these “urgents”. Here are a few hints:

  • In order to give the necessary precision to the idea of urgency, the best thing I have found in these cases is to express exactly what the urgency is: “in the next hour”, “for today before 12:00” … etc.
  • Manage expectations depending on the task at hand.
  • In order to improve collegiality and improve morale in the organisation, encourage the team and staff to plan better.

There is now so much false urgency that the value of the word “urgent” is being completely eroded.

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Pam is the Founder and Owner of PMV Virtual Assistants. She brings over two decades of experience to her current role where she is dedicated to train an incredible work force and create alternative career paths for the youth of South Africa. She's passionate about driving law firm efficiencies. Pam believes in working smart, not hard – Case Closed!

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