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Tips & Lessons for 2022: Not everything is as urgent as you think

Most people make a lot of things more urgent than they need to be. It's important to remind your team that they're not always expected to do things right away. Clear communication and goals setting are key!
Urgency Importance!
Relevance for today
It’s very easy to get overwhelmed by messages and favors thinking they’re urgent to do right now, and then not being able to focus on the tasks that are actually important.
You won’t be able to see who’s stressed or working long hours right away when everyone works from home.

🤔Do you sometimes also mistake urgency for importance?

🏠How do you know that your teammates need help when working from home?


Urgency in an agile context (by the mean of "steadily or regularly changing/evoluting conditions" like for example in scrum or kanban ruled projects) is pretty well manageable when sticking i.e. following the rules agreed and adopted by the team at the time the project/team is setup(*).

- using a backlog holding tasks sorted by priorities: urgent tasks are on top of the list.
- using sprints (in scrum): "urgency" will be addressed every sprint during sprint planing

Best Practice: a PM or SM should ensure that stakeholders, POs and the team all understand and adopt the "backlog" spirit. The team should also refuse/reject any side-fed task (**).

Emergency may break such policies/rules, you think? Indeed it should better not and this can be avoided per "emergency policy" e.g. a "fast lane" on a kanban board accepting a single task to be processed "as fast as possible" etc.

Best practice: A PM/SM should ensure some kind of "emergency plan and code of conduct" (e.g. risk analysis, fast lane rule et al.)  is available in order to better engage with risks and disastrous situations. (***)

Importance? I would say: "everything IS important". Otherwise, why should I take care of it and why should I need to organize my work and prioritize my tasks?

Best practices (suggestions): GTD, PDCA, YAGNI, TL;DR ...


(*) you didn't "setup" your project/team? No policies like DoD or DoR etc.? You've never retrospected those? Well.. That's not cricket at all! ;-)

(**) accepting side-fed tasks i.e. tasks addressed beside the "backlog" is like "embracing chaos", hence it's a very reliable way to thwart plans, jeopardize resources and endanger projects goals.

(***) ask your local FD (fire department): they'd be able to introduce you to such practices like "emergency management" ;-)

Thank you for such an in-depth comment, I'm loving it! On the theoretical level, I think this definitely works and I can't argue with that!

I usually notice that in the software development teams there aren't many problems of keeping track of priorities (for developers) as they're usually given to them.

The problem starts taking a real shape in projects that rely on interactions and work between different team members or non-technical roles that are more likely to be flooded with many different tasks and new ones coming on day to day basis.

Because we're just people, we do want to help others, and if someone asks it's hard to say no. The real magic is in drawing that line and saying I can't now. @Patrícia Fortunato Montenegro @Taranjeet Singh and @Fabian Lim suggested a great way to deal with this - asking for both Importance and Urgency of the tasks so they can manage their workload better 😌

Maybe we, in non-technical teams, should learn more from the software teams in terms of structure, but as our creative team likes to point out "You cannot structure creativity" there is a balance between structure, freedom, and from that leading innovation.

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Perfect and right! ❤️

I appreciated that you mentioned us.

Thanks, @Nikki Zavadska _jexo_ 😌

Like Nikki Zavadska _jexo_ likes this
Taranjeet Singh Community Leader Jan 18, 2022

Thanks for the mention, @Nikki Zavadska _jexo_ !

Hi @Nikki Zavadska _jexo_ 

    Urgency is endemic to all jobs, the important thing is to know how to detect it and avoid it
When it is the client who incurs this urgency, it is always good to talk to him, assess this urgency, study the impact, measure the scope and especially the workload at the time of the team

    As for the team, from day one, in my personal experience, I always tell them to raise their hands, ask for help through any communication channel or directly make a call to me and I really have to say that for the moment it has worked very well for me good


Hi @Vero Rivas , thank you for your comment 😌!

I must say I experienced a rush of reprioritizing based on the client's feedback. What also helps me with evaluating the feedback and tasks is to assess the issue from another's client viewpoint. Because the one that screams the loudest might not always represent the majority. But as a people, we do have tendencies to please others so might often forget this.

This actually has a name - WoLF - Working on the Latest Fire.

OMG @Nikki Zavadska _jexo_

Perfect appointment! I love it. Thank you!

I started to work on it after a rush in 2019. 
Because of it, I also ask the context to understand the importance and the urgency in all situations. So it helps me a lot.

Have a lovely day! 😃💚🙏🏽

Like Nikki Zavadska _jexo_ likes this

@Patrícia Fortunato Montenegro so happy to see you here and thank you for your lovely comment! Asking for both - urgency and importance if someone requests something ad hoc is a great way to keep calm and stay organized. ☀️

It's my pleasure.

Absolutely, and thank you @Nikki Zavadska _jexo_ ☀️

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Taranjeet Singh Community Leader Jan 14, 2022

I love this advice as I can feel it very well!

We should always determine the importance and urgency of tasks at hand before finalizing the priority order of working on them.

Thanks for sharing, @Nikki Zavadska _jexo_ !

Like Nikki Zavadska _jexo_ likes this

Absolutely agree @Taranjeet Singh

and importance vs urgency method for creating priority order of the tasks is great especially if you have a long list 😌 It gives you a sense of structure into sometimes busy days.

I have been guilty of taking my "inbox zero" mentality to the max when it comes to replying to people. In those times, I almost felt like not replying right away was letting people down. But when I forced myself to get back to folks the next day or some amount of time later than expected, no one pointed out the delay or requested I get back to them sooner. It was like it was only me that cared about turnaround time.

So in addition to folks needing to communicate a more appropriate level of urgency, I think that individuals too can take the burden off thinking how quickly they need to get back to folks.

To your point @Nikki Zavadska _jexo_, it's that "why" behind importance that we should keep in mind when communicating with both our teammates, and like in my case, ourselves.

Like Nikki Zavadska _jexo_ likes this

Your comment about "not replying right away was letting people down" reminded me of a book that I was recently reading called Permission to Srew Up. Inspiring story written by Kristen Hadeed about how she started a business. She mentioned in a book how terrified she was to go for the first time after she started a business on a holiday and switch her phone off.

It turned out that although people messaged her with "urgent" things while she was on a plane things actually sorted out themselves even without her involvement 😌

Learning from that is that although someone needs URGENT HELP RIGHT NOW by letting the message be for a while they might find the solution themselves and learn something new. Obviously, I wouldn't really encourage this but sometimes this thought calms me down if I wasn't able to reply right away 🙈

Fabian Lim Community Leader Jan 17, 2022

Totally agree! I use the Urgency and Importance quadrant to prioritize my tasks.  

Thanks for sharing.

Like Nikki Zavadska _jexo_ likes this

That's a great tip @Fabian Lim ! Eisenhower matrix is a great tool to help get your head around priorities and potentially delegate ones that aren't as important so you don't get overwhelmed.

Great topic @Nikki Zavadska _jexo_ 

This makes me think of a colleague at a former job who canceled her participation in some training on data analysis with Excel.... because she's was way too busy doing her work on Excel. If she had taken the time away from the "urgent" tasks to improve her skills on Excel (the "important" task) she would have found that all those urgent tasks took much less time.

It's often a struggle to say no to urgent requests in order to advance on important projects, but often "omg this is so urgent I have to do it right away" is more a story we tell ourselves than a reasoned analysis of the situation, and just taking some perspective goes a long way.

Like Loïs Bégué likes this

... just taking some perspective goes a long way.

and may cost one a lot of grey hairs 😱😂

As a support engineer I dealt with thousands of customers who thought everything had to be done immediately. 

I always had this running in my head especially when I was on the phone with one of them: "Your lack of planning does not constitute an emergency on my part.  I will help you as best I can, but I have hundreds of other customers ahead of you."

Like Christine P_ Dela Rosa likes this


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