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Emergency Set-point; Controlling Urgent vs. Important

We’ve all got things that are high on our list of prioritiesΒ but don’t require any action right now. They’re important, but not urgent.

These merely-important things are often taken for granted, to the point where we will let them slide much farther into disrepair than we should. Things like continuing education, physical fitness, financial achievement, etc are easy to put off for one more day. Eventually, each one will cross over some invisible line and become urgent. It’s been five years and we haven’t taken another night class, or the groceries are too heavy to carry, or there isn’t enough in the vacation account to actually go on vacation.

That line is the emergency set-point. It’s different for each priority but, more crucially, it can and should be deliberately adjusted.

It’s possible for us to go into emergency mode too easily (miser) or too infrequently (wastrel) which is something both we and others will notice. Emergency set-point placement gets judged by outsiders, but try not to let that factor into its placement. Instead it should be set by a clear goal and whatever rate of progress will achieve that goal. That way the set-point will be triggered whenever the rate crosses it, which will be sooner and gentler than if it’s crossed only when enough time passes that the goal is impossible to achieve.

If you want to read a certain book, don’t just set “read the book” as your goal. Pick a time in the future when you will have read the book. Then just divide the book up into that time to get your rate. If the rate is weekly, then check it every week and if you don’t meet it one week it’s an urgent priority but it’s also an easy fix becauseΒ you’re only behind by a few pages.

A key concept is to consciously think that this is urgent simply because that little bit of work hasn’t been done yet. The little bit of work needs to be enough to trigger your emergency set-point or you’ll put it off and let it accumulate.

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