Do You Often Procrastinate? - Learn How to Create Urgency

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As a leader, creating urgency is an effective way to push individuals and teams to deliver results. Without a sense of urgency, your teammates won’t push themselves to work hard, and they may procrastinate and struggle to get tasks and projects done on time. When people lack a sense of urgency, they are more easily sidetracked with daily distractions and can end up wasting time on tasks that are unimportant.

Creating urgency means setting bold and ambitious goals and building pressure on the team to accomplish them. In our extensive research and testing of nearly 800 executives for my bestselling book THE LEADER HABIT, my team and I discovered the micro-behaviors that effective leaders do when they create urgency. They:

  1. Set bold and audacious goals for self and others; these goals are achievable but provide a comfortable stretch for everyone.

  2. Attach specific deadlines to projects and continuously stress the importance of achieving those results.

  3. Communicate the urgency of projects and tasks in speech and emails with high-intensity words like “critical” and “crucial.”

Once you understand that these behaviors are the key to creating urgency, you will need to internalize them for yourself, turning them into habits. Based on our finding that it takes 66 days to turn a behavior into a habit, we have created three simple exercises that will help you improve your ability to create urgency. They are:

Exercise #1: Set bold goals.

If you shy away from bold goals, get in the habit of making small daily goals just a bit more ambitious with this exercise: After starting your computer in the morning, write down one goal for the day by noting, “Today I will achieve …” Then rewrite the goal to make it a bit more ambitious. For example, if your goal today is to answer emails within three hours of receipt, you could make it a bit bolder by committing to answering emails within two hours and forty-five minutes. Then set a different goal tomorrow.

Exercise #2: Stress the importance of results. 

People work harder to meet deadlines when they believe the deadlines are important. This exercise will help you get in the habit of creating urgency around important deadlines: After discussing an important task and its timeline, ask if it could be done sooner by saying, “This is crucial to our success. Could you get it done sooner?” Write down the reaction.

Exercise #3: Use high-intensity words. 

You can gauge a person’s sense of urgency not only by their actions and output (how much they get done) but also by the words they use to describe what they are doing. High-intensity words like “imperative,” “critical,” and “crucial” convey urgency and inspire it in others. Get in the habit of using high-intensity words with this exercise: After discussing an important task or project, emphasize its urgency with high-intensity words; for example, by saying, “Getting this done is absolutely critical!” Write down the phrase you used.

At work, you need to create urgency when you want to build a high-performance culture within a team or across an entire organization. A sense of urgency increases productivity and aligns your employees around the same ambitious goal. Your team members will develop their skills quicker when they are challenged to achieve bigger goals. Teams that feel a sense of urgency achieve superior business results.

Ready to take the next step? Click the image below to download your complimentary 66-day skill worksheet.