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Jul 26, 2010

How To Keep Urgency From Ruining Your Life

Life is incredibly distracting.   No matter how enthusiastically you set goals, it’s just too easy let yourself  get pulled away from taking action on them because of daily urgencies and reactive thinking – and then it’s weeks/months/years later and you’re sitting around, asking “where did all the time go?”

The thing is, the time didn’t go anywhere.  It’s was there, waiting for you to be focused enough to take action.

Here’s the thing:  Your action-taking muscles will serve whatever seems most important to you in the moment. Sometimes what’s more important to you in the moment turns out to be protecting yourself from discomfort (in which case the action you take is really “inaction.”).

Other times that action will be something that’s aligned with your true goals in life, and that’s pretty sweet.

But a more likely scenario is that something urgent will come into your field of vision and that urgency will give it a sense of inflated importance - and you’ll focus your action-taking muscles on that, forgetting about your true goals.  Making other people’s inflated sense of urgency will become a habit, and you’ll strengthen the habit of serving what’s screaming loudest at any given moment.

And weeks/months/later, when you’re wondering “where did all the time go?” you’ll feel sad.  Very, very sad.

Let’s talk about how to fix this problem so you can get what you really want in life.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with urgencies – sometimes the things that pop up truly are important, and you have to take care of them right then and there.  But once you take care of them, you need to get back to what’s truly important in your life.

And in some cases, the urgent thing that pops up really does need to be taken care of … but just not right this second.  It won’t end the world to make it wait just a little bit, so you can keep focusing on what’s truly important. Instead of breaking away to distraction, schedule the urgent thing at a time when it won’t get in the way of your true goals.

But in reality, “getting back to your goals” doesn’t always happen.

The problem comes when we handle an urgency – whether now or later – and we don’t snap back into focusing on our true goals.

(Actually, the real problem may be that you haven’t strongly and clearly defined your true goals in the first place – but for the sake of this post, let’s assume you have.)

You need a simple, easy-to-use mechanism for keeping your goals in front of you at all times – and keeping yourself re-committed to those goals.   If you don’t have this, urgency will rule your life.

One of the simplest ways to do this is to get a stack of index cards and keep them by your desk.  Every morning, re-write your most important “true” goals in life on them to re-commit yourself to making those your priorities, the things that you spend your time working towards.

The “every morning ” part here is important, because the act of writing those goals regularly is an exercise in conditioning your brain to think “These are the things I really want to make happen.”  Unless you work at conditioning that sense of clarity in your mind, you’re going to be more susceptible to getting caught up in distraction.

Do this every day, and it will begin to get harder and harder to stay off track.  An urgency will come up, and you’ll power through it, thinking “I need to hurry and get back to (that important goal).”  Or an urgency will come across your desk and you’ll say “You know, I’ll schedule this for the weekend, or for the end of my workday.”

Develop this habit, this focus, and you’ll get massive results.  (As I get ready to publish this, I see Glen Allsopp has writen on this as well, so there’s some backup if you need it.)

Do you have the guts to write down your most important goals every single day?

I say “guts” because this takes real courage – it means that you’re establishing a baseline level of accountability in your life to really work on these goals each day, each week, each everything.

You can start small – just write out a few basic quality of life goals (meaning you don’t have to say “I’m going to make a million dollars,” you can just say “I’ll stop work at 5 and have time with my family.”)

Whatever you focus on, you’ll gravitate towards.  What ever you remind yourself is important wil remain important, even if the voice of urgency gets loud.

It’s your life.  You can let it pass by, or you can rock it.

So here’s what I’m going to tell you to do right now …

  1. Pick five important goals and write them down somewhere, right now. Index card.  Notebook.  Back of that piece of paper that’s been sitting on your desk forever, I don’t care.  Do it now – even before you leave a comment.
  2. Then leave a comment below and let me know that you did it, and where you’re going to write these goals out daily.  If you don’t want to put your name in, put “Ass Kicker,” that’s good enough for me.
  3. Spread the word about  this article.  I hope it’s been “clicking” for you, and I want it to really get some reach.  Click that retweet button below if you would, and spread the word however you can.

Do it now – you’ll thank yourself for it.

That is all -


66 Responses to “How To Keep Urgency From Ruining Your Life”

  • Jul 26, 2010 Jake Mayer - The Unruly Patient blog

    I am starting this right this minute! My work day tends to be filled with the immediacy of putting out fires, often at the expense of whatever is actually important in the long term.

    Some of this is a delegation problem (working on it!), but some is just my own distraction to the immediacy of something needing to be fixed, which sneaks up on my and distracts from the something that needs to be built.
    Jake Mayer – The Unruly Patient blog´s last blog ..The Healer’s Lament My ComLuv Profile

  • Jul 26, 2010 Tony Teegarden

    I Love this idea! Talk about burning it into your subconsciousness.

    I keep 3×5 cards on me at all times anyway and make sure to write down ideas and concepts that come to mind.

    It’s clear why to keep in front of me what’s most important and what requires my immediate attention. Here’s why this is so profound to me right now…

    In Dan Kennedy’s update of Psycho Cybernetics he coaches you to keep your “cue cards” with you at all times to remind you of the exercises he’s teaching you to change your self image. I’ve been doing it and I’ll be damned if I don’t see it working. (And I DON’T write them down new everyday)

    Nowhere did it dawn on me to do this “daily” with my goals in order to keep it in front of me and keep it in the forefront of my mind. I’ve always said repetition is the mother of success, but this brings it to another level.

    I’ll keep you you updated as to my progress.

    Thanks for something so simple but profound at just the right moment.

  • Jul 26, 2010 Barbara D

    Thanks for this! It was amazing how quickly the goals went down on paper (five is a good number, three work related, two quality of life).

    I knew exactly what the goals were, just hadn’t committed to each of them for today. Will add this to my day planning routine…

  • Jul 26, 2010 Giselle

    Dave – I DID IT! I wrote them out on two 3 x 5 cards and every day I’m going to re write them in my journal. I find committing to a time frame works for me so for the next 30 days I’m going to commit to writing my goals in my journal EVERY DAY! By then I’m sure it would become a habit! :) Thanks for this post. Going to share now with my master mind group.

  • Jul 26, 2010 Giselle

    Hi Barbara D,

    Just read your comments. I have 2 work related, one health related (my exercise), one upcoming vacation, and a speaking retreat in Jan 2011.

    Good luck with your goals!:)

  • Jul 26, 2010 Ass Kicker

    I did it! Thank you!

  • Jul 26, 2010 nedi

    I have a divider in my day planner, so each week I drag the page marker with the words “Make a record, sell a record” to the new week. All the appointments are just in support of that. I think 5 goals is too many for the brain. 3 is about right.

  • Jul 26, 2010 Kathlyn

    Thanks Dave! I just realized that I have written my goals for while I’m at school down and I put them on a post it, but I haven’t looked at them since I wrote them. Rewriting them every day is genius.

    Off to get some index cards!


  • Jul 26, 2010 Katie

    Thank you!

    I tend to forget about the personal goals in the midst of the business goals. And tend to make the daily list to long to really get the goals accomplished.

    I have written down my 5 goals for the day and will, like Giselle, make this a habit. Thanks for the kick in the ass. ;-)

  • Jul 26, 2010 Nina Harrington

    Great idea – I use the Sticky Notes feature on Windows and have one for the whole week – then one for each day.
    Procrastination is always there – especially when it gets hard and we get scared of failure/rejection etc.
    A great tool. :-)

  • Jul 26, 2010 Leah Shapiro

    Thanks for the reminder Dave!

    I do this every morning and it helps so much. The key for me is to do it first thing…before email…before twitter…or anything else distracting.

    I also find that creating a visual cue for what you want to create in your life is helpful…like a vision board…or dream map…or a mind movie…that you can look at through out the day to connect you to the big picture of what you want your life to be. When I look at that, my important tasks for the day become obvious.
    Leah Shapiro´s last blog ..But it is Scary in There! The challenges of going within My ComLuv Profile

  • Jul 26, 2010 Jean Sarauer

    I keep mine at the top of my daily planner that sits open all day. I only work on three goals at a time but make sure I take an action step on each one every day.
    Jean Sarauer´s last blog ..9 Ways to Get Your Creative Groove Back My ComLuv Profile

  • Jul 26, 2010 Rob Kehs

    Great stuff I was looking got something

  • Jul 26, 2010 Beverly Kile

    Hi Dave,
    I already keep my most important goals (annual, quarterly, monthly and weekly) posted in my office. regardless I’m taking your advice and wrote my “right now” 5 most important goals on a 3×5 card and will do so for the next 30 days in the hopes it becomes a habit and will keep me focused on those most important goals every day hereafter.

  • Jul 26, 2010 Linett Adell

    I had to do 2 lists. One for my personal life and what my work focus is going to be. Seems easy enough. Until I had to narrow the list to just 5. that was harder than I initially thought it would be. hee hee. Thanks for rocking my day!

  • Jul 26, 2010 Mary

    Thanks for the kick in the ass. I wrote em and I’m gonna write em again!

  • Jul 26, 2010 Jerry Griffin

    I did it!!

    Since I already regularly track my day using Google Calendar, I have added my goals using the to-do list feature — which mean I have to click past the goals on my homepage portal before I start surfing.

    1 musical, 1 work, 1 church and 2 home-related goals.
    Jerry Griffin´s last blog ..ArtGriff • Com for your graphic needs My ComLuv Profile

  • Jul 26, 2010 Mike Warfel

    As a Real Estate agent the daily goals have always been tough to define. The big goals are obvious, breaking it down into the small steps much harder.
    thank you

  • Jul 26, 2010 jennydecki

    Goals? Crap. Next you’ll have me trying to figure out what my “passion” is. (I know this sounds terribly negative, but I promise I’m saying it with a smile on my face!) My #1 goal right now is figuring out how to get my friend from the downtown bus station tonight with the other responsibilities I also have tonight. The other four goals I’m working on slowly. If only I knew a psychic that could tell me what my passion was. I’d be all about it. Then I could know what I want to be when I grow up.
    jennydecki´s last blog ..Interval Training That Just Might Kill Me My ComLuv Profile

  • Jul 26, 2010 jennydecki

    Other than a ninja.

  • Jul 26, 2010 KICKASS ASS KICKER

    I did it, and will continue you to. Thanks so much for the insightful post and practical advice!

  • Jul 26, 2010 Michelle Russell


    In fact, it only took about 30 seconds to write down 5 goals (2 health-related, 2 work-and-finances-related, 1 personal) because I have them very clearly in my head.

    But I have NOT been writing them down. And that’s a very easy thing to implement.

    It’s a little hard for me to believe that writing them down will make that much difference when I have them all so clearly in my mind, but if it takes less than a minute a day, I’ll stay open-minded and give it a shot. :)
    Michelle Russell´s last blog ..What if the Answer to Life is “AND-” not “OR” My ComLuv Profile

  • Jul 26, 2010 Laura Hile

    Helpful article, thanks! Have notebook, have five goals written down for today. Taking action. Chosing to be focused.

  • Jul 26, 2010 Marcel Chastain

    Bring on the goals!

    Is there a medical term for ‘aversion to goal setting’? It’s probably a close cousin to ‘fear of commitment’.

    Taking the time to write down just a few truly important goals this morning was surprisingly easy — it seems to take the stress out of “committing” to something specific.

    Thanks for the Monday morning jumpstart..!
    Marcel Chastain´s last blog ..Facebook Tip- Move multiple pictures to another album at once My ComLuv Profile

  • Jul 26, 2010 Tamara Schafhauser

    Great Post! My 5 have been swimming in my head. It feels great to write them down and look at them head on.

  • Jul 26, 2010 Karen

    Hi Dave,

    Great minds think alike, because I wrote on this technique just this morning, too! Good thing for scheduled posts :-)

    It’s something that I’ve been doing off and on for the last 5 years and definitely recommend it because it works! We all have those days where we get sidetracked by what’s urgent (in other people’s minds) and can lose focus on what’s urgent in our own lives – our dreams and goals for our own lives.

    Writing them them daily really helps you focus on what’s important in your own life.

    Karen´s last blog ..Why You Need To Write In Your Goals Book Daily My ComLuv Profile

  • Jul 26, 2010 Helen M

    I wrote down my five goals. I’m going to write them down every morning in a little purple notebook. Thanks!

  • Jul 26, 2010 Mary E. Ulrich

    I’ve finally met on of my long term goals. Today I launched my new blog. I know it is so bare bones you pros would laugh at me. But for me it is significant. At least I have started.

    Thanks for all your advice and your Monday Morning Kick.
    Mary E. Ulrich´s last blog ..Happy 20th Birthday ADA My ComLuv Profile

  • Jul 26, 2010 Greg

    I just put a Post-It with today’s goals on my monitor. I made sure that each of my major projects had one action to move me toward completion on that list.

    Thanks for kick to get my butt in gear.

  • Jul 26, 2010 Hannah

    Love this idea, thanks Dave! I recently got an iPhone and have found that Firetask has changed my life. Even though it’s *my* to do list or *my* projects, having something say to me ‘hey, this is due today’ really makes me get off my ass and do it. And not in the stressed out and frazzled way I would do it when my inner critic was telling me to. I really like the idea of writing the cards each day – it’s 8.30pm here at the moment but I’ve written three things for this evening :)

  • Jul 26, 2010 Diane

    5 goals written on a memo pad next to computer. Let the ass-kicking begin…

  • Jul 26, 2010 Mike Reeves-McMillan

    Great technique. I carry a little notebook in my pocket, and I’ve set a reminder for 8:30 every morning to write my goals out again. It’ll be interesting to see how they shift over time.
    Mike Reeves-McMillan´s last blog ..Simple Stress Management Techniques course now live! My ComLuv Profile

  • Jul 26, 2010 kristen

    NICE!!! great idea!!! Thanks

  • Jul 26, 2010 Deanna

    Daily huh? I feel like a slacker. I only look at mine monthly. I’m going to give daily a try for the next 30 days. I’ll keep you posted!

  • Jul 26, 2010 Alison

    I haven’t actually ever written them out before so I thought it was going to be really hard, but they just fell out of my brain onto the page!
    Will need something nicer than the second-use printer paper pad I just scribbled on to use every day!
    Thanks for the kick!

  • Jul 26, 2010 kg

    I wrote down my top goals & taped them to my table where I work.

  • Jul 27, 2010 Greg

    Update: 4 out of 5 goals listed this morning completed. Major progress (4 separate & significant tasks) achieved on one of the projects associated with one of the completed goals. Having the goals in sight kept me coming back to them. No time wasted in “deciding” what to do next. Crossing out each completed goal enhanced motivation. One day. Now, to get my list ready for tomorrow. Thank-you!

  • Jul 27, 2010 grace mathu

    Thank you Dave. I have read your 40 pages document on “More time now” and it is unbelievable how the word microactions and its application has helped triggering my life force back. Such a simple word, yet so powerful and fruitful. You would not imagine how much i have achieved in just this past 60 minutes. i need to lose 22 kgs since years, and have never been able to do it. i have just started with just 10 sit ups and its amazing the joy it gace me. i will keep you informed of my progress. In the meantime please accept my gratitude and thanks . Cheers DAve and keep it up for us all. Kindest regards. Grace

  • Jul 27, 2010 Dan Reinhold@Work At Home Humor

    Hard to believe it can be that simple, and sometimes it’s even harder to believe
    it’s not!

    Doing the five in the first five keeps those goals alive…and that’s no jive.


  • Jul 27, 2010 Ann

    Finding my goals is my goal at the moment. I have five little ones for the day I have written, but am really on a mission to discover some new life goals! Just found your site today, so will be reading more and looking for sparks!
    Ann´s last blog ..Girl Crush My ComLuv Profile

  • Jul 27, 2010 Kathryn

    I started, and then realized the goals I was writing down were actually steps to accomplish bigger goals… not a bad start, but I need to identify the destination first, and then work on the route. So 4 “big” goals listed. I’m thinking my calendar might be a good place to start putting them on a daily basis. I’m going to see it many times in a day, so reinforcement is a built in.

  • Jul 27, 2010 Elaine

    I wrote my five goals on a post-it and have now reserved this pack only for goals. Ass Kickers unite!

  • Jul 27, 2010 Natalie Peluso

    I keep a photo by my computer that works as a focusing mechanism for me – just looking at it reminds me of my goals, why I do what I do and where I’m headed. Great stuff, Dave.
    Natalie Peluso´s last blog ..Sing Your Truth Proudly Presents… My ComLuv Profile

  • Jul 28, 2010 brooklynchick

    Love it, but five goals is unrealistic for me. If I try to focus on five things I can’t get them all done. So I wrote down two biggies.


  • Jul 28, 2010 Sangeeta Iyer

    DONE! This is a fantastic promise to make to yourself. i have always listed things that had to be done, day to day, but this is the first time it’s about ‘things i want to do’. And that makes all the difference – even if it’s a dance class you’ve always wanted to join. Thank you, Dave.

  • Jul 28, 2010 Sari O.

    Thank you for this! As a student SAHM of a 3,5 month old daughter, there’s a whole new perspective to this urgency business. When she yelps, there’s no such thing as a “just a moment, dear, Mom’ll be there as soon as…”. That’s why it’s even more important to have a tool like this to get me back on track when I do have a few moments to myself (instead of wasting the time surfing online).

    My day is thus rocked, and I’m getting back to working on my goals. Thanks again!

  • Jul 28, 2010 Darleen

    I think 3 is a better number for daily goals. And sometimes emergencies do happen.
    Especially if you have 5 children. But we can often still accomplish our goals for the most part.

  • Jul 29, 2010 carol d

    this idea of priorities keeps coming up in my reading. and the idea of “right now” is there too. i too wrote down 5 priorities and intend to do it every day.


  • Jul 29, 2010 Cori Padgett

    You know, I often forget how important a thing this step is in reaching your goals. I get on a kick, and start doing it everyday and notice huge improvements in my life and what I’m accomplishing or “feeling” I am accomplishing.

    When I jump off this kick and start forgetting to do it, I notice a drastic decrease in my feeling of accomplishment and that in turn is reflected in my business and the success I am seeing there as well.

    So thanks for the reminder to start doing this again.. going to try and REALLY ingrain it as a habit now. :)

    Cori Padgett´s last blog ..Thought to Ponder- What Does Your Blog Say About You My ComLuv Profile

  • Jul 29, 2010 LUCKY

    I did it! Thanks for the kick in the butt. You have 2 recent posts, “How to stop telling your sad, sad story’ and “How to create the circumstances you want” that have helped me $250 a week in sales. I owe you….
    LUCKY´s last blog ..The Ruling Class in America My ComLuv Profile

  • Jul 30, 2010 Gianpaolo Pietri

    This article struck a chord with me because I could relate to it on such a personal level. I’m convinced succumbing to my daily urgencies, perceived or real, and reactive thinking is one of the biggest challenges holding me back from moving forward at the pace I want.

    I generally do feel I am moving forward and growing, but things never seem to happen fast enough. And you explain why, at least in my case, in a very clear way.

    This is especially a problem when you are working for someone else. not only do you succumb to your own reactive thinking, but you are at the mercy of someone else’s as well, (in most cases, your boss).

    I think it’s important to try to align your reactive thinking and daily urgencies with your purpose and your goals, rather than trying to suppress them. That may be futile and would result in even more distraction and procrastination.

    I have the guts to write down my three most fundamental goals. I think about them all the time, but I still end up getting distracted. Even when I’m working on them directly, I let myself get pulled away.

    The index card idea is a good one. I shoould give it a whirl. Notepads can be messy, and I phones run out of battery. I think they’d be more efficient and easily organized.

    I should write a post about this. As you can see. I have much to say. I’ve been hampered by it so long.

    Great post, Dave.

    Gianpaolo Pietri´s last blog ..How to Travel Like a Rockstar My ComLuv Profile

  • Jul 31, 2010 Jarret

    In the past, I used the technique of writing down goals to great effect. It’s been years since then and no wonder my life has plateaued. Thanks for the reminder!
    Jarret´s last blog ..Branched-chain amino acid supplementation reduces delayed-onset muscle soreness My ComLuv Profile

  • Aug 4, 2010 Tito Philips, Jnr.

    Thanks for this great post Dave. Quite challenging, these days in our fast paced world we can truly be caught up in dealing with emergencies that we forget to really focus and begin to do the stuffs that allows us to fulfill our destinies.

  • Aug 10, 2010 Vasu Iyer

    Yes! I have been just rewriting my lists( goals?) day after day because, I’ve been fooling myself that, it is listed & it will get done one day! I’ve been doing only those things which I never listed!

  • Aug 14, 2010 Kimberly

    I did it — I wrote down my 5 most important goals!
    I’ve actually been writing down my goals and my “day in the ideal life of Kimberly” stuff for about two years,and it’s helped lots, but I really, really love this idea of writing down your top five goals every and every day — I think it will do some serious “imprinting” work on my brain to get me to take more high-value actions towards making the goals a reality.

    Awesome post, L-O-V-E!

  • Aug 14, 2010 Kimberly

    Oh, and I am going to write them down on index cards everyday for now, until I get a new journal (my current one is almost full), then I will write them in the journal daily. And I retweeted. OK, assignment done! ; )

  • Aug 19, 2010 Gabrielle

    I usually make a list daily, but they are things I have to get done that day. I usually write in a notebook, but it gets covered up with other papers as the day rolls on. I can see where keeping a note card in front of me would incite me to action on longer range projects.

    Breaking it up into smaller chunks helps though. Thanks – I’m writing my note card now.
    Gabrielle´s last blog ..Stephen King’s Top 10 Tips for Getting Started Writing Fiction My ComLuv Profile

  • Aug 20, 2010 David Kerr

    Hi Dave,

    I like the no-nonsense approach! Sometimes we are so fixated on complex systems to achieve success, that we forget how powerful and effective a simple approach like this can be. It works.

    Nice one.

    Best regards,
    David Kerr´s last blog ..The OSKAR Framework for Solutions-Focused Business Coaching My ComLuv Profile

  • Aug 30, 2010 Kevin Douglas

    Done! The first set of goals are now out of my head and ar ON PAPER – - – COMMITMENT!

    I am also going to start my visual aid – creating my dream/goal book – first thing Monday morning.

    Thnaks for the kick in the ass!

  • Sep 4, 2010 eva-fate

    dave, your stuff is exactly what i need to read right now, even though i’m not at the stage in my business that you’re aiming at. you make everything seem 100% possible, if you’re willing to work for it, and that’s how i need to learn to think again. I’ve been paralyzed by my doubts and fears and reading your stuff regularly makes me realize it’s okay to have them as long as i keep moving. thanks so much.

    and yes, i wrote down my goals, and i’m going to continue to do so. it sounds like an awesome way to keep focused!

  • Sep 12, 2010 Angie

    Dave, i feel so fortunate to have come across your site. Thank you for what you’re sharing! I wrote down my goals and two of them overlap ( Guess that means they’ve been hanging around my head for quite some time). I’m gonna make it work, there’s no reason for it not to, and thanks, You rock!

  • Sep 30, 2010 I.C.L.

    This is one great post. I’ve read some stuff about this but haven’t had the chance (or willingness) to do something about it. This time I finally did it. Thanks, Dave. And I truly hope I can keep up with this.

  • Oct 22, 2010 Pierre Bastien

    I have been using the goals-on-index cards method but found they would built up over time and begin to stress me out. I recently cut myself down to one single goal to keep things simple.

    Couple things though, I am talking about goals (long-term), not tasks (short-term to-dos). I still have tasks every day, and I write those out fresh in the morning, like you describe. And it works well.
    Pierre Bastien´s last blog ..The Simplest Possible Goal My ComLuv Profile

  • Oct 25, 2010 Ash

    Oh, it is SO ON.

    I’ve been trying to make the habit of forcing myself, every morning, before rising from bed, to simply think of 5 things I’m grateful for that day, rather than hitting snooze and hurling myself back under the covers. It’s definitely helping in terms of getting my day off to a positive start. And now, I’ll be adding this routine. Dig it, Dave.
    Ash´s last blog ..The Greatest Form of Suffering of All- Inaction My ComLuv Profile

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