How to Increase the Sense of Urgency (+Reminder Tool)
Oct 19 2019
4 MINS READ
This year, I have been feeling an increasing sense of urgency in learning, socializing, and doing things. I don’t recall having this level of urgency my whole life, as I have always lived in a somewhat comfortable/manageable pace, and followed a more or less traditional path. Fortunately, in recent years, I have met numerous strong operators, “hustlers”, who are so driven that they inspire you to increase your own personal bandwidth, and make you think more carefully about opportunity cost and where you spend your time, and energy. I believe that having a sense of urgency is more of a question of attitude/mindset rather than personality and that anyone can adopt this new way of living. By default, we lack a sense of urgency because:
Evolutionarily, our brain is wired to save us energy, crucial for our survival, in case we unexpectedly run out of food or have to face a predator. Therefore, we have a natural tendency to follow the paths of least resistance and go easy on ourselves.
Our brain is not good at perceiving time and has a defense mechanism that prevents us from thinking about death (The Denial of Death, written by Ernest Becker). To have a sense of urgency, we have to be constantly reminded that we have “limited time”, and that we could also die from unexpected events on any day – today or tomorrow. A really good tool I’ve found is the chrome extension Motivation. Seeing the numbers go up by the milli-seconds does really put you in perspective about time, and serves as a good reminder to have a sense of urgency.
Because our brain is constantly trying to save us energy and doesn’t perceive time/death well,it’s easy for us to take our time and do the minimum work. Our default mode of operations for our day-to-day chores can easily shift into coping, instead of thriving and trying to make the most of every moment.
Why did I have a sudden increase in the feeling of urgency? From a logical perspective, I always knew that our time is limited and that we should make the most of every day, but I think it’s really until recently that this feeling of urgency really hit me on a deeper and more subconscious level. I believe that a sense of urgency can be acquired from a stronger understanding of the pain of regret, and inspiration to achieve a bigger goal:
Time accelerates when you grow older, and many regret not having a stronger sense of urgency earlier in their lives. At some point, many people have chosen to give up on their dream and spent compounding years coping, rationalizing, finding paths of least resistance and one day woke up realizing the loss of time – which is a painful and difficult process. Knowing this, how could I not re-assess my personal goals and revisit my bucket list?
Our time window for doing certain things is limited within age brackets. While it’s never too late to do what we want, I think many things in life are better done within specific periods of in our time, as doing them later in life might become a lot more difficult. For example, if you wanted to skateboard, it’s easier to start when you are in your teens or early twenties rather than in your forties or fifties. If you wanted to explore and take on more financial risks, it’s better when you are single than when you have the responsibility to raise a family. Overall, you shouldn’t delay things that you think you should be doing now, as they will more likely to be given up and fall into the regret bucket in the future.
The sense of urgency can be infectious. Surrounding yourself with strong operators can be very inspiring. You will notice that most of them have something in common: their pace for doing things is a lot faster. They focus on execution and can achieve more than most people on a daily basis. Seeing that level of execution power makes you rethink how much you can actually achieve in a day, week and month and will naturally inspire you to increase your personal bandwidth (Roger Bannister effect). Once you get infected, you will naturally find yourself being more efficient at getting things done, and your mind will always be planning for the next best thing that can help bring you closer to your goals. Less resistance and more energized.
You can flow through life or make something out of it. Having a bigger goal is another motivating factor that can increase your sense of urgency because it puts time into a better perspective. Having a bigger goal will make you realize that your time is very limited and that the only way to reach that ‘something big’ is to really optimize and maximize what you do on a daily basis. Time becomes your most valuable asset and it’s a race against the clock. The bigger the goal, the stronger the sense of urgency. You will realize that the only way to maximize growth is to take the most actions under the shortest amount of time.
Overall, I think having a sense of urgency is great as long as it doesn’t affect your stress level and happiness. It should be more of a subconscious driver that gives you more motivation and helps you execute towards your goals at a faster pace, instead of being a stress factor that drains you or prevents you from enjoying the process and growth. Success is very subjective, and life is a personal journey. At the end of the day, it’s all about how you feel about yourself when you are by yourself. I believe that having a sense of urgency is an incredible new way of living, giving you more control over your life, minimizing your future regrets, helping you increase your personal bandwidth, and more importantly, getting what you want in life. One of my favorite quotes from Confucius is “We have two lives, and the second begins when we realize we only have one”.