Too often, up-and-coming rising stars are those who arrive early and work late. They give 110% to all they do and go the extra mile—at twenty over the speed limit—without being asked.
At the other end of the spectrum we see procrastination playing its ugly game. “Why do today that which you can put off to one hour before the deadline?” Procrastination (which is usually rooted in some sort of fear) often results in people rushing around just as fast those rising stars giving 110%.
Both extremes are frequently associated with an addiction to urgency. I’ve had top producers literally tell me they thrive on the adrenaline rush and would die without it. But think about it: Adrenaline is a mind-altering chemical (even though it’s produced by the body itself). Believe it or not, webmd.com is serious in telling us that Adrenaline Addicts Anonymous is available for support to those persons who use their own adrenaline as an addictive drug.
A few years ago I came upon the definition of an addiction, and although I do not know its source, it certainly makes sense. Think about people you know (maybe even yourself) who have experienced addiction, and see if this definition holds water:
Addiction: A self-destructive behavior that temporarily fills an unmet need.
- Creates a predictable, reliable sensation
- Becomes the primary focus and absorbs the addicts attention during the experience
- Temporarily eradicates pain or negative emotions
- Provides an artificial sense of self-worth, power, control, security, intimacy, or accomplishment
- Worsens the problems and feelings it sought to remedy
- Causes loss of relationships
Now think about this in terms of being addicted to urgency.
- Creates a predictable, reliable sensation. Yep. By rushing around, I always feel important.
- Becomes the primary focus and absorbs the addicts attention during the experience. Absolutely. By focusing on the project before me I can block out all the minutiae of life.
- Temporarily eradicates pain or negative emotions. Sure! If I focus on getting this job done NOW, then I don’t have time to think about making that tough decision I don’t want to make, or the fact that I’m not getting along with my boss, my spouse, or my kids.
- Provides an artificial sense of self-worth, power, control, security, intimacy, or accomplishment. Yes. Because everyone knows I have to get this done NOW, I can push harder for them to go the extra mile for me – or get out of my way so I can get this done!
- Worsens the problems and feelings it sought to remedy. By either rushing ahead or waiting to the last minute, I’m neglecting the importance of planning, which means I’ll probably miss key details, which makes fixing the oversights all the more urgent, which compounds all of the above.
- Causes loss of relationships. Unfortunately, yes. By focusing on production and not the planning or the people involved, I lose trust with those around me. They begin to see me as uncaring, unconcerned, and eventually unworthy of their time.
Yes, I’d say urgency addiction is a very real problem in the workplace. But how to break it?
First of all, just like Alcoholics Anonymous, Adrenaline Addicts Anonymous will tell you that you have to “confess” that you are, in fact, addicted. If you cannot identify the target, you cannot hit the target when you take aim at it.
Second, I always recommend the input of a good coach or mentor. As certified behavioral analyst, I will tell you that one cannot “unlearn” old behaviors. You can only identify new behaviors and choose them instead. Look at your alternatives, look at the ripple-effects (benefits, consequences, etc.) of each alternative, and choose the best route for you – with the help of an accountability partner or coach.
Third, choose how you’re going to celebrate your victory. Everyone celebrates differently, so it’s blatantly impossible (and arrogant) to suggest that only one way exists. With your coach, brainstorm ways to celebrate a more balanced approach to your work. Then take the time to celebrate!
Bottom line, you have a choice. You can choose to be addicted and suffer the consequences, or you can choose to be free of the chains. Whatever the situation, you always have a choice.