Slave to the Immediate

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A wise man once said, “If you don’t keep your eye on the ultimate, you become slave to the immediate.”


Any person’s job can be very stressful with all the daily happenings competing for your attention.  A person can be have their mind set on accomplishing a handful of productive tasks when they wake up and by the time they get to the office everything has changed.


First, an urgent phone call on line two, then John wants to talk about an account, next Bob is upset at Sally, ensuing an unexpected email needs to be answered, then a quick youtube video, then a couple of your friends picture that were posted desperately need to be “liked”, and before you realize it the entire day has been wasted.


What is the saddest is you did what seems like a lot, but nothing was accomplished.  So what is a person to do?  You must keep your eyes set on the ultimate.  First and foremost know what your top priorities are, the things that if accomplished would move the pegs the most.  As Brian Tracy would say, “you must eat the bullfrog first”.


Second you must see everything else as a distraction that CAN be handled after you finish your top priorities (no exceptions).  If the phone rings, don’t answer it (unless your job is to answer phones of course).  If you get a text, don’t respond until it is a convenient time for YOU.  Jim Rohn recommends that you push all problem calls to the afternoon, as he called it “problems after 3pm”.  Sometimes the problems seemed to work themselves out by the time he got back with them, as they typically do.


Also, there is no law that says you have to answer your cell phone.  It can just ring and go to voicemail.  I’m sure you have caller ID.  Just because they seem to have an “emergency” doesn’t mean it has to become your emergency.   You don’t have to become slave to someone else’s availability. 



I have people who try to tell me or ask me about a situation in passing.  If I try to remember off the top of my head, I normally make a mistake.   Each time I ask them to write it down and I’ll take a look into it when I get a chance; again problems after 3pm.  Then when 3pm arrives I can take care of everything in one single focused sprint knocking out each task one at a time.

44 thoughts on “Slave to the Immediate

  1. I often instruct my interns on the value of allowing for ‘intentional interruptions’. It means focusing your time so that when an interruption hits you can focus an appropriate amount of time on it or them without derailing your day.
    Good post!

  2. Great post. I found early in my career I fell into the trap of treating every situation, interruption, phone call and email as ‘urgent’. I’ve since learnt to manage expectations – both my own and other people’s. As a result (most of the time!) I’m less stressed and more effective :) .

  3. Very good post. We are all guilty of this, and have been for some time. Things have become worse, with constant emails flowing in through our computers, tablets and smart phones. We have lost the power to focus

    1. You know you are completely …………………………………………………. right with what you are saying. (sorry I had to answer a text and check facebook) Have a good day

      1. Of course not! I was just thinking that responding wasn’t on my “to do” list for today and how often I distract myself with the immediate fun stuff like replying to your blog – when I had really set out to polish up my post to get ready to hit “publish.”

  4. A powerful post! When we prioritize our tasks, it’s easier to keep focused. I write down each day the things I MUST get done. Below that I put the things I’d LIKE to accomplish. The MUST’s get first attention. Then I can give priority to the LIKE’s. Eventually, some of the LIKE’s become MUST’s, but until then, they’re in second place. I also like the idea of setting aside time to do certain tasks (like respond to emails, reply to texts, etc.) I don’t do that enough, so this was a great reminder to become more focused!

  5. I was attracted to the portion of this post relating to interruptions. Two thoughts come to mind:

    “Someone else’s lack of planning does not constitute my emergency.”

    “I would rather disappoint the person that didn’t plan for my time than the person that did.”

  6. I love this article. And my co-workers have finally accepted that there will be certain times during the day that I don’t answer emails. I shut off the phone and email for an hour each day in order to work on my priority project. And, if I don’t have a priority project that day, then I catch up on all the little stuff! It’s been years in the making, but I’m much more efficient than every before. This article is a great reminder! Thanks!

  7. Time management is key!!! You must manage your time and not let time manage YOU!! Set time blocks for your tasks and then prioritize those tasks in your day, Since each day differs…remember to keep flexible…for those little interruptions.

  8. Similar to the 3 pm rule is something that I and many of us do. I give myself 15 minutes or so in the middle of the day to do nothing and simply refresh. I collect my thoughts and poise myself for a productive afternoon.

  9. Great post and definitely a good reminder to keep focused. Again, it’s all about balance and priorities – being able to quickly screen what’s urgent or not. There will definitely be distractions that can’t be pushed to 3pm, but those emergencies are really very rare.

  10. so easy to spin our wheels allowing others or issues to become bigger than our own goals. Distortion sometimes doesn’t look that way until we look back. Great blog.

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