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Sorta Random Sunday: Fighting the Mere Urgency Effect

The mere urgency effect impacts all of us. Even after I became aware of what it was and worked to avoid it, mere urgency still crept into my daily life. And it ends up tying into a lot of the topics previously discussed on Sorta Random Sundays.

Related Posts:
Sorta Random Sunday: Obsession is a Gift?
Sorta Random Sunday: The Secret to Multitasking
Sorta Random Sunday: The Fallacy of Not Enough Time

So, what is it and what can we do about it?

What is the mere urgency effect?

The mere urgency effect is this concept that we spend overall way too much time in our lives dealing with what is small and unimportant but urgent.

And we do this at the expense of spending more time on what is big, important, and not as urgent.

An example can clear this up as the concept can otherwise remain a bit foggy. Have you ever had a project or idea that was really important to you? It could be getting your finances in order, it could be getting in shape, writing that novel you always wanted to, an entrepreneurial endeavor, or a research project, or an idea to implement a clinical protocol to help your patients. Could be anything.

But you just never seem to get around to doing it. Because you are too busy. With life. With things that in the moment seem super urgent. Responding to those emails. Taking care of some administrative task. Sweeping the garage because it is on your to-do list. Could be anything.

That is the mere urgency effect.

My experience

I am just as susceptible as anyone to this phenomenon. It drives me nuts. It drives Selenid especially nuts. My way of staying on top of things is to do them the moment they come up. I stay on top of things. I’m very good at organizing my life and getting things done. But I do an especially bad job at triaging.

In my case, the big, important but not urgent thing that suffers is relaxation and, if I am being totally honest, some family time.

mere urgency effect
The important is unfortunately sometimes usurped by the urgent

It is something that I am actively working on. I suspect many of us are in a similar boat.

How to combat the mere urgency effect?

I think there are a few key tools to combat this.


First is awareness. Before I was aware of this concept, I bought into the feeling that these little “urgent” things I was doing were truly urgent. Without awareness, we can’t fight back because we believe in the fallacy.

The truth is they are not urgent. I just felt I needed to do them to “stay ahead” or because they were on my list.

Now, I can see them for what they are and develop strategies to fight my instincts for the better.

Engaging deep work and the one thing

The concepts of the one thing and deep work are all about diving into the most important aspects of your life with focus and drive. And avoiding all of the other unimportant stuff. The merely urgent stuff.

So, take some time to think about what your big hairy goals are. Once you solidify them, you have a much better chance of creating a plan to working towards them.

And once you have your “one thing(s),” use tactics like putting email and your phone on sleep or silent mode, letting others know you will be unavailable for a certain time, and isolating yourself to work on achieving them.

In fact, here are 10 Ways to Implement “Deep Work” as a Physician!


Use your money to create time. I am getting better at this.

It’s all about paying others to do that merely urgent stuff that you hate to do so that you can get it off of your plate and focus on the important.

Hire someone to clean your house once a month (we did this recently). Have someone mow your lawn. We even stopped grocery shopping and use Instacart to pick up our groceries after ordering online. It’s actually not even an added expense. But it saves us tons of time and eliminates one place that our kids can really embarrass us (just kidding…not really…).

Take some time

Think about what is important to you. Are you actively working towards it? If not, what is in the way? It is likely some form of the mere urgency effect at work. Create some strategies to fight it so you can elevate and focus on your big picture!

And if improving your financial well-being is one of your big, important goals, I encourage you to watch my Masterclass Webinar on The 12 Steps to Financial Freedom for Physicians here!

What do you think? What is merely urgent in your life? How do you deal with it? What are your big important goals? Let me know in the comments below!

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    The Prudent Plastic Surgeon

    Jordan Frey MD, a plastic surgeon in Buffalo, NY, is one of the fastest-growing physician finance bloggers in the world. See how he went from financially clueless to increasing his net worth by $1M in 1 year and how you can do the same! Feel free to send Jordan a message at [email protected].

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