The Tyranny of the Urgent

As I talk to business leaders – owners of small businesses, leaders of departments, etc. – one common theme emerges. It’s the power of the “NOW!” tasks to derail long-term strategy implementation.

UrgentThis syndrome has several aliases:

  • Tyranny of the Urgent
  • Reactive Thinking
  • Tactical Overwhelm
  • Why-Can’t-Everyone-Just-Leave-Me-Alone-For-One-Second-For-Crying-Out-Loud???

Call it what you will, it boils down to the fact that being in the weeds of day-to-day execution tends to obscure our long-term thinking. We lose sight of the goal.

In ice hockey, have you ever seen those scrums on the boards where several players are piled up, all kicking at the puck (and whacking each other’s ankles)? The focus is entirely on that little piece of ice and that rubber disk – no-one’s looking at the goal.

Ever felt that way during the week? Yeah, I thought so. Bad for the ankles, I find.

Losing sight of the forest while in the trees is a very common leadership struggle for businesses of every size.

As a solopreneur, I have to fight this battle all the time. I get immersed in low- or no-return activities that pop up in front of me instead of staying on track. I fail to keep my focus on the clients, partners, and opportunities that are most productive long-term. I have to remind myself constantly what really matters – and, even then, it’s still way too easy to lose sight of the goal.

Here are a few ideas I’ve found helpful:

What about you? How do you stay on track in the midst of the reactive mode that presses in on you daily? Share your tips and practices for the rest of us to learn from!

Previously in the Stuck and Struggling series:
The “Can’t Let Go” Leader
Direction Attention Deficit Disorder
Navigating the Whitewater
Misplaced Persons
When Your Business Has Warts

Here are some of the upcoming topics:

  • Inconsistent Revenue Model
  • Commodity or Poorly Packaged Offerings (differentiation issues)
  • Operational Vacuum (insufficient structure/process to enable growth)
  • Bad Clients/Wrong Clients
  • Bad-Apple Employees
  • Broken Internal Communication (multi-faceted topic)
  • Scalable/Configurable vs. Custom Offerings (the craft-work, time-for-money trap)
  • Foggy Marketing/Messaging (failure to communicate clearly with clients and referrers)


Losing sight of the goal? Get Business Clarity. And, subscribe to the weekly Clarity Blend e-newsletter here.


  1. Steve,
    Another excellent post. It’s a reality that the more we get distracted and caught up in the old Steve Covey, “Urgent and not Important” or even “Urgent and Important” quadrants, the less time we have for strategy development and doing the tasks that need to be done to move our businesses in the correct direction.

  2. As a fellow solo entrepreneur, I can identify with this post. I would only add that in my experience it’s also important to stay true to our core nature, personality, etc. Some of us just aren’t happy unless we’re in high achiever mode 80-90% of the time. For others (myself included), that would be a recipe for burn-out.

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