Stil jete

What is the culture of urgency and why is it harmful?

What is the culture of urgency and why is it harmful?

If you always reply to messages immediately, it may be time for a change in mindset.

In an increasingly fast-paced and interconnected world that rewards immediacy, the culture of urgency blurs the line between what is truly important and what is not.

At work, this can include dealing with frequent last-minute requests, unrealistic deadlines or workloads, and the expectation to work after hours.

In personal life, manifestations of urgency culture include overextending in relationships, frequently checking social media updates for fear of not answering a text or phone call in time.

The constant rush and unspoken expectation to always be online professionally and personally can create a state of heightened alertness. This hypervigilance significantly increases stress and anxiety, says Joel Frank, a Los Angeles-based clinical psychologist and owner of Duality Psychological Services.

According to the American Psychological Association's Stress in America 2023 report, nearly a quarter of adults report feeling high levels of stress following the pandemic, a 19 percent increase since 2019. Young people have been hit the hardest, with almost half of Gen Z and more than a third of millennials report feeling anxious or stressed most of the time.

Being part of a culture of urgency often requires multi-tasking. However, research shows that the human brain lacks the neurocognitive architecture to perform two or more tasks simultaneously. So whenever we multitask, it actually slows down the brain and can decrease productivity by up to 40 percent.

In addition, "the pull to distraction that drives most multitaskers can be hard to shut down," says Friederike Fabritius, neuroscientist and author of The Brain-Friendly Workplace. "As a result, you may find it hard to focus even when you're not multitasking."

For those caught in the maelstrom of urgency culture, the relentless need to hurry can cause hypervigilance, triggering our innate "fight or flight" instincts.

It also inhibits reflective thinking. When the brain is overloaded with the constant need to process information and make decisions quickly, it often turns to shallow thinking. This compromises your ability to engage in deep work, which requires long periods of focus without distraction, says Frank.

Over time, the culture of urgency can also be detrimental to physical health. A false sense of urgency tricks the body into reacting as if it is in a threatening situation, activating the "fight or flight" response. Your breathing becomes faster, your blood pressure and heart rate increase, and you lose the ability to regulate your emotions, says David Rabin, a neuroscientist and CEO of the San Francisco-based health technology company Apollo Neuro.

According to Rabin, an overactive fight-or-flight response contributes to hypertension, sleep deprivation, high cholesterol and inflammatory disorders.

Counteracting the culture of urgency

To avoid the urgency trap, Frank recommends pausing for a few moments before jumping into action whenever something pops up. "It allows you to step back and assess whether this demand for your attention aligns with your priorities," he says.

Setting clear expectations in personal and professional relationships can also help with planning, prioritizing and problem solving without instilling false urgency, says Peter Economou, director of the behavioral health and sport psychology program at Rutgers University.

The best thing you can do to deal with a culture of urgency is to regularly engage in activities that remind you that we don't want to rush everything," says Rabin.

He recommends "the four practices of control" to calm yourself whenever you feel rushed, overwhelmed: intentional breathing, listening, movement and touch.

Setting clear boundaries, including digital ones, is also essential to avoid the false urgency that results from unreasonable expectations, overcommitment and multitasking.

Prioritizing a single task whenever possible is another effective strategy for achieving clear focus and improved productivity.

If you find it difficult to work on a single task to completion, Fabritius suggests using blocks of time to focus exclusively on one task for a set period before moving on to the next. "The satisfaction of completing each block of time should give you a dose of dopamine, as well as the prospect of tackling the next new task," she says.