Beware Artificial Urgency
Beware Artificial Urgency

Beware Artificial Urgency

Artificial Urgency is what you do to make some tasks stand out in your lists because you fear you won’t get them done otherwise. Artificial Urgency tactics include

  1. Putting due dates on tasks (doables or outcomes) that you haven’t really promised to anyone. “Oh, I better get that done. I’ll flag it as due today.”
  2. Marking tasks as high priority, flagged, starred, or urgent. “Geez, I gotta remember to do this. I’ll mark it ‘high priority.'”

Because we tend to make too many things due soon and mark too many things urgent, these tactics lose their meaning and power. We end up going numb to them. Perhaps the only thing that Artificial Urgency achieves is increasing your sense of guilt about what you are not getting done and about your productivity.

Of course, due dates and urgency flags can be useful if used well. Mark an item with a due date only if you have made a promise to someone that you will get the task done by a certain date. Example: “Complete TPS report by Wednesday evening as promised to Carol.” And feel free to have up to one task per day marked as urgent.

How, then, should you stay on top of all the doables and outcomes that you would normally festoon with due dates and flags/stars/or priority numbers?

Easy. Do your daily and weekly refreshes. You will easily stay on top of things by scanning and updating your lists at least daily.


Make sense?


  1. Debbie Fletcher

    Do you have a mechanism or system that you use (or can suggest) to support the approach that you are recommending. I’m looking for something paper based rather than electronic. I’ve thought of small post its that I can move around from page to page (i.e., list to list, taking an objective and breaking it out into executable components etc.) rather than a written list that will need to be rewritten regularly.

    It is quite possible that I may have to move into the 21st century and do it all elecronially somehow.


    1. Mike

      Hi Deb,

      Yes, there are several mechanisms for tracking your lists. Some are paper, some electronic, and some are a hybrid. Most people end up with a system that works for and is unique to them. So feel free to experiment. I will say that one client who has used “stickies” approach found it was both flexible and flawed. The problem most paper-based systems have is the need to move or rewrite items; it can be a pain. Moving stickies from one list to another is very easy. But the stickies are also bulky and can come loose, getting lost or misplaced.

      I’ll post some ideas and references to some pretty good electronic and paper-based systems.


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