A case against urgency

Haven’t you heard the word ‘urgent’ used even when the matter is not so urgent?

It’s a known tactic which might be effective in the short term but not otherwise, for sure.


Because the word itself is overrated. It deprecates any quest that’s not urgent.

Who wants to communicate something that does not carry any value? The real problem is: When it becomes an integral part of the culture, everyone else’s also encouraged to use the word ‘urgent’ in their not-so-urgent conversations as well.

Sometimes, in over-achievement oriented environments, the word ‘urgent’ is misused to create unreal pressure which leads to breakdowns and worse. For example, a whiny (and possibly an insecure) boss calls you on Saturday evening and scream: If you don’t respond to client’s email during the weekend, we’ll end up losing this client. Why don’t you understand the urgency?

You should not be surprised to find that all the projects – regardless of its size and scope – with all the clients are urgent for this kind of boss.

Everyone gets it. It’s connoted.  Most people want to get things accomplished as soon as they can be completed.

I remember a story from my childhood which resonates well with the toxic urgency.

Urgent Help Needed: Tiger’s here…It’s urgent, really!

There was a naughty shepherd boy living in a small village.  The village was near to the forest and there were instances of animals attacking people who lived near the border of the village.

Everyday, the boy used to take the cattle for grazing to the outskirts of the village.  One day, the naughty boy decided to make fun of fellow farmers.  So, he took the cattle towards the edge of the village, near to the forest.  After some time he started screaming,  “Urgent Help Needed! The tiger is here. It is eating away my cattle. Is there anyone who can save my cattle from the tiger?”

On hearing his voice, his fellow farmers left their fields and rushed in the direction from the voice was coming. They took sticks and cross-bows to attack  the tiger.  When they reached, they found no tiger but the only naughty boy. They asked, “Where’s the tiger? Are you alright?”

“Seems the tiger was also in some sort of urgency so he ran away,” grinned the boy.

Confused farmers returned back to their fields.

Same instance was repeated two days later. The farmers now understood that they were fooled and became angry but couldn’t do anything. The boy made fun of them again and thought how smart he was.

Four weeks later, the boy encountered a real tiger. Panicked as he started crying for help: “Please someone urgently save me. The tiger is here, he’s eating my cattle and soon I’ll be no more.”

The cries were heard by his fellow farmers. They thought, “The naughty boy is playing the same silly prank. There’s no need to go there and make a fool of ourselves.” They decided not to rush for help.

But,  few  minutes later the farmers  heard the roar of the tiger. They quickly discovered that this time it was not a prank so they rushed again to help the boy. But it was too late.  The boy was killed by the tiger and the tiger was heading to the forest.

The above story is used to teach children not to speak lies however if you observe, it translates another message as well.

Don’t make the word ‘Urgent’ cheap. Instead, reserve it for a sudden unforeseen crisis such as when there are specific, unbowed consequences for non-actions.