Rush of modern life inspires new book on 'urgency addiction'

September 11, 1991|By Nina TassiJean Marbella

If you think you don't have time to read this article, then you might be its subject.

Youarealwaysinahurry. Youhavetoomuchtodo. Whyisthisarticlesolong?

Nina Tassi has your number. You might recognize yourself in her book, on page 4: "Melissa . . . artfully conceals with makeup the dark circles under her eyes from lack of sleep and manages to reach her office before 7:45 a.m." Or on page 35: "First thing [David] does on entering a restaurant is to check out the phones -- his connection to the action when he can't be on the computer." Or on page 41: "When they're driving up to their condo in the Poconos or perhaps to their cottage at Rehoboth Beach in Delaware, Diane will be talking to him. Suddenly, [Larry will] reach for his Dictaphone and speak into it for a few minutes."

Melissa, David, Larry -- and perhaps you? -- suffer from what Ms. Tassi calls "Urgency Addiction," the title of her just-published book (Taylor Publishing, $18.95) and the latest "disease" to hit the self-help section of bookstores.

"The pace of American life has speeded up to such a degree, I think everyone in America is affected by a sense of the pressure of time," said Ms. Tassi, a Towson resident and former administrator at Loyola College and the College of Notre Dame in Baltimore.

You might call Ms. Tassi a recovering urgency addict. She realized that as a married woman, a mother of three and a full-time professional, she was enslaved by clocks, trapped by time -- or the lack thereof -- and totally panicked that everything that had to get done simply wouldn't.

And, in fact, she felt so time-pressured that she only recently got around to writing this, her first published book, even though she got the first inkling of the idea for it sometime in the 1970s.

"I had gone back to work, and my children were 9, 7 and 5. I had always been a fast worker, but more and more things were filling up my time," said Ms. Tassi, whose husband, Aldo, is a professor of philosophy at Loyola. "I got into this horrible habit of waking up earlier and earlier and making these lists."

She switched jobs, several times, to no avail. A university administrator in the late 1970s, she became a writer and editor for the Times Publishing Group and a contributing editor to Baltimore magazine until striking out more recently as a free-lance writer and communications consultant.

It's not the particular job you have, or even your particular personality type, Ms. Tassi believes, rather, it's the overall culture that makes you feel pressured by time. Her book, which )) includes quizzes to tell if you're urgency-addicted and solutions for "curing" the problem, mixes real-people anecdotes with larger issues, such as how changes in the corporate climate have resulted in greater pressures on employees.

The goal is to go from being "time-pressured" to "time integrated," the latter of which Ms. Tassi defines as having enough time to do everything that really matters to you.

Ms. Tassi believes that much of the rush-rush-rush atmosphere today is style more than anything.

"People are putting a lot of emphasis on being there, being visible," she said. "It doesn't mean any more work is getting done. If anything, there is less productivity."

Unlike those time management experts -- who she says advocate "squeezing more and more in less and less time" -- Ms. Tassi advocates kinder, gentler methods of coping. Realize what's important, don't feel you have to read every single thing routed to you and take control of the clock, rather than the other way around.

"Work smarter," she said, "not harder."

So-called time-saving devices such as copying machines, fax machines and the like tend to increase work because they constantly "spew out paper" that employees then feel they have to read, she said.

Another culprit is the overall business climate. The merger mania of the '80s, for example, and the more recent recession have made for supposedly leaner and meaner corporations, but that also means that employees who didn't get laid off ended up working harder to make up for those who did, she said.

As for her own time problem, Ms. Tassi feels that as an independent writer rather than someone's employee she has much more control over her work life. Having her children, now in their 20s, living away from home of course has cut out the car pooling and other parental time-eaters that used to pressure her.

But in its place, she has more writing planned -- she's mulling over ideas for a second non-fiction book and actually has written two novels that she is also hoping to get published. In addition, she has a book tour in a couple of weeks to promote "Urgency Addiction."

4 Which sounds like quite a full plate, time-wise.

"I could very easily fall down again," she says of the time urgency abyss, "without much trouble."


The urgency index


* Would you go crazy if you weren't always busy?

* Do lengthy traffic lights make you mad?

Are you phone- and fax-dependent?

* Would you feel naked without your watch?

Do you hate it when computers slow you down?

* Is it your habit to time your leisure activities?

* Have you lost touch with old friends?

Do you have to "pencil in" time for your family?

* Is time passing you by?

* Do you sleep less to give yourself more time?

Scoring key: If you answered yes 1-3 times you're still OK; 4-6 times you should be worried. Answer yes 7-10 times, you've got urgency addiction.

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