Next time you get an email request with an urgent flag, try one of these three tips:
1. Ask the sender when the assignment is really needed. Urgent may not mean immediately. The sender may be trying to convey her own importance or anxiety. Explore with her what she’s trying to accomplish and when.
2. Respond with your intended timeline. She may need a commitment to a plan of action, not the finished product, right away. Example: “I can begin on this project tomorrow. Would that be sufficient?”
3. Seek her help in reprioritizing work. If the urgent assignment moves to the top of the pile, what can be postponed?
— Adapted from “The Right Response Is Not Always Instant,” Ron Ashkenas, Harvard Business Review blog.