Do you ever feel like you’re running out of time?
I don’t just mean in your business. Or in your personal life. I mean in life.
As morose as it may sound, we all have a finite amount of time on this beautiful blue planet. It’s no secret that we only get one chance at this thing called life. All good things will come to an end.
The amount of time that you will be capable of working is also finite. More likely than not, you are already well into your career path at this point. How many more years do you have ahead of you before you retire?
10 years? 30 years? If you’re younger, maybe 50 years. But that’s about it. Regardless of how long it is, we all know that time flies when you’re having fun.
If you have any ambition whatsoever, then you probably feel like you are running out of time on the job. If you have goals, and you absolutely should have well-defined goals, then you may feel you don’t have time to achieve the goals you REALLY want to achieve. The bigger your goal, the more time will be required to achieve it.
We have a set of core values here at Array Digital. We hire by them; we fire by them. We live by them on a daily basis. One of those core values is urgency.
The core value used to be called “on time”. There was history to that. In the beginning, we built websites and web applications. If you’ve ever dealt with a developer, you can probably relate when I say that software is almost always late. My objective when creating that core value was to be less late. I never expected that we would be ahead of schedule, (sarcasm ON) because that’s pretty much impossible when it comes to software development. It’s just not in their genes. (sarcasm OFF) Rather I just didn’t want to be behind schedule.
After having that expectation in place for some time, and after we converted to being 100% digital marketing, I realized that it was insufficient.
Being on time is expected. It’s the baseline for when something should get done. If someone says it’ll be done on Monday, you expect it on Monday…no later. That’s why they told you Monday after all…otherwise they would have said Tuesday, right?
You don’t hire someone with the expectation that they’ll be late. You hire someone expecting that they will be on time. We should not pat ourselves on the back for being on time. If we’re on time, then we’re simply doing our job. Nothing more, nothing less.
Within the last year, I updated the core value from “on time” to “urgency”. This represented a significant shift in what I thought was important to our business. It was no longer acceptable just to get the job done when you were supposed to. Instead, I now expect that the work is done as soon as it can be completed. There is a big difference between the two.
Every day that we delay in completing a task is a day that we delay starting the next task.
By the end of 2018, I had set a goal of reaching $100 million in sales by the year 2030. It’s 2019 right now and while 2030 may seem like it’s really far away, it’s not. We’re already almost halfway through the year, so it’s only 10.5 years away.
You are certainly old enough to remember 10 years ago. What were you doing then? When you look back at what you were doing 10 years ago, does it seem like an eternity or does it seem like that time passed in the blink of an eye? My guess is that you’d say the latter.
Time flies when you’re having fun. If you’re running a business, and I suspect you are since you’re reading this article, then you’d better be having fun. If working and running your business is a hassle and you’d rather not do it, then you’re not living your life’s purpose. But since you’re reading this article about entrepreneurialism and how to get ahead in business, I know you care about what your work. You are not one to lollygag through your career.
No. You want to get ahead.
Now, think back again to that period of your life 10 years ago. Was your life remarkably different than it is now or was it pretty much the same? Certainly, circumstances have changed throughout the last decade, but I’m guessing it’s not anything massively different. You’re probably pretty close to being on the same trajectory career-wise as you were 10 years ago. I don’t suspect that you’re at the same place as 10 years ago, but you’re at the place you should be based on your “normal trajectory” in life. But is that normal trajectory, extrapolated out, going to get you to where you want to be?
For me and my company, if we are going to get to our goal by 2030, we need to take massive action to get there. Every single day is an important day in the trajectory of this company. I cannot wait any extra time for something to get done, because there are a million and a half things still on my plate. And my goal here is not to just stay on our trajectory – it’s to increase the slope of our trajectory.
My guess is that your goals are not that dissimilar to mine. You want to get ahead in life and that means your business has to get to where you want it to be as soon as humanly possible. You do not have any time to waste between now and an hour from now, or a year from now, or a decade from now.
Time is ticking. And you won’t get an opportunity to get it back.
Your objective as a business owner is to squeeze as much productivity as possible out of your company without compromising the culture. But let me be clear: I am not condoning overworking your staff to get there. What I am saying is that you need to set the expectation that work needs to get done now, not later. Don’t take a half day on Friday when you can stay for an extra hour and get that work done. Then, come Monday you’re onto the next assignment.
This is an issue that I have seen in our business and I am trying to snuff it out as soon as possible. There is nothing worse in my opinion than when someone says they’ll take care of something and days go by before they take care of it. Or even worse, days go by and they forget about it.
Now, everybody forgets something now and then. That is not what I’m talking about. What I am talking about is a chronic habit of letting things linger.
When there is a decision to be made, it is your responsibility to make sure that decision gets made as quickly as possible. Gather the minimum data you need to make a somewhat informed decision, decide, and move on to the next task at hand.
You will not make the perfect decision in most cases. That is okay. The important thing is that you made a decision and you’ve informed your team about the direction they need to move. You have at least decided to go in a direction and you put it behind you until you need to look at it later. Defer judgment on whether your decision needs to be rethought until a day when you receive better data.
Your goal should be to make a decision – on the spot if needed – on every issue that comes your way. Even if that means deciding to defer the decision until a specific later date so that you can collect more data. The important thing is that you’ve made a decision and there’s a plan of action.
Never be indecisive. Either decide or come up with a plan to decide.
If you have any ambition whatsoever, it will take you longer to achieve that ambition than you think. If you are like me, and you have a big audacious goal, and especially if you’re not exactly sure how you’re going to get from here to there, then this lesson is especially relevant to you.
I don’t know how we’re going to get to $100 million at this point. But I know that it’s going to take a ton of work to get there. Delaying any task for any longer than is required puts every subsequent task behind it in jeopardy of getting done on time. If one domino doesn’t fall, it stops the next domino from falling.
Do not let indecisiveness creep into your work culture. You, and only you, can instill urgency in your culture. If you do not instill urgency in your culture then your culture has already been defined as one of indecision. With indecision, it’s just a matter of time before apathy sets in. Apathy will kill your company, slowly maybe, but surely.
Urgency is required. Never let your foot off the gas.
Erik J. Olson is the Founder & CEO of Array Digital—a marketing agency that enables its clients to achieve their dreams, fulfill their missions, and impact more lives with their services.