September 29, 2016

Urgency and Panic

One of the things that I'm loving about my new job is that my team has established some huge goals (I've mentioned this before). This meant that on day one we started working! There's no time to lose. I'm glad for this. I like having a big challenge ahead of us and benchmarks to measure whether or not our work is fruitful.

There's a sense of urgency in our work and I like this but this got me thinking about the fine line between urgency that is healthy and that which is unhealthy.

I left the office last night knowing that we had got a lot of important work done that day... but there was this nagging sensation in the back of my head: there's more that needs to get done! I had to stop and ask myself, "Is this healthy?"

A healthy sense of urgency is that sense that you need to "ship on time," meet a deadline. It keeps you on your toes, thinking creatively.

An unhealthy sense of urgency is that sense of panic that sets in.

A healthy sense of urgency has you focused on a goal. "If we try this new approach we can meet our goal!"

An unhealthy sense of urgency has you focused on failing. "If we don't get this done we will not meet our goal and fail!"

A healthy sense of urgency allows the long view to stay in perspective. We have a goal to start multiple new communities in the next four years. To reach that goal, will require us actually making little failures along the way. Recognizing that this will actually help us learn fast and make more nimble corrections is really important to embrace.

An unhealthy sense loses sight, loses perspective on the long game. This is when I start focusing on the immediate shortcomings, obsessing on not moving towards our goals enough on a daily basis.

It's a fine line. Using a sense of urgency is a great motivator but when urgency begins to use us, we're in trouble.

Don't minimize urgency but don't let it take over you.

Related: "When Stress Helps You Get More Done" from HBR