2020 was a marathon. 2021 feels no less difficult. But it brings with it a certainty: that our lives will be more digital than before. We’ll continue to buy, learn and share online more than we did before.
That certainty brings with it an urgency because however much we accomplished last year, there is more to do. Moreover, the speed with which we deliver it will be a key differentiator in terms of performance.
You will have seen the stats on digital adoption in 2020. If not, Benedict Evans has a thorough set here. I don’t need to make the case for a more digital future. What I’d like to do here is share some thoughts on how to get there more quickly.
Last year, we were all caught on the hop. This year, we’re all exhausted so how to deliver with urgency?
This should be obvious but it doesn’t feel like it is. If you have a long list of things that you need to do. It will take a long time. If you shorten the list. It should take less time. Ruthlessly prioritise. Deliver less, but do so quickly.
From experience, prioritisation is something we all know we should do and yet are very bad at. It’s hard to tell someone that you won’t help with their project because it’s not as important as xyz.
Equally, I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve discussed priorities and someone’s told me that everything’s important. I’m sure it is, but somethings are more important than others and choices have to be made.
There’s also a cult of busyness out there. Everyone’s incredibly busy all the time. But really they’re not. They’re just not prioritising correctly. You’re doing it. I’m doing it too. We just need to break this negative cycle.
Get beyond the urgent
We all have a massive to-do list, whether it’s written down or held in our heads. It never ends; it only gets longer. The urgent stuff gets done. But it keeps piling up. The important stuff, the things that need thought, where progress really lies, remain untouched. So how do we get beyond the urgent?
The first step is to question the urgency. Just because something has a quick turnaround time, is it really urgent? Sometimes, when presented with a last minute deadline, you shouldn’t make a coffee and settle in for an evening of work, you should just say, “no.”
Some random report needs to be sent by the end of Friday? Why? Who’s looking at it over the weekend? Why can it wait until Monday afternoon? Don’t write off your Friday afternoon – a golden spot for working on things without being disturbed – for some random request. Keep it for the important things that really make a difference.
Does it really take that long?
How long does a task take? Do you really know? How much time are you really spending doing something and, crucially, is it worth it? If you’re honest with yourself, you’re probably spending some time doing things that don’t help you make progress. If you really analyse it, it will likely surprise you. I’ve seen comms folk spend too much time editing/reviewing things. I’ve seen marketers spend a disproportionate amount of time on things that deliver little or no performance uplift. I’ve done both of these things myself far too much.
We know this is a defining year. The gains made now will pay off for years to come. So how are you going to deliver with urgency? Let me know on Twitter @kchadda.