If everything seems under control, you’re not going fast enough. – Mario Andretti
Every once in a while you come across people who take their time to get things done.
One place you’ll find them is in a public service – where it’s important for your career not to get things wrong.
If you get things right you’ll get more work and fail to be recognised – and your boss will probably take the credit.
If you get it wrong, you might get fired.
So there really is no point in taking a risk, pushing for change, making a noise – unless you’re certain you won’t be criticised.
Then there are others who take their time in the private sector – doing their jobs as set out in their contracts.
But they’re probably not very high up in their business – and if they keep taking their time they’re not going to get any higher.
Perhaps they’re fine with that – but what do you do if you’re not?
What you’ve got to think about is speed – how do you do what needs to be done faster and faster.
Speed matters, because in many cases it provides a competitive advantage that is hard to beat.
Let’s say you’re in the business of delivering a consultancy service.
The way you get business is to go into a prospect’s company and offer a free review – you study what they’re doing and produce a report showing how they could do better – and how hiring you will make them money.
Let’s say you budget for three days to do this – one day to travel to see them and sell them your free review, another day to go down, interview them and look around and one more day to prepare and present your report.
That’s three days of free consultancy.
A consultant usually needs to hit a certain number of paying days to stay in business – typically around a hundred.
If your typical client takes a five day engagement from you, then you need to make twenty sales to hit your number.
And that’s at least 60 days of free consultancy to win those – at three days a pop.
But you don’t win all your pitches – let’s say you get one in three.
That’s 180 days spent pitching to win 100 days of business.
And now you have to work 280 days in a year.
At which point you might decide that it’s all a waste of time and you should go back and get a real job.
So what can you do to improve things?
Well – the first thing is to get faster at every step that’s involved in the process.
Do you have to go and meet people face to face – should you first qualify every prospect with a phone call.
Do you have to do your review on site – can’t you collect material from their website and documentation, or run a session using videoconferencing?
Does your report take a day to create – how much can you automate and speed up what you’re doing?
People sometimes equate time with quality and that’s just not the case.
Or even if it is, there is a problem with that approach.
The question is whether that quality is worth paying for.
Let’s take blogging as an example.
There are lots of people who create their content with care – who spend four or five hours on each post.
They interact with the WordPress editor, curate their images and sort out every last detail perfectly.
And maybe that matters in some sectors, and maybe it doesn’t in others.
For example, I don’t have four or five hours to write my posts.
I give myself an hour to an hour and a half every day to pick a topic, do research, draw a picture and write these words.
It’s not perfect – but it’s a process that works for me – and one that helps me create content most days in a year.
And that helps in other ways – as I learn more about the topics that interest me and get better and elements of the work.
Recently, I thought I’d try my hand at explaining what I do professionally by creating a comic
My first attempt tried to bring together various elements that go into the design of a comic.
One quite important element is the layout of panels – the boxes in which you put your text and images.
Now, you could draw them in a graphics editor using a mouse.
But I am not a big fan of anything that requires manual intervention – so I used the PIC programming language to lay out a set of boxes and create functions that could be called quickly.
It’s geeky – but it means you can create a page of panels set out with the right gaps in a matter of minutes – and that works for me because the one thing I don’t have is lots of time.
And you’ll find areas in your business where the things you take a lot of time doing manually can be done faster – but you might have to learn how.
And the beauty of doing as much of the process as fast as you can is that you then create the time to spend on what you really want to do.
If the small things, the details that take up your time are no longer an issue, you can then focus on using your time to add value – something that makes the most of your knowledge and skills.
The kind of value that is best added when you take your time.