Now or Later? Why Doing Something Today (Even If You Fail) Is Better Than Trying to Perfect It Tomorrow

What have you done today? No, I’m not asking you to recount the forecasts you’ve reviewed, and I don’t care about how many emails you’ve responded to or which management meetings you’ve attended.

What have you really done?

How many new ideas or opportunities have you explored? What actions have you taken against your biggest priorities? Which impediments or obstacles have you removed that will allow your sales and marketing teams perform more efficiently? What strategies have you put in place to help strengthen your brand recognition in the marketplace?

You’ve just had coffee, rewritten a press release for the 10th time, and spent countless hours in meetings trying to dream up the perfect strategy to sell the perfect product to the perfect market?

Yikes. Keep reading. It’s time for a wake-up call.

While you’re aimlessly spending your time searching for a sense of perfection that doesn’t exist (I’ve covered that issue in previous blog posts here and here), your strongest competitors are actually doing things that make them better. They’re operating with a sense of urgency that compels them to create, rather than ponder; execute and experiment, rather than repetitiously tweak; iterate and pivot, rather than bang-their-heads-against-wall, rest, and repeat.

In the intro post to this series, I mentioned three things that I believe supersede perfection. Operating with a true sense of urgency was one because I believe it drives action and success, even if failure is an occasional byproduct.

But “sense of urgency” might mean different things to different people. So, how do I define it?

  1. Your focus is on immediate impact opportunities against focal points
  2. You’re aware of great opportunities (and hazards) everywhere you go
  3. You feel a powerful desire to move and win NOW (not later today, this week, or this month)
  4. You’re driven by the positive emotions that success brings, rather than the fear of potential failure
  5. Your actions are aligned with your highest priorities
  6. You’re focused on removing impediments and ignoring activities that result in wasted time or resources

On the flip side, if you encourage frenetic activity (needless tasks that don’t do anything to immediately move the product or company forward) or complacency (thinking you’re doing fine, when you’re really stagnating) you’re not operating with a sense or urgency.

To put it more simply, doing something today (even if it leads to failure) is always more valuable than delaying an effort in an attempt to achieve perfection. As Will Turner writes in this post for, urgency is currency and “done,” in most cases, is better than perfect.

To that point, Cliff Kuang, the co-founder of Co.Design (the award-winning design and innovation subsidiary of Fast Company) shared an infographic in February that is definitely worth checking out. It’s based on the work of Bre Pettis and Kio Stark, two entrepreneurs who are self-subscribed initiates into the Cult of Done.

Based off of the 2009 Cult of Done manifesto written by Pettis and Stark, I think three particular ground rules from the infographic stand out:

  1. Banish procrastination. If you wait more than a week to get an idea done, abandon it.
  2. Laugh at perfection. It’s boring and keeps you from being done.
  3. Done is the engine of more.

So, I’ll ask this question again: What have you really done today? If you’re struggling to come up with an answer or you haven’t actually done anything, you may want to rethink the way you’re managing your time.

For more on how your definition of “sense of urgency” will evolve as you grow, I highly recommend reading this post from OpenView’s Tien Anh Nguyen.

Have a few novel tactics for fostering a sense of urgency within your organization? Please share them in the comments section below!

Brian Zimmerman
SVP Marketing & Sales

Brian Zimmerman was a Partner at OpenView from 2006 until 2014. While at OpenView he worked with our portfolio executive teams to deliver the highest impact value-add consulting services, primarily focused on go-to-market strategies. Brian is currently the Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing at 5Nine Software.
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