Manufacturing urgency is a powerful tactic… and our organizations should use it more often.

Catwalk

About six weeks ago, just as I was starting a new role and barely beginning to get acclimated to what my new responsibilities entailed, I was asked to fill the vacant spot at one of my company’s conferences as a speaker on social media marketing.

Because being a go-to person on all things social media is a big part of what my new job includes, I wanted my content to be insightful… and perfect.

But I’m a procrastinator. And I’m a busy procrastinator. So, I procrastinated.

I figured I’d block off that week prior to the event and dedicate it to only my presentation, but that was ridiculously stupid. And my subconscious knew it. I just didn’t listen, as usual.

That week came, and naturally my meeting schedule filled up with other faux-urgent items, leaving me 72 hours prior to my session with about 30% of the work done.

While many would be insanely stressed, I (unfortunately) tend to work exceptionally well under pressure – even when forced to pull an all-nighter – and that always enables me to procrastinate, knowing I’ll pull my best work out when it gets truly urgent… like “Oh Dear Lord, I’m going to embarrass myself and look like an idiot” urgent.

My session, despite the lack of sleep, went off without a hitch. I was even invited to speak at other events as a result. For me, it was a success… and my best work came to light around 2am the night before (also is partly thanks to my presentation aficionado & feedback-giver @marcelosomers)

The point is, I did my best when things were urgent.

Each day… today included… I watch people filter out like ants on the catwalk at 5pm on the nose. There is no doubt whatsoever that to time your exodus from our HQ complex that precisely, you have to have been watching the clock without a break for quite awhile and darted out the door the second it struck quittin’ time.

That, to me, is the definition of a deadline-free, sans-urgent job. And I guarantee the work of those individuals reflects exactly that.

Everyone at our company is very bright and works pretty hard, to be sure. But as I type this, I’m sitting in one of my company’s large conference rooms, staring over into an empty building where our deveolopment teams are housed.  My building is empty too… except for about 30 caffeine-filled individuals here for an event we put on each year called HackDay.

HackDay is a 24-hour event for our coding ninjas to build whatever cool app, tool or program they have been itching to create all year, and this year I have the pleasure of coordinating the event along with @JeremyJohnson.

For these hackers, now is their time, and in 24 hours they have to create a live working product that will blow away the executive judges at tomorrow’s big live demo. Many of their hacks will spark new ideas with business unit leaders in the audience, and many of those will actually be introduced as real products.

It’s altogether possible we get more out of those 24 hours than many quarters out of the year. And it’s all based on a manufactured sense of urgency.

People respond to boundaries… to a chance at doing something important and doing that something important in superhumanly short amount of time. Overnight, they can become a HackDay Superhero at their company where they invest their time each day.

Tomorrow I can’t wait for us to crown the next hack hero and be introduced to what could be the next big thing for my company… and then propose we do it all over again on Friday. 🙂

-SKE

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