I’ve always been a pretty (okay, very) type A person.

So, when I began my chosen field of public relations more than 15 years ago, working with expediency, purpose and with an eye for deadlines came relatively naturally for me. But as I transitioned from working at a high-tech PR agency into working in the tech/B2B corporate world, it became blatantly obvious to me just how much the go-go-go nature of the agency world has ingrained such a crucial sense of urgency into everything that I do…and just how important it is to work in this way.

To me, working with a sense of urgency means three things:

  1. You work with intention and purpose
  2. You understand the importance of the work you are doing and how it likely rolls up into larger company-wide initiatives or goals
  3. You prioritize and know when to say ‘no’

In the digital age when so much happens so fast, we no longer have the luxury of time because things change so quickly. We must be able to quickly adapt to succeed. For example, in my field, operating with a sense of urgency could mean the difference between landing that interview with Wall Street Journal you’ve been working on for months, and missing it entirely. It can mean knowing when to ‘clear the decks’ and focus on that big launch and all the pieces that go with it – the FAQs, the email communications, the press release and the list goes on. It also means knowing there will be times when you just have to drop everything, rejigger your to-do list and get what needs to be done first and now, done.

I also consider sense of urgency a mindset – and when working at a company where relentless results and obsession with customer value are two of our hallmark core values (results, relentless and teamwork), a sense of urgency is required to live these values every day.

While sense of urgency often ‘gets the job done’ faster and successfully, there are lessons to be learned:

  • Sense of urgency doesn’t mean faster is better. It means operating towards the priority or end goal in sight to achieve results or success. In other words, busy work does not equate sense of urgency.
  • Faster for the sake of fast doesn’t cut it. Sometimes doing things quickly yields mistakes or errors. The point of operating with urgency is truly just working with intention and knowing what to prioritize first.
  • Just because it is urgent to someone else, doesn’t always mean it is urgent. Look, we all have things we prioritize because we want to get them done. But does someone else’s priority or deadline automatically make it yours? Not necessarily. This is where the purposeful ‘no’ comes into play. It is that time to step back and evaluate the order in which things need to be completed to achieve a common goal or outcome.
  • Consider deadlines ‘padded. If you put a deadline of November 30, for example, for a project to be done, shoot to get it done by the 25th. Why? Because that deadline should be when everything is complete and approved, not just ‘done.’ If I give myself a deadline, I always pad it by a few days for this very reason. I believe if you finish something on the deadline, you’re late. Because there are always changes to be made, approvals to chase, and so on.

I truly believe that high-performing organizations, teams, and people thrive by operating under a sense of urgency mindset. And, when you surround yourself with those that are cut from the same cloth – sense of urgency begets success in a high-paced, ever-changing and highly competitive industry. You need to mirror the environment you are in, and often, almost everyone’s environment these days is fast-paced.

So, what do you think? Do you consider sense of urgency learned or ingrained? Do you think it’s important to success?