Needs vs. wants

The leadership at Collegewise had a mutual realization this week—we were starting to become too ASAP-driven.

Not in the work that our counselors do with students—great counseling demands that we balance the reality of application deadlines with the counseling discipline to be deliberate, thoughtful, and precise in our work with students. But over the last several months, we were increasingly having too many internal discussions that ended with the pressure of getting something done as soon as possible.

Being decisive is important in running a good business. Too many companies use meetings as a proxy for progress where the only decision made is to have yet another meeting.

But when too many new ideas, pitches, or initiatives begin with “Can we have a quick call to discuss?” and end with “How soon can we get this done?” you eliminate necessary thinking in the pursuit of the doing. We start our application work early with students because both the experience and the outcomes are much better without the pressure of pressing deadlines. Why were we imposing that pressure on ourselves in cases where it wasn’t necessary?

ASAP-for-everything is akin to saying that everything is equally important. And that’s just not true. We all want things done sooner rather than later. ASAP is implied. But we’re not firefighters or emergency room doctors. There are almost never dire consequences if we don’t act now. Nothing bad will happen to anyone if we wait a few days or even weeks. That’s not an excuse to be lazy. It’s the freedom to prioritize and to decide what truly deserves our time and attention today. Better to do what’s actually important than to chase what’s been indiscriminately labeled with ASAP.

It’s only been a few days since our team’s ASAP-realization, and I can already sense a change in our conversations and our focus. We’re still working just as hard. But we’re also learning that hard work and a sense of calm keep even better company in our company than hard work and a sense of urgency do.

Is your work, club, or organization too ASAP-focused? Are you treating everything as an equally pressing priority today instead of choosing those things that will best help you move forward tomorrow?

Just because you want something now doesn’t mean that you need it now. And it’s almost always more pressing to address your needs before your wants.