Each organization (each person), has their own definition for these words.
How your organization defines these words says a lot about its culture.
Does urgent mean before lunch today, sometime later today, or just this week?
How about immediately? Before noon? Today? This minute? Now?
How is now defined? At this moment? Sometime today? Is the customer on the phone now, waiting for our answer?
How soon is this due? Soon? Is that this week, next week? Next quarter? Or is soon the word your manager uses for a non-specific point in the future when something good is supposed to happen…but rarely does?
Quick, tell me how your department defines quick. Is quick the same as now? Is it the word someone uses to interrupt your train of thought so you can answer their question…usually preceded by the word “really” as in, “really quick, can you tell me the cost code for that department?”
We’d all like a timely response to our inquiry. Is that now, next week, next month, or next quarter? Isn’t timely the thing we say when we’re trying to be official with someone…sort of channeling our “inner lawyer,” to give ourselves a bit more time?
Consider how the definitions change, depending on the time of year. Are we approaching the end of the month, the quarter, or the year? Are we on track to hit our goals (whatever they are)?
Is the boss stopping by today? This week? If so, does that create a new definition for soon, or urgent?
These words define the rhythm, even the “musical” timing of an organization. Find yourself out of step with that rhythm and you’ll be making noise instead of music.
You might move faster than your organization. This is great at first but generally leads to frustration as you wait for the organization to catch up with you. Imagine if soon means within 30 days to you, but the same word means sometime next year to your organization.
On the other hand, the organization may move at a faster pace than you prefer. Everything is urgent and immediate. You feel like you’re behind all the time, barely able to catch your breath.
In these situations, you have a challenge (and an opportunity):
- convince the organization to move at your pace, or
- modify your pace to match the organization, or
- find an organization that already moves at your preferred pace.
As impossible as this challenge sounds, time alignment is critical to your long-term job satisfaction.
The question is: Are you making noise or music?
The answer lies in aligning your definition of time.