By Theodore Albanidis, Growth Lead at Beat
It has been a year now since I joined Beat, and without doubt, the ride-sharing market is the most dynamic and competitive industry I have worked in. Every day is a new challenge and every challenge is a new priority when you compete companies like Uber.
In the Growth team, we embrace this urgency and excitement by nature. Being at the first front of several markets’ growth, exposes us to a considerable amount of opportunities, but also requires us to stay extremely focused and take fast decisions.
While this is a very exciting and addictive environment, it can be overwhelming too. Trying to be on top of everything is not scalable, especially in a hyper-growth company, with so many opportunities arising on a continuous basis. For a fairly long time, I nurtured the idea that owning your domain was about being engaged in all battles on your field of expertise. Still, soon enough I realised I was just losing what really matters the most: the right focus.
For most of the companies, the main work objective — day in, day out — is to get the job done at the quality level required. That’s simple and clear as long as you stay in the boundaries of your job description and work in a slow-paced industry. But this assumption does not apply when you work in a hyper-growth company, with so many challenges to take up and having to balance quality with speed.
So how can you do a good job under these conditions?
This question kept me awake for several weeks. Focusing on that and discussing it with my team, helped me to realise some simple truths that gave me a different perception of the situation.
You can’t get all things done
I’m a control freak. I like organising things with the most efficient processes and tools. I find — a great yet concerning — satisfaction thinking that every situation is manageable and under my control.
All my previous positions encouraged this false assumption, as I always managed to be super efficient at handling my workload. But working in a hyper growth company brings along an insane amount of tasks to deliver, decisions to make and details to be taken care of.
And it keeps coming. The excitement of your fist days at the job might lure you to think that you will manage it and that you are in control. But sooner or later, you will realise that your list of super important priorities is just getting longer, no matter how many hours you have worked today.
But it’s ok.
It is only fairly recently that I realised that this has nothing to do with me or the tools and processes I use. Working in a fast paced company will always bring more things to be done that you can actually do. And that’s good news: it means that the business keeps growing.
As soon as I accepted that I don’t control my workload, I got relieved from the obsession of getting all things done. And it felt so good. It made me to change my perception of what doing a good job means, and helped me to focus on the real priorities.
Work is not about time
Some truths are so obvious that you only realise them when you say them out loud. One of them, is the inherent characteristic of work: it never ends.
Imagine one task of your daily to-do list: say work on a new market launch. The very next thing you might think is, “how much time will it take to get this done?” and then you might come up with an absolute number of minutes or hours needed to complete it. But what this number means?
Spending one hour or two on the same task will not define if you will be able to do it or not, but how much you want to focus on it and how deep you want to dive into it. You could spend 10 minutes, one hour, or the whole day on the same task, just to realise that you can still find new things to do.
At the end, the choice is always yours.
Going back to the example, you might think of your “market launch” task as: “I’ll spend one hour to draft the first timeline or I’ll spend two hours to draft the first timeline and work on product requirements.”
Stop thinking about how much time you will spend on your tasks and focus on what you want to achieve today.
You need to pick your battles
So here you are; work increases heavily and you can’t control it. Sounds awful, right? Actually, that’s great news. These two simple truths highlight that you shouldn’t worry about your long to-do list anymore. Forget your checklist, the to-do list or your most efficient google chrome add that will remind you how late you are during the day.
Pick your battles.
In a fast growing environment, what matters the most is not how much work you produce, but what its impact is on the business. And this is directly connected with the amount of focus you give to the real priorities of your job. Who cares if you ticked all the boxes of your to-do list, if the market launch you prepared is weak? No one does and you should not either.
Picking your battles means that you concentrate on the things that matter the most for the company, the things with the greatest impact.
Be aligned with the company’s objectives
Focus is not enough though. You could have identified a long list with the most impactful tasks to do for the day, while you could still miss the real priorities by not aligning them with company’s rest of priorities.
It is quite easy to define the work objectives of your team. But the truth is that what matters the most for you and your team, is not always in line with the company’s priorities. As a result, you end up working for yourself with an agenda of priorities that has nothing to do with the company’s objectives.
You need to know what your company is striving for and make sure your focus is around that. If you are unsure about its objectives, talk to your in-line manager up to the CEO. At the end of the day, you need to know what is the company’s North Star KPI that will help you measure how you are doing against these objectives.
Stop worrying about your workload and things that need to be done. Think priorities in terms of company’s objectives and work around that. Be happy for the things you did today, but be even more excited about the impact that your work will have tomorrow.
If you feel stressed or worried, remember: the universe doesn’t give a f*** about you.