Anyone who launches a startup has a bias towards action. It’s a rare quality, but one that is absolutely essential if you’re going to build something where nothing previously existed. Procrastination is a dealbreaker – you’ll never get a beta up or gain users unless you do something.
There is pressure to constantly be doing things. We put this pressure on ourselves, because entrepreneurs are impatient; peers also put this pressure on us – our friends in “normal” jobs ask what we spend our days doing. For tech entrepreneurs, the “doing” is often coding. Pulling up Eclipse and immersing ourselves in code so we can add this or that new feature. It feels great when you finish it and it works.
But too often, we put so much pressure on ourselves to constantly be coding, marketing, or pitching our ideas that we forget a fairly important part of our jobs: thinking. Figuring out if the feature is really necessary. Determining if we should pivot. Trying to understand the drivers of success or failure.
Thinking takes time. Lots of time. It involves stepping away from the screen and working things out in our heads. It involves staring into space. And there is no tangible output – nothing we can point to and say, “I did that today.” But without thinking about what you’re doing, 99% of what you do will be for nothing. Because poorly thought out plans rarely work, and tech is hypercompetitive.
How many hours have people spent coding for nothing? How many additional features added nothing to a product (or perhaps even made it worse)? How many startups have built beautiful, functional products which failed because nobody needed them?
In our hyper-connected, realtime world, thinking is hard to do. You keep getting Twitter updates and emails which interrupt any reasonably complex train of thought. Buzzers and alarms go off. Google Analytics beckons you with real-time data. The number of distractions is limitless. And when you want to focus on something, it’s too easy to fall into the trap of doing something tangible at the expense of “doing” something intangible and abstract, but critical.
As entrepreneurs, we should focus more of our energy on doing nothing. Instead, we should think about the things we’ve done and the things we could do, and try to make better decisions when we do decide to sit down at the keyboard.
There’s nothing to show for it, and our to-do list doesn’t get any shorter, but at the end of the day, it may mean the difference between success and failure.