Done Right Or Done On Time?

I encounter an interesting issue when coaching and speaking on self-organization:  which is more important, finishing something on time or doing it right?  I think it's a question important enough to address on the blog.

The answer, as you may guess, is "it depends."  However for your career, indeed your life, it's very important to know when "on time" is important and when "done right" is important.  Some tasks (perhaps many tasks) force you to confront these choices – including ones affecting your career.

My rules of thumb are this:

DONE ON TIME: Things that need to be done on time are those things where time is of the essence and whatever is dependent on said task won't happen unless it's done – even if it's not done perfectly.  An example myself is preparing presentation materials – I know I can take far, far longer to get them perfectly, but since I'm there at the presentation, I can make up for any issues – and I CANT take forever to get them right and miss my deadline.

DONE RIGHT: Are things that have to have a certain level of quality or there will be failure, and where quality is more important than a deadline.  This would be things that are vital to proper functioning and where you can't easily correct failure – a lot of software deployments fall into this area.

Learning to make the call between "do it right" or "do it on time" is a challenging part of life and career – but worth doing.  It also requires you to accept sometimes you miss a deadline – and sometimes you don't do things perfectly.  Then again, that's part of life.

Of course the WORST things are those that must be done perfectly right and done on time.  In that case . . . good luck.

– Steven Savage