When “urgent” isn’t


I was just reading about the making of Darkfall -- a good read for any gamer who dreams of making their own MMO, and who isn't? -- when a particular bit grabbed my attention:

We quickly learned the greek word “avrio” which means “tomorrow”. Whenever there is a problem that needs to be fixed asap, the natural greek reaction is “avrio… avrio”.

That's the wisdom of a millennia-old civilization for you. A bit of wisdom we have forgotten in our frantic drive for more. And "more" is the kind of god who demands human sacrifices... sometimes literally.

My worst customer ever was this guy who wanted an e-commerce website, and he kept coming up with demands. Not only that, but every new feature he requested was urgent. Urgent, urgent, urgent. (Naturally, he then failed to give feedback for weeks. "Urgent" only has one side, apparently.) He was also completely incapable of establishing priorities, so the project was full of incomplete modules that had been started, then abandoned as we kept chasing his latest fancy. One day I confronted him about it, and he admitted that none of his requests were actually urgent, he just liked to say the word.

I resigned from that job and never worked as an employee again. Nowadays, I'm either freelancing or consulting, specifically so I can say "no" when I smell this sort of disaster coming my way.

See, what the Greeks know is that when we want something right now it's usually the child in us not yet having a concept of time... or patience, for that matter.

But... but... what if something is actually urgent? Here's a simple and effective litmus test to decide it:

Pretty much anything else can wait. Sometimes enough for the problem to go away by itself. And if it doesn't, slowing down still improves your chances to get things right the first time around, and that's usually the fastest way to results.

Darkfall was 12 years in the making. No western publisher would have financed the project for even one fifth of this time. And they would have lost big time.