I’m doing a content inventory and I notice that some white papers have the client’s old logo on them. My first impulse is to fix them — “I’ll just apply the new template. Won’t take 5 minutes.” — even though I know full well that a content inventory has nothing to do with evaluating or fixing the content.
I’m handed a 50-page book to edit. Midway through page 1, my right hand begins twitching as I resist the impulse to grab a red pen and start making corrections — even though I know full well that a good editor reads the document through, learning about the author’s style and the conventions followed, before making corrections.
It probably has a name, this impulse to tackle a big job by whacking away at little bits of it. But I don’t know what it is. I must not be the only person who’s afflicted by it. But only recently have I begun thinking about why I’m afflicted.
Is it because I’m anxious to see results, results with tangible, bottom-line value? I think so. A content inventory doesn’t produce bottom-line value. It’s the first step in a process — sometimes a long process — that eventually produces a lot of bottom-line value. But by itself, it doesn’t produce any value. Just a spreadsheet.
If I’m so anxious to give the client bottom-line value, right now, is it because I don’t trust the client to understand the true nature of the project? Do I think they won’t be patient, that they’ll demand immediate results, even though I explained that that’s not how it works?
Or is it because I’m impatient myself? Do I need to see some bottom-line value before I feel comfortable that the work I’m doing is worthwhile?
Fortunately, years of experience (I no longer look like the youthful guy in the picture) have taught me to recognize this impulse to produce immediate results, so that I can keep it in perspective. But I still fight the temptation to open up the Word template, or to grab the red pen.
Does this resonate with you? If so, what strategies have you developed for dealing with it?