Share this article:
Bookmark and Share

The 48-Hour Rule

We can all agree that business today is traveling "faster than the speed of thought." Yet, have we taken the time to acknowledge the skills and approach needed to compete in today's fast-paced economy?

Whether you're trying to promote an idea, solve a problem, or push a project forward, the tempo at which you operate will surely influence your ultimate success. We no longer have the luxury of extended periods of time to capture a market or command someone's attention because in today's economy everything seems to move at high speed. Time is the very commodity that is at risk today. We have more communication, more problems to solve and more opportunities than ever before. What are the new rules? How fast do we need to act? What failsafe methodology can we embrace to ensure that we are in the driver's seat, at least most of the time?

The "48-hour rule" is one key to success. The 48-hour rule, simply stated, stipulates that to more effectively seize a new opportunity you should follow up or perform an action within 48 hours after interest has been established. Why? Because after 48 hours momentum is lost. Mind share is gone. New problems have arisen.

The 48-hour rule is easy to understand but difficult to implement. Most people use a similar clock speed for every situation. How many times have you left a meeting with a list of action items firmly planted in the forefront of your mind only to return to your computer to find thirty new e-mails requiring your immediate attention? The fresh ideas and actions from your meeting go into the vortex of "to do's" crowding your digital organizer only to be acted upon at a much later time. Your advantage is lost!

How can you make the 48-hour rule work for you? Follow these six simple steps and you will begin to adjust your clock speed. In doing so you will differentiate yourself from the pack and reap significant rewards.

Steps to implement the 48-hour rule:

The first step is to acknowledge or agree with the concept. If you've never considered the issue of timing as it relates to capturing a competitive advantage, then now is the time to accept that Internet speed is driving our world. We need new rules to help guide us through cyberspace. As Bill Gates said in his book Business @ The Speed of Thought, "If the 1980's were about quality and the1990's were about reengineering, then the 2000's will be about velocity."

The second step is to analyze your current sense of urgency. How do you react to opportunities that arise with clients, colleagues or your boss? What is the typical lag time between an identified idea and action on your part? Have you noticed a difference between the times when you've acted right away versus the times when you've waited to respond?

Test the 48-hour rule. Pick a few important projects and take immediate action after meetings or after new ideas are introduced. Learn to prioritize those projects that are aligned to your goals. How does it feel? How do others respond? Do the results differ from times when you've waited three or four days (or more!) to act? Ask a couple of co-workers or your manager for feedback. Have they noticed a difference?

Commit to the 48-hour rule. It may be a subtle change from your current approach but as everyone knows, the difference between winners and losers can be as small as a nanosecond.

Share the concept with your employees, teammates and others with whom you work. Let them see you set the pace and how much is accomplished as a result. Create an environment of momentum, progress and speed.

Reap the rewards. Embracing the 48-hour rule will differentiate you with clients, colleagues and your boss. You will earn the reputation of a doer and someone who knows how to get to the end zone. In a world of lots of ideas but little ability to execute properly or expeditiously, you'll stand out.

It may take some effort to synchronize your approach over the long term. Start slowly and try one new concept at a time. As you gain efficiencies you will also gain time that will give you the momentum to continue.

-Lisa D. Magnuson

Author, "The 48-Hour Rule and other strategies for career survival".