The Beauty in a Good Shovel Test

I used to work for an Archaeologist after college. If you haven’t spent a day digging, let me tell you, it’s hard work. Every “shovel test” (hole) has to be precise, your walls have to be straight and clean, and you have to keep digging till you hit sterile soil (a layer with no evidence of human occupation or activity.) This talented archaeologist, my boss, taught me several things; among them was “work smart, not hard.” Now this may not be novel to you, but as a 20-something fresh out of college it was mind-blowing. She taught me to keep your walls clean as you go, measure a few times because it’s hard to adjust after the fact, and to keep your head up. It’s difficult to see that you are off course if you are only looking down.

I bring this up not because I want to brag about my failed attempts to be an archaeologist, but because of the value in the statement, and how many people forget this simple rule along the way.

Now, I work in Atlanta Tech Village, a hub of entrepreneurs trying to come up with the next new thing. Every day I see people, (I’m one of them), working long hours, downing coffee, and overall living at their desks/computers. We all feel if you work hard and put in the time, with a great idea, you will “make it.” Sometimes that is absolutely the case, and sometimes you are just working hard.

I find in this environment it can be about “just getting it done” instead of sitting back and taking a breath to decide if it even really needs doing, right now. Having a plan can be crucial. In marketing, what I do, I feel that working without a strategy can be wasteful and sometimes even damaging to your company brand. There are countless facets to most businesses: accounting, scheduling, technology, client work, etc. and all of these aspects require a thought-out plan. We can all get caught up staring at the ground below us and forget to focus on the direction we are going.

Make a plan, and try to stick to it. Yes, the occasional tree does end up in your shovel test line but that’s when you go around it and start on the other side. There’s a reason you and your partners decided that “blah” needed to happen before “meh.” Plans can also be viewed as “to-do” lists, and who doesn’t like crossing items of those.

Yes, plans change. Most entrepreneurs hate the word pivot, I know I do. However, pivoting is simply reacting to new and more data. Build a strategy, a plan, or even a to-do list so you are working toward something, not just being busy. My mentor reminds me regularly, “don’t confuse activities with results” my suggestion -aim before you swing for the fences.

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