Do the first draft as fast as you can.

Do the first draft as fast as you can.


This piece of advice is simple, but it can save you a lot of trouble.

Oftentimes, when you are assigned new work, you do not necessarily have to start working on it immediately – maybe the deadline is still far away, or you know it won’t take a lot of time, or some other topic needs to be finished first.

When you get a new piece of work – do a report, prepare a market analysis, crunch some numbers in Excel, etc. – whatever it is, try to get the first draft done as quickly as possible. Even if it is a shitty first draft (either because you don’t have time to do a better one, or because you don’t have all the necessary information yet, still waiting for parts from a colleague, etc. etc.).

Do that shitty draft. Quickly.

The concept of the “shitty first draft” is not mine – it is from the book Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. It is a simple argument: acknowledge that the first draft will be rubbish. This actually makes it easier to get started. Better to do something that needs a lot of rework than not doing anything at all.

In a way, this principle works in consulting as well. Seeing how something comes to be – your calculations, your report structure, your storyline – will help you to…

  • make necessary adjustments – While it is still easy to do
  • quickly see what questions you still need to ask – before it is awkward to do so, because you reveal how long you waited to tackle the problem
  • identify what additional research needs to be done – while there is still time for it

So: get going on the first draft of any deliverable as soon as you can. It can save you a lot of trouble.


Depending on the type of document it might or might not be the right approach.


Like ConsulNetwork commented below, sometimes a first draft goes through multiple reviews fast, and a 'shitty first draft' although might just be a first draft to you, might reflect poorly on how others view your work - as shitty.   So the right expectation have to be set very clearly and sometimes with passing through so many hands, it's better to produce a somewhat decent draft.  


Another type of document that I would not bother with doing shitty first draft is project staffing plans LOL  The last CR I have to created went through 6 different drafts and it was just a waste of efforts (each version).   This was mainly due to management wanting to see something but without providing the correct timelines.


Florian, this is an excellent advise provided you are doing something for the first time. However, if you are doing something you've done before, I'd advise you prepare the first draft which should be the best effort from your end. In most consulting organizations, drafts go through multiple reviews. A good first draft reduces the time wasted on incorporating additional comments at various review levels.