skip to main content

Right Away

I was having breakfast with a friend (before the coronavirus shutdown), and my waiter asked if I’d like a cup of coffee.

My response was “Yes,” to which the waiter replied, “Right away.”

My coffee was delivered 20 minutes later, which got me thinking about the meaning of “right away.”

Right Away

Webster’s dictionary defines the phrase right away as:

without delay or hesitation: immediately

Most of us would concede that 20 minutes to receive an ordered cup of coffee was not “without delay or hesitation,” and it was certainly not immediate.  I’m sure the waiter intended to deliver the coffee quickly and pronto, but something, or someone, interceded and took priority over my cup of java.

As business leaders and entrepreneurs, how frequently do we allow our intentions to do something right away interfere with us doing a good job of managing our work?

Right Away and Business


The automatic and unintentional use of phrases such as “right away” tends to have a deleterious effect on our business processes.

Many business leaders have difficultly enough finding time to get their jobs done timely.  A typical workday begins with good intentions but quickly dissolves into a nonstop barrage of questions, requests, and problems only to discover that the day is finished with nothing accomplished.

It is our response of “right away’ to the questions and requests that we lose our battle to organize and fulfill the actual requirements of work.

We allow a simple question followed by a “right away” to immediately overthrow our priorities with little or no forethought.


The response of “right away” (or some other equally nuanced response) is most frequently delivered quickly and smartly.  Image a military officer issuing an order, and the immediate reaction is an instantaneous “Aye, aye sir” or a “Yes sir,” followed by a crisp salute and a snap of the heels.

No forethought or questioning involved.

Someone pops their head into your office, asks if you can do something, and you respond “right away.”  With no reflection, consideration of a to-do list or calendar, or follow-up questions, you changed all your priorities for the rest of the day, possibly the rest of the week.

By having “right away” as part of our vernacular, we, as business leaders and managers, allow our judgment to be compromised by the desire to respond, to be helpful, and to be seen as a team player.


We work to manage our businesses with useful information.  Unfortunately, we are often bombarded with more information than necessary, which at some point becomes bland noise rather than data.

By responding with “right away,” we prioritize the request over any information we may already have at our disposal.  The request is the noise to which we allow to take priority and subsequently deprioritize what was previously more critical.

We need to learn to filter out the noise, or the requests, and keep focusing on our original priorities.

Avoid “Right Away”

Here are several uncomplicated steps to remove the attitude of “right away.”

  1. Never respond with “right away.” Furthermore, when you make a request, and you receive a response of “right away,” question the responder.  Do they really mean you will get your cup of coffee immediately, or do they mean it is forthcoming in the not-to-distant future?
  2. When given a request, take time to reflect. Take a deep breath, think through all your priorities, and provide an honest time when you will respond.  If the request is genuinely urgent, your decision at that point is whether to allow this person to change your priorities or not.
  3. Set your filters early. Establish what types of requests will be noise, and what requests will become information.

The Bible

In Proverbs 31, we find a “woman of noble character” managing her family and running a business, all effortlessly. She runs a business, gets up early, takes care of her children, and keeps her house spotless.

If we don’t read Proverbs 31 carefully, we may deduce that being a Godly “woman of noble character” requires doing ALL the things and doing them all well.

But, from Proverbs 31:27, we read.

She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.

The Hebrew word for “looks well” actually means to “guard like a watchman.”

In other words, she attentively guards the goings-on of her life and household.   She can appear to do ALL things, because she never agrees to “right away.”  By avoiding over-committing, she is able to get the things done she needs to do.

We need to learn to “look well to” our affairs in our businesses. 

Stop making unintentional commitments by agreeing to do something right away.  Avoid using “right away,” and you will find that your productivity will soar.