Are you good at getting things done quickly? Or are you known for being slow and methodical? It seems to me that in this fast-moving world it is the first of these skills that is most appreciated. However, I will be making the point in this piece that there is a need for both these states. The trick is how to be good at both.
It’s holiday time in the office and many of us are focused on trying to get things cleared up before taking leave. Have you ever noticed how productive and selective you can get about work when the holiday season arrives? Wouldn’t it be something to maintain that kind of momentum the rest of the year?
It’s not really possible of course as we need time and space to re-energise and keep sharp. When we work at peak levels we need time to recover and recreate otherwise we suffer burn out. The advent of cut-backs and shortages sometimes means that fewer workers have more to do to make up for the shortfall in staff and resources. It is too easy to simply ask workers to relentlessly push harder and faster. That’s not how we are most productive.
The French have a saying, “reculer pour mieux sauter” – which means taking a step back to be able to jump better. When did you last take a step back to measure up the job and consider ways of doing it more effectively? If you haven’t, would it help if you did?
What’s that I hear? Too busy? Not enough time? Have to get this done!
Tell me, if you haven’t enough time to get it right, first time, where do you find it to do it right next time?
Don’t get me wrong here. I am all for a proper sense of urgency and occasionally we simply have to pick up the pace. We can put ourselves into that frame of mind by simply moving faster. Taking the stairs more quickly or taking a brisk walk away from the desk often does the trick for me.
But I am also a fan of slow food and taming the pace of life. When I take breaks and slow down an interesting thing happens. Ideas come. And some of these ideas help me work smarter.
The fable of the race between the tortoise and the hare comes to mind. The tortoise won.
I thought about this today on my way home from work. If you drive then you’ll know that you have to change speed many times to match the particular speed limit for the area you are in. That might be 30 mph through town; 20 around schools; 50 mph on the open road and a max of 70 on the motorway. Yes, there are maximum speed limits. Here’s the thing: My car can travel much faster than the top speed permitted, so there are other factors to bear in mind. Safety for one!
And so with the workplace there are times when we need to slow down and other times to speed up.
What would help you speed up sensibly in your area of work? Will you practise it?
I decided to pick up momentum writing this piece; aiming to have it written, checked and posted within 45 minutes, (I usually take twice that time). I have a minute or two to go then time to slow down.