Quick, but not rushed.
Get where you want to be faster, without the side effects. Redefining efficiency using the effectiveness of “begin with the end in mind.”
I’ve had this issue for a long time. At school, I am always the last in class to finish an exam. A year ago, in an art class, I went with my friends and their kids to make artful bags. We use colorful inks to print shapes of real leaves and flowers on the bags. You guessed it. I finished last. I am even slower than the kids.
I always think a lot when I do things. Sometimes I think it is an issue because that limits how many things I can do a day. Other times I am pleasant and proud that I do things slowly because my work is almost always more thought out and less error-prone than most. But damn, am I slow.
Slowness is a common disease
Yesterday a friend of mine said he found a way to avoid his procrastination. The trick is to do things quickly. He said he usually takes 30 minutes to trim his fingernails. I was shocked. He said that makes him put off the task again and again until he has those unbearably long witch nails. Well, I think I know why and he admitted this, too. He has the trait of a perfectionist. But this time, instead of getting stuck in his old habits, he realized perfection is not helping him at all. He decided to be quick on the miscellaneous things, and He felt light and joyful. Life is happy again only because the threshold of doing things is lowered dramatically.
Another friend told me she doesn’t like to shower, and she didn’t know why. So I asked her to examine the task from the gain-and-lost perspective. She found that the benefits she gains from a shower are not worth 25 minutes and the effort. But, after some thought, she said if the time and effort of showering is cut in half, she felt like doing it much, much more.
I personally struggle with my speed on many things. I certainly want to make my breakfast faster; I certainly want to stop wasting time on the internal debate before jogging; I certainly want to write every article faster to have more time working on other important stuff. The list goes on and on.
The true obstacle for me is probably two-fold —
- Before starting anything, I have a habit of dwelling on my thoughts and weighing on pros and cons all the time.
- During the process, I lost my focus on the goal of the task. And I often wander in thoughts and do secondary tasks for a good while before suddenly realizing I am not productive.
If you have similar experiences as I do, I have put together a group of perspectives that helps me view my way of working from an entirely different point of view, and perhaps this can help you too. Spoil alert — it really works.
- Distinguish what mode of thinking you should use —
From the book, Thinking Fast and Slow, I learned the concept that we all have two drastically different ways of thinking. A fast-thinking mind consumes low energy but makes many assumptions and is error-prone, vs. a slow-thinking mind that consumes high energy but is logical. It would undoubtedly be beneficial sometimes to use slow thinking on daily chores so that you can optimize it instead of always “going with the flow.” But that shouldn’t happen every day.
- Focus on the goal throughout and don’t get distracted —
I keep reminding myself that I need to finish the article first, so when I wanted to check the use of a word that I am uncertain of, I force myself to stop and skip because that distracts my train of thought. It’s too high a price to pay. Instead, I can do word checking and grammar correction much later when the structure and content of the article are there. But before that, the structure and the intent are the only focus.
- Fast always wins the race, given that you are not lazy —
In the story of the tortoise and the hare, slow and steady wins the race. But that’s because the hare is lazy! In today’s world, you have to be quick. For example, to start a technology company, you will become outdated soon if you don’t innovate faster than everyone else. Speed to see results matter. Don’t fool yourself and believe in slowness.
- Fast does not mean to rush it, but to finish what is necessary —
The wrong way to be fast is to put a lot of pressure on yourself and force yourself to do the exact same things quickly. That’s dumb. To be quick, what you really need to do is discard all that unnecessary things in your process and focus on what’s relevant to the goal. You actually don’t need to feel rushed, but to be focused and present.
- Be in the present and enjoy the task quickly so you can move on! —
Enjoy the process. If you do all of the above, you have your aim on the goal and are doing things that only contribute directly to the goal. You are not wasting any time, and you probably are improving faster than ever. Why would you need to feel pressured? You are already doing the best you could. So, enjoy the process. Suppose you are showering. Feeling pressure doesn’t make you scratch your back faster. Your arm moving faster is the key, and it has nothing to do with your emotion. Instead of feeling rushed, enjoy the warm water running down your skin while you move the quickest you possibly can. Enjoy it.
- Perfectionist vs. Progressionist —
With this approach, I do not care about perfection at all. What I care about instead is progress. Am I actually becoming a better writer? When I am laser-focused, I get much more out of every minute of my life, and my mind stops wandering around like a stupid zombie. I have more time to progress as a human being and not get stuck or feel bad for any of my old work. I am here to create.
This article itself is proof that this method works. I finished this one in 90 minutes from a blank paper to what you read now. It would have taken more than 5 hours if I had approached it the old way. I had the best experience writing an article since I started writing on Medium. I am focused and determined, and I enjoy the process of being quick and not being rushed. I find myself laying out points after points clearly and am excited to put them together. And when I started to put them together, I was amazed at how this process has been and how well my brain worked when the irrelevant was removed. It was mind-blowing. Nobody taught me this, but I suddenly realize my life can change with this new approach. To get more in life, I can be more effective by doing only the necessary things for a task and have extra time on other things I want to enjoy, too!
I used to be a believer in living your life slowly and elegantly. For example, if I am a tourist in Paris, I would choose to sit in a coffee shop and see people walk by the whole afternoon than running around and see 10+ tourist attractions. But what I didn’t understand is, the exhaustion I associate with going many places is an illusion made up by myself. I do not have to feel pressured to do anything. I can be quick and nimble simply because I am focused on the most important stuff and throwing away the bull poops. That is the result of me changing the way I view this problem. It was a great experience of a paradigm shift, where the behavior changes follow naturally.
If you find articles like this helpful, I hope you will apply them in your life.
Let me know how it goes. That helps me view these insights in a new light.