Slower May Actually Be Faster



We humans are so silly – and on top of that we’re fun to watch!  Here’s one thing that immediately comes to mind.  For some strange reason, when we’re running behind schedule we have a tendency to try to “make up time” by moving faster – or even driving faster.  Well, it only makes sense you say?  Faster means we’ll be able to accomplish more or cover ground more quickly and therefore of course, we’ll be more likely to accomplish our goals on our pre-established mental schedule.


Oh, really?


Let’s look at our personal, physical movements.  Here’s an example.  It’s Monday morning (yugggg…) and we need to be at work by 8:00 am.  This is not surprising news to us – we’ve known about it for a long, long time.  We also know that it normally takes at least 30 minutes to make the drive to our workplace.  Therefore, through the process of simple subtraction we know that to make it to work on time, we need to leave our humble abode no later than 7:30 am.


This morning (Monday, remember…) for whatever reason, we’re running behind our usual schedule.  Suddenly, we realize that it’s 7:25 and we still need to finish getting dressed, comb our hair, feed the cat, close the bedroom window because it’s supposed to rain today, turn off the TV, find our umbrella, find the car keys – and leave.  Damn…  We need to get movin’!  We need to HURRY!


Theoretically, it’s a good plan.  However, there are just a couple of drawbacks to this “hurry” stuff.  First, from what I’ve seen, our little brains are in the habit of operating at a certain speed.  It’s a personal thing.  Some folk’s thinkers work fairly fast while others of us process information more slowly.  Since our brain is ultimately responsible for controlling our physical movements, we normally operate (move around and do stuff) at a fairly predictable – and comfortable - rate of speed.


The need to “hurry up” moves us right out of our comfort zone and commonly as a result, our little brain starts trying to process information and at the same time control movements at a faster rate than normal.  So what happens?  Our brain signals start to get screwed up.  You know what I mean.  Getting dressed can turn into a major chore.  OK, where’s my shirt?  No, not that one – the other one.  OK, got it.  Belt?  Where’s the belt?  OK, got it.  Through the loops.  Faster… gotta hurry!  Need to feed the cat.  Where are those damn keys?  One more loop to go.  Window – can’t forget the window!  Cat.  Loop – last loop.  Umbrella.  Faster!  Oh, man… it’s twenty-seven after!  Socks – shoes.  Ok, buckle… crap, missed a loop… gotta hurry… faster… cat… keys… socks… umbrella… faster… faster…


Now admittedly, there are probably a few of us who are able to make the transition to a faster operating (brain processing) speed quite easily.  I think I heard that they’re living somewhere in New Jersey.  The rest of us however, tend to boink out rather quickly.  As a result, the really simple tasks that we can normally take care of in – oh, say four minutes – wind up being a major chore that we’re still struggling with ten minutes later.  This “hurry up” stuff has wound up costing us a whole bunch of time.


Now just for the sake of discussion and a quick look at the other side of the picture, let’s say we are actually able to move smoothly and logically at a more rapid pace than usual.  Let’s say we are able to get a twenty percent improvement.  That’s actually pretty good because when you get right down to it, it’s just going to take a certain amount of time to do specific things and nothing we do can help make it happen any faster.  Think about it.  How fast can you tie your shoes or put on a belt or comb your hair.  There’s a limit isn’t there?


So if we were able to make a twenty percent improvement on tasks that normally took five minutes… hot dang, we’ve saved a FULL MINUTE!  Call out the cheerleaders!  Call Channel 10!  Whoopie Dooo!!!  Be honest now.  Will 60 seconds really make all that much difference in your schedule?  I think not.  Somewhere between “here” and “there”, those 60 seconds will vaporize anyway.  (Should I remind you that you forgot to take a whiz before you walked out and locked the door?)  You get my drift…


I learned a long time ago that “hurry up” just doesn’t work out all that well.  I’ve found that if I just move at a normal, comfortable speed and logically transition from one task to the next (without becoming diverted by thoughts of things yet to be done), I’m able to finish what I need to do fairly quickly – and without any uncomfortable increases in stress.


Sooo… if you’re in the habit of trying to “hurry up” by moving faster – and you find that it’s not been working out that well for you – my suggestion would be to try the opposite approach.  Force yourself to slow down and let your brain work at its normal, comfortable speed.  No, you may not gain any time by doing this, but at least you probably won’t lose any and maybe more importantly, you’ll have minimized one more potential source of stress in your day.  That’s a very good thing, I’d say…




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