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Tuesday, June 19, 2020

Why slowing down is the best way to get there faster

It may seem counter-intuitive, but it works just about every time.

Going too fast denies you the opportunity to exercise life’s choices in a deliberate and conscious way. The result is a series of decisions made mostly by a mixture of short-cuts, snap choices, and rules of thumb. Bad decisions too, since there was no time to consider alternatives or delve into the detail. Like someone driving down an unfamiliar road, in the dark, and the rain, and without lights, the result is pretty predictable. Take your foot off the gas and try slowing down enough to think about where you’re going and what might lie ahead. You’ll likely get there faster . . . and in one piece too.
Rushing denies you the power of choice. When you’re going as fast as you can, there’s no time to think about options or consider alternatives. You have to make all decisions at high speed and that means relying on what you already know or what has worked in the past. It means using rules of thumb and quick-fixes. It means ignoring the subtleties and complexities of a situation, because you simply don’t have the time to take them into account.

Rushing also simplifies—but not in a positive way. It simplifies the way that looking at something as you drive past at 70 miles an hour simplifies it. You see that it’s a person, or an animal, or a vehicle, but there isn’t time for your mind to register any of the details. All you get is a quick impression. So that’s all you can work with.

For example, say that you want to improve customer relations. If you’re in a rush, there won’t be time to check through any of the data available in any depth. The best you’ll be able to do is to grab the headlines and work with those, likely missing some of what really matters. You make a snap choice and set off in broadly the right direction, but without sifting through the options for the best path to take. As a result, you run into problems—then assume you are headed in the wrong direction. So now you go off some other way and throw yourself totally off track.

One of the worst aspects of today’s macho management is that it encourages decision makers to operate with a minimum of input. Haste forces them to work with summaries and headlines prepared by others. They rarely have the chance to explore the options for themselves. Even choices that might involve massive costs and huge potential profits or losses are taken on the basis of headline figures summarized on a single sheet of paper or a few PowerPoint slides.

Why should this matter?

It matters because the power of choice is immensely powerful. In fact, it’s one of the most powerful tools that we have for changing ourselves and our world in positive (or negative) ways.

Every time you make a choice—even a simple one—you alter direction and put yourself on a new path towards encountering something you would not have met had your choice gone the other way.

Imagine trying to find your way to a set point in an unfamiliar city. Each choice—left turn, right turn, go straight ahead—sends you on a slightly different track. It might be the right one, or the wrong one, or one in between: neither right nor wrong in itself, but sending you towards your destination more or less directly. Every single choice has an effect. Individually, none is probably irreversible or bound to stop you from reaching where you want to go. But cumulatively, a series even of marginally poor choices will send you miles off course, while a series of sound choices will get you to your destination quickly and without stress.

That’s what I mean when I say that slowing down is the best way to go faster. By slowing down enough to make every choice a conscious and careful one, you avoid snap decisions that might take you miles out of your way.

The cost of speed

Our modern obsession with speed not only robs us of our choices. In many cases, we’re going so fast that we don’t even notice that they were choices to make until it’s too late. The choices were there though—and they were made, perhaps by default or even unconsciously. All because you failed to slow down enough to notice all those forks in the road and concealed turnings.

That’s what Hamburger Management does to you. It substitutes speed and thoughtlessness for choice. It bases decisions on slogans (Quicker! Cheaper! More! More!) instead of careful, rational analysis. Everything is short-term because, at that speed, trying to look ahead to the longer-term means you have to take your eyes of the road immediately ahead for a moment . . . so you smash into the car right in front of you.

Why are so many people so stressed? Because they’re being forced to go along at a pace that makes them feel permanently out of control. Just a little faster and they’ll be certain to crash. It’s enough to make anyone feel tense and afraid.

Don’t join in the mad rush to do everything faster and faster. That crowd’s composed mostly of lemmings—and we all know where they end up. By slowing down, you’ll be safer, waste less time on wrong turnings and the subsequent corrections, and lower your stress levels into the bargain.



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