My grandad used to say to me “if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right.” Needless to say, I didn’t often listen and would speed ahead as quickly as possible to get to my desired outcome, regardless of quality.
Which ultimately meant me coming back to the same task, to undo the work I had just done and do it properly this time.
I think we all do this to some extent. We are so focused on getting things done that we forget that time spent now, doing that thing, is an investment of time, it’s not a waste of it.
But instead, we chase the high of ticking things off our to-do list because that to-do list says nothing about quality. But if we race through life are we actually set to spend more time covering old ground and doing it properly the second time around?
Is there an argument to suggest that slowing down can actually speed you up in the long-run?
Brushing Your Teeth and Other Activities
Brushing your teeth is a good example. You race through your morning routine in order to tick everything off your list. From the moment you wake to the moment you walk out the door, it’s a whirlwind.
- Breakfast — check;
- Get ready — check;
- Make lunch, tidy up, walk the dogs, pack your pack, find your shoes — Check. Check. Check.
It’s a mad rush through all the events and when you finally get in the car you realise you’ve smudged your mascara and halfway down the motorway, it hits you that you left your lunch in the fridge.
All the effort you put into rushing round as quickly as possible to fit in as much as possible often doesn’t work out.
It’s often at a pace like that, you will forget something. It’s simply too much to be done in one morning. But you do it because if you’re honest you’re lazy. I know because I am too and if I’ve honest, my morning routine is shortcutting my nighttime preparations. Let’s be honest, you could make your lunch the night before but you want to watch the next episode of the series you are entrenched in (for me it’s currently Netflix’s The Fall).
You’re tidying up because last night after dinner you didn’t and now your worried the dog walker will think you live like an animal. Your shoes are missing because you didn’t put them back where you found them last time you wore them (turns out mum was right, we should put things back where we found them).
All this results in everything done half-way. Or ‘not a proper job’ as my grandad would call it. What then happens is you end up playing catch up. You have to buy lunch out because you left it in the fridge, or worse didn’t make it in the first place. You end up late because you couldn’t find your shoes so you have to stay later at work and hit the traffic. You end up forgetting something you needed for work so you have to do it again.
What often happens in an attempt to put things on fast-forward is we have to hit rewind pretty quickly. This extends to activities in work. How many times have you sent a quick email not really thinking about the message? Then to come back a day later to find out you’ve confused everyone and you now need to re-explain everything in a better, more coherent way.
You end up doing twice the work. If you slow down you might only need to do this thing once.
What If You Slowed Down?
What would happen if you just took your time in life? You didn’t aim to complete all your life goals in one year or more likely, one month and you just enjoyed what you were doing.
Instead of trying to fire on all cylinders, you chose one thing to concentrate on, one thing to master and once you find mastery you moved on. What if you stopped rushing through your morning and prepared the night before. You took the time to lay out your clothes for the morning, to check the traffic before you left and to make your lunch.
Well, life would look less chaotic for sure but I think you’d also find yourself moving further ahead and most importantly for a lot of us, we’d be getting ahead quicker.
Increase the Quality to a Level You are Happy With
Quantity with the complete ignorance of quality is flawed. It leads to a plateau quite quickly. Take writing articles for example. You could write 2 articles a day if you put your mind to it, at a time I was.
2 articles every day and both were complete rubbish. You’re just doubling the amount of rubbish you are putting out into the world.
I had an idea at 6 am, had written the article by 6:30 am and had posted it by 6:31 am. Now, when you are first starting any new habit, it’s important to keep the pace up. I think by far and away the most important thing is showing up. If you can master showing up then you can hone in your skill.
However, looking back at those articles they were worse than terrible. Grammatical errors, lack of structure, no thought behind the titles. All the things that could go wrong, did. And as a result, I wasn’t growing. I wasn’t growing in my writing style and less importantly (but still important) I wasn’t growing my audience.
I was putting out a good volume but a lot of rubbish.
In a sense, I was going backwards from where I wanted to.
And that’s the same with any endeavour. If you mindless go through your to-do list with the sole aim of getting things ticked off, you are missing out the intention. You are not concentrating on getting better you are concentrating on output. There is nothing wrong with focusing on the output but it needs to be to a level of quality you are happy with.
That level of quality for a platform like Medium needs to be fairly high if you want to get curated. Similarly, if you want to get customers, you need to provide a ‘good enough’ product for people to buy it. If you treat building a brand, a website or a concept as something on a to-do list you won’t go very far.
Decide on a quality you are happy with and don’t move away from that. Quantity is good but in the absence of quality, it is futile.
Being Present Means More Enjoyment From Your Activity
Another benefit of slowing down is that you get more from what you are doing. Reading books are a good example of this. When you have 52 books you want to read within the year and it gets to week 8 and you’ve read 2 books, you start to feel like you need to rush through each book in order to meet your goal.
Whilst your goal might be to read 52 books this year, you also need to ask yourself why. Why did you want to read 52 books this year? Was it just to say you’ve read 52 books this year or was it because you wanted to learn something, to gain some knowledge? I would hope it’s the latter.
If that’s the case your measured goal is now negatively impacting the ‘why’ behind your goal. What I mean by that is by mindless chasing this number you are forgetting why you are doing it in the first place, what your actual goal was.
Whether that’s to gain knowledge, enjoy yourself or whatever. You certainly won’t be doing that if you’re beating yourself with a stick because you’re not on track to 52 books read this year.
Enjoy what you are doing, squeeze every ounce out of it and don’t be held too tightly to goals that are having a negative impact on your ambition.
Retention of Information Leads to Quicker Growth
The more you learn from what you are doing, the more you absorb and retain, the quicker you’ll grow. That means you might need to read a sentence 17 times to fully understand what the paragraph is conveying.
That’s not a bad thing.
You don’t need to rush through the words on a page so you can say you’ve read them. The point is that you know what the words are saying, that you understand the message and that you take something from it.
The more you can retain from the things you read, listen to and watch the more you grow and then you actually get close to the real goal. It is really tempting to skip over words, to pretend that you understand in order to get to the end quicker. However, I think it’s wise to question what the ‘end’ actually is.
Is the ‘end’ finishing the book or is it understanding the content?
The more you understand the more you grow.
Wherever are in life, know it is long and you have the time to understand what you are reading, to take note of what’s going on around you and to spend time learning.
You don’t need to rush through everything, life isn’t a race.