Faster Isn't Always Better: The Value of Slowing Down at Work
This is the age of speed dating, speed networking, speed yoga, and, yes, even speed meditation. It’s a time of rush-rush-rush in the attempt to do more, sooner, faster. But there doesn’t seem to be a great deal of evidence that packing in more actually achieves more. If squeezing ever more into your day isn’t enabling you to accomplish more—and to feel good about the more that you accomplish—perhaps some slowing down is in order.
This is not to say that laziness is the answer. But the very titles of books such as Book Yourself Solid and Business at the Speed of Now suggest that doing more and doing it faster is the ultimate goal—never mind that you burn out, make mistakes, and get sick in the process.
There’s an idea in progress called the Slow Movement that is designed to counteract the notion that faster is always better. This movement isn’t about slowing down to the point that you’re barely putting one foot in front of the other. Rather, it’s about seeking the right speed to do things, savoring hours and minutes spent rather than measuring and counting them, and doing things as well as possible rather than as fast as possible.
As compelling as the idea is, it’s not an easy one for most people to learn. As Carl Honoré, the key advocate of this movement, put it in his TED talk on the topic, everyone he talks to wants to know how to slow down, but they want to know how to do it quickly. He points out that we’ve become obsessed with speed, trying to cram more and more into less and less.
Even instant gratification takes too long. But, Honoré says, “we’re so marinated in the culture of speed” that we fail to notice the toll it takes on our lives, health, work, and relationships. And too often, it takes a wake-up call to achieve a different perspective.
The ways in which this Slow Movement can be adopted are numerous. But, as Honoré points out, slowing down is difficult. Furthermore, speed is fun, and in many cultures, slowing down has a lot of negative connotations.
Certainly, many companies are understandably fearful of the potential negative consequences of doing less. Still, cutting back on overtime, multitasking, and time spent in meetings can be effective ways of slowing down. Focusing on just one thing at a time is likely to improve productivity and benefit both an organization and its employees.
Honoré says he still loves speed, but he’s now living his life instead of rushing through it. As he put it, he’s gotten in touch with his inner tortoise.