5 Reasons You’ll Win Faster if You Slow Down

The race goes not to the swift, but to those who keep on running.

There is a popular notion that if you can just work a little bit harder, a little bit longer, and a little bit faster, you can achieve anything. You can solve any problem. You can get anything done. Slow is the problem. Fast is the answer.

It’s a shortsighted approach to productivity. Yes, you can usually work a little bit harder, a little bit longer, or a little bit faster and get a little more done. The key there is the little bit. You quickly hit the point of diminishing returns, and you’ll get a lot less done if you push yourself too much.

Instead, take a lesson from Aesop’s tortoise: slow and steady wins the race.

Photo courtesy of © Adobe Stock / Kaspars Grinvalds

Here are five ways that going slow will get you across the finish line sooner:

  • Think the problem through to the end. One of the prime benefits of Begin with the End in Mind is that you know where the end is. Given where you are now, you know in what direction you need to go.

    How many times have you seen a project start with a frenzy of activity, only to have to regroup—or even start over—when someone realized that they were heading in the wrong direction?

  • Here and now might not be the right time and place. I know, it’s exciting to get started, and checking things off feels good! But before you dig in, ask yourself: Do I have everything I need to finish the task? Do I have enough time to make meaningful progress before I have to stop? If not, defer the task until later. Put it on the calendar if you can.

    Proper prior planning prevents poor performance. Brian Tracy

  • Measure twice, cut once. I remember watching my grandfather, a master carpenter, at work. As a six-year-old, I thought he was working unbelievably slowly. He was being deliberate, intentional, and checking his work as he went. When you cut a board in the wrong place, you might have to throw it away.

  • You’re not saving as much time as you think, if any. Pizza Hut has studied how much time you (don’t) save by driving ten miles an hour over the speed limit. Their conclusion? Even if you’re heading to the far end of the delivery area, you’re going to save less than 30 seconds. Red lights, speeding tickets, and accidents will usually offset any time you think you’re saving. Plus, it reflects poorly on your brand. It’s just not worth it.

  • You may decide to do something else. Have you ever gotten so caught up in the idea of doing something, that you never consider whether you should do it? Or even want to do it? Think it through. Plan it out. Weigh the alternatives. If you decide the opportunity costs aren’t worth it, the best time to stop is before you start.

    Having is not so pleasing a thing after all as wanting. It is not logical, but it is often true. Spock

It’s easy to get caught up in the fast pace of life. We want to be productive. We want to be the Hare, get things done, and get on to the next thing.

Going too fast will just slow you down in the long run, though. You’ll spend more time, energy, and resources and get less done.

The next time you feel yourself getting caught up in the frenzy of a productive life, take a step back. Pause. Breathe deep. Slow is fast; fast is slow.

Question: How could you remind yourself to slow down and not go too fast? Share your thoughts in the comments, or on Twitter, LinkedIn, or Facebook.

About

Colter writes software and blogs about personal growth and productivity. He lives in Silicon Valley (California) with his wife and children, recently took up golf, and watches mostly British TV shows.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic. For more information, see my comments policy.

  • Scott Miller

    One of the principles described in “The Toyota Way” (Liker, 2004) is “plan slowly – act quickly”. I’ve found from personal experience that jumping in to a project or problem without having a solid plan usually leads to disaster when the solution isn’t suitable. I now insist on spending an appropriate amount of time on planning before taking action, and the teams I’ve worked with have been very impressed with the results. I’ve spent up to a year in planning on certain projects, but once we had a plan in place the execution went very quickly (around 3 months for the project with a year of planning).

    One of the projects I’m working on currently, we’re using an iterative approach. Initial design was completed in less than a month, which was followed by an initial execution phase of around a month. We ran a second month-long planning phase concurrently with the first execution phase, executed the second month-long implementation phase, and now we’re into a rapid weekly cycle of planning and execution. Final completion is estimated at 2 to 3 weeks from now, for a total project time of just under 4 months.

    • That’s awesome, Scott! That’s a great way to make sure you think things through but still get things done.

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