Slow, slower, slowest

Slow, slower, slowest

 “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”, said Abraham Lincoln. In this case 66% of the total time is spent on preparation, only 34% is related to the execution. How can we find the right balance between thinking how to work efficiently and getting things done?

Quite often being slow is perceived negatively. Synonyms for slow are for example: ‘lazy, passive and quiet’. Thinking before acting seems to make you slower than others who are starting immediately to act. I said seems, because at the end the person who thought about how to execute the request might be faster at the end because of efficiency gains.

Finding the right pace for the things we do is about balancing the time needed for preparation and execution. You don’t want to spend too much time on preparation because it’s postponing results and you just don’t want to execute because it can make you counterproductive in the end.

Daniel Kahneman’s book Thinking, Fast and Slow refers in this scenario between System 1 and System 2. System 1 is the automatic pilot, referring to the action. The second system is the slow one, the one where we start to think about how to act. Some instances require system 1 and some does require system 2. Depending on the situation you might want to act quickly and other situation you need to review before to start making conclusions.

Imagine you’re driving in your car, very slow, which helps you to oversee the road and avoiding accidents. Same time, you might cause accidents, because people start pushing you to the speed limit, are annoyed and do dangerous overtaking maneuvers. Driving faster, might avoid the second situation, but you are not able to oversee the road as careful as in the first situation.

So how do you decide what is the right speed? You might use system 1 only, reading the speed limit and act towards that. You might also use system 2 taking into account, e.g. weather conditions, the amount of cars driving in front of you and the luggage you have in your car. This makes your driving may be slower or faster than others. Judging the situation takes time, but at the end it can give you a better result: arriving save at home.

Back in your office, do you want to drive fast or slow? How do you determine the right pace of developments and changes?