Working Slowly

I don’t like outstanding or partially completed tasks. I work really fast to obsessively knock them off my list.

This has several downsides. I am not good on attention to detail, and I often don’t enjoy what I’m doing as much as I could because I am only thinking about getting it done.

Most tasks should be done as quickly as possible. But certain tasks are better when done slowly. I have sometimes carved out half a day or so to do some more mentally demanding kinds of work, but then when I get into it I can’t stop thinking in rapid fire task mode. I blaze through and get it done with time to spare, but that time would’ve better been used going slowly.

Now that I’m not a young man anymore, I’m finally learning to work slowly. I’m trying to gain some of that old man tortoise vs hare sort of methodical working wisdom. It helps a lot to just tell myself to take longer, treat each sub-task as it’s own thing worth thinking through, and relax about checking it off the list. Work that has no definite criteria of doneness – say designing a new website – is better done slower. If I do it fast, it might be good enough, but there will be a lot of value left on the table. Sitting in it for a while and enjoying the process of playing with it is better.

It’s hard for me to do this. I do find it helps if I put on relaxing music and have a cup of coffee or a glass of whiskey to sip. If I imagine it’s a weekend or holiday, it’s also easier. For some reason, working when I don’t have to work and when no one else is working makes it easier for me to work slowly.