When you drive do you typically drive in the slow lane or are you in the fast lane? Are you the person who weaves between cars so you can find the fastest route, or are you the person who picks a lane and sticks to it?
We are habitual creatures, so each time we drive we are likely to take a similar path. Research confirms that much of what we do are habits, and consequently, how we approach each day is filled with patterns of repeated behaviour.
These patterns of behaviour will either be things we do quickly or things we do slowly. If you think about it, it’s quite easy to categorise activities that way.
- We have fast food, which in turn, reinvigorated the slow food movement.
- We think fast and we think slow (see Daniel Kahneman for more on this).
- We have fast exercise such as high intensity workouts, or slow exercise such as yoga or pilates.
By categorising the world into such opposing spheres it can falsely imply that one is better than the other.
There’s no doubt that a fast food burger is not as healthy as a slow cooked lamb or vegetarian casserole; so in the context of fast food think of Jamie Oliver’s 15 minute meals instead.
High intensity interval training is effective, so too is yoga and pilates. Our brain needs to make decisions at times quickly, and at other times more slowly.
There’s a time and place for being fast, just as there is a time and place for being slow. If you are all of one, and none of the other something will be missed.
When we are fast we are decisive, quick to act and typically focused. However, being fast can also mean we overlook things, take short-cuts or the easy way, rather than the most appropriate way.
When we are slow we are deliberate and considered. However, being slow can also be a mask for procrastination, inertia and idleness; none of which is helpful in achieving personal and work goals.
As with everything in life it’s a balance!
If you are always fast and busy – you miss what is going on around you. You don’t leave time to think and reflect. On the other hand, if you are always slow you run the risk of letting the world pass you by.
When it pays to be fast
- When there’s a crisis and a decision needs to be made decisively and quickly
- When being slow is really just you procrastinating or putting off doing something. Just get started. The motivation arises in the doing of the task, not the thinking about doing the task
- When you are on a deadline and work needs to get completed within a set timeframe
- When you know exactly what needs to be done and how to do it
- When there are multiple competing priorities and you need to quickly prioritise what needs to be done and in what order of action
- When you have huge amounts of energy that you want to burn off
When it pays to be slow
- When a decision is complex and requires contemplation and significant stakeholder dialogue
- When you need to research ideas and thoughts before reaching a conclusion
- When your head is full and you feel tired, and you need ‘down time’
- When you are experiencing the wonder of nature and all its beauty. It pays to take time to take in what’s around you and be in awe of the spectacle
Be fast and be slow. Both of them are useful when used wisely.
Change happens. Make it work for you.
Michelle Gibbings is a change leadership and career expert and founder of Change Meridian. Michelle works with global leaders and teams to help them accelerate progress. She is the Author of ‘Step Up: How to Build Your Influence at Work’. For more information: www.michellegibbings.com or contact [email protected].