Legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden would tell his teams “Be quick but don’t hurry.”

I think more people need to follow that advice.

Categories of people who need be quicker, without hurrying

Some people are slow because they haven’t practiced enough. For example, the surgeon who has practiced a particular surgery dozens of times will be quicker, which is great, but still shouldn’t hurry—Despite being expert, hurrying could result in cutting the wrong blood vessel.

Some people are slow because they’re insufficiently time-conscious. They just do their work. They don’t think enough about whether their way is the quickest way that’s consistent with good-enough quality.

Some people are slow because they procrastinate. As I’ve written ad nauseam, procrastination is a career killer. I see it day in and day out with my career counseling clients but it was presented most vividly to me when, in one week, I gave a talk to a group of unemployed people and another talk to a group of college presidents. I told both groups, “Raise your hand if you consider yourself a procrastinator.”  80 percent of the unemployed people raised their hand while only 10 percent of the college presidents did.

Some people are slow because they are laid-back by nature. It may help to remember that we all function within a range. If you’re phlegmatic, you may never be a speedball but at least at work, it may be worth pushing yourself to the top of your range, what, for you, would be quick without hurrying. That’s no magic pill but it strikes me as wiser than simply to accept yourself--sluggish people generally pay too big a price.

The following is difficult to write but I’d be omitting an important category if I didn’t mention that some people are slow simply because they’re intellectually slow, slow learners, slow at understanding things, slow at analyzing, slow at synthesizing. My honest best advice, the advice I’d give a close relative who is intellectually slow: Find work you can do relatively quickly even if it’s less prestigious than work you’d otherwise prefer.

The dangers of hurrying

Not only does hurrying make you more error-prone, it causes the physiological stress response: increased heart rate, blood pressure, and cortisol release, which, if it occurs often, over time, is unhealthy.

Also, hurrying deprives you of much of work's pleasures. Even mundane tasks can feel more or less rewarding depending on how you approach it. Let’s take an example that would seem to be hard to enjoy: You’re a supermarket bagger. Yes be quick about it but it takes just a fraction of a second longer to place the items in bags to maximally protect the crushables, a process you might enjoy if, instead of hurrying, you approached as a puzzle to solve.

The takeaway

Implementing the advice to be quick but not hurry is easier said than done. How we approach tasks likely has partial origin in our genes and has been developed and probably ossified over our lifetime. Indeed, despite my being aware of the dangers of hurrying, I'm too often guilty of it.

Nevertheless, in light of this article, is there anything on which you’d like to try speeding up but without hurrying?

Marty Nemko's bio is in Wikipedia.

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