You’ve probably heard the phrase, “go slow to go fast.” I sometimes say it to Clients and participants in training. I remind myself of this truth occasionally too. Why? Because too often we are in such a rush to get the next task done that we end up spending more time doing it – or getting poorer results – than was possible.
In our zeal to finish, we start too soon and too quickly.
I see this in training situations all the time. I’ll introduce an exercise in a leadership, coaching, team-building or other type of workshop. The exercise will provide participants the chance to build something or work as a team to complete a task. At the end of the simulation, there are always comments about the importance planning. This insight is raised even when the exercise forced people into a planning period. I often find that people are so ready to start “doing” that they won’t plan, even when that is all I’ll let them do! They spend their planning time trying to convince me to let them get started.
They don’t see planning as action.
When Should We Go Slower?
You likely already know the times when you dive right in, only to wish later that you had spent a little more time in planning. Here is a short list of situations where people would benefit from slowing down:
At the start of a meeting – we spend too long on issues because we haven’t clearly determined what we want to accomplish.
At the start of a project – we are overwhelmed by the size and scope and consequently, move immediately into taking action, rather than building an adequate plan or a strategy.
When forming teams – people end up being confused as to their roles and the goals for the team.
When gaining agreements – we think we have agreement so we move on – often too quickly – to implementation, only to later find misunderstandings, hard feelings or other issues impeding progress.
When identifying problems – we don’t get our problems identified clearly enough.
When preparing presentations – how often do you wish you had prepared or thought through a presentation a little bit more, once you had done it?
Ways to Overcome the Urge to Go Faster
Since we are all busy and everything may be telling us to move faster and get on with it, having some ways to remind ourselves (and others) of the importance of slowing down at the start may be helpful. I recommend the following four ideas to help you fight the activity urge, and make sure the activity, when started, is focused and you are well prepared.
Remember the Pain. Think back to one or more times when you wish you had planned more or prepared more. Remember the frustration, challenges, rework and pain that those situations caused you. Being mindful of the times when we haven’t done what we know we should – and the negative consequences that resulted can keep us from repeating the process.
Think of the Gain. Think of a time when you were disciplined enough to gain clarity, get focused, and be better prepared. Remember the confidence and greater results that came with that decision. If you are working in a team, share these experiences with others, and resolve to gain those same benefits again.
Consider it an Investment. One reason people move into action so quickly is that they think their time is so limited. We are all busy, and the timeline to complete a given task may seem short. Remind yourself that the time spent in thought, preparation and practice will be time invested in better outcomes. We don’t like to lose or waste our time (or money), but we also know that investing our time and money is a wise choice. Going slow at the start is an investment, not a cost.
Trust the Process. Once you’ve decided to go slower at the start of a new situation, fight the urge to stop and move one to action. Your time investment may only be a few minutes, but trust yourself that it is the right thing to do. Trust the process.
Specific Ways to Slow Down
There are many things we can do to help us slow down and prepare for greater results. Here are four that you will be able to apply to a wide range of situations.
Plan. The thing I have mentioned the most often in this article is planning. Most people will benefit from more time in planning. For the Type A’s reading this (you know who you are) remember that planning doesn’t have to be a long process. For a major project, there might be a significant investment in planning, but other things the plan might be a ten minute conversation.
Prepare. Be ready. Think through contingencies in your mind. Test ideas out. Run through the meeting and the things that could go wrong. Make your preparation as life-like as possible and it will be even more valuable.
Reflect. Slow down enough to reflect on past experiences. Slow down enough do the suggestions above. Most of us don’t reflect on our days and experiences as much as we could. Reflection is a way of slowing down, and yet gaining great insight to help us speed up in the future.
Learn. Time spent listening to and learning from the experiences of others, whether in a magazine article, a book, at a conference or over a cup of coffee, is one of the best ways to prepare us for greater success. It might not feel or look like activity on your project, but it will be one of the best investments you can make.
Action is a wonderful thing, and certainly we can’t plan or prepare forever. But we will find ourselves, our teams and our organizations more successful when we invest the time to better understand the task and the approach we might take. Though a paradox, when we go slow at the start, we will go faster (and further) when the race is through.
I know you are busy. But resist the temptation to start acting immediately.
Go slow to go fast.