Time is the enemy. There’s so much to do, precious little to do it in. Factor in time needed for little things like eating, sleeping, and the little maintenance tasks we must do to keep alive, and it’s a small wonder anything gets done. So, we rush. Run to catch the train. Grab breakfast on the way. Get your work done as fast as you can. Take a short lunch. Eat at your desk. Work some more. Run to catch the train. Heat something up for dinner. Rush rush rush. It’s the only way you’ll have time for yourself.
Must it be this way? Especially with creative work, the axiom still applies: “Fast, cheap, good. Pick two.”
If you want something done fast, and you want it to be good, it won’t be cheap. In your working life, the cost is your own energy, and you only have so much of that to go around. The result is that, after you burn off the easy energy, your work begins to decrease in quality—as does your life. Mistakes slip in. Little ones. Big ones. The less energy you have, the more the pressure is on to rush, the more likely you’ll fuck up. If you’re lucky, you, or someone else, will catch the mistake, maybe even fix it. If you’re unlucky, lives are in the balance.
Most of us are lucky.
And the cycle continues. Rush. Sleep less. Rush. Work harder. Do Bob’s work. Do Velma’s work. Do your work. Work overtime. Work from home. Work Saturday. Work Sunday. Run yourself ragged, make more mistakes. As this continues, the mistakes get bigger, as do the blind spots. It’s done. Next thing. Go. Run. And in the back of your mind, or even in the front of your mind, a part of you is screaming for a solution. You work harder, trying to get ahead for a bit, so you can take a day off. Maybe a week. Vacation. That’ll help, right?
It feels that way for a while. Then you come back, and everything is piled up. You have to catch up. Do the work you missed, and the work that is coming in, and the work that your co-workers aren’t doing, because they’re on vacation now. The deadline is looming. Can’t push it back any further. Ship or die. Run.
And you ship. And then you find out about all the little things that you, and everyone else missed. You were too busy, too close to the metal, and moving too fast to see the mistakes that piled up. And that pile needs to be fixed.
And the cycle starts again.
This happens to all of us. It happens at the top of the org-chart, and it happens way down at the bottom. Especially at the bottom.
All you can do is try and slow down. Stop running, and learn to walk when things get tough. Walk, and take your time. Think through what you do, especially when it’s something you’ve done before. It’s easy to be like water and flow through the same deep channels of your habits. With each trip though, the channel gets deeper, and it gets harder to escape. When you rush, when you run, when you go on autopilot, the mind slips right into those well-worn channels and nothing new happens.
Only when you slow down, look around, and walk instead of run do you find ways to improve things, and to avoid the inevitable pitfalls you run into, day in and day out.
Stop running, stop rushing. Walk. Just for a little while.