I used to focus on doing things faster in the name of efficiency. I thought that if I could do things faster, it would allow me to do more things within the same time frame. Hence I would be more productive.

In reality, this is not the case.

It took me a while to be honest with myself and realised that doing things faster is not the goal.

In fact, this mindset resulted in undesirable outcomes.

How I fell into the trap of “faster is better”

The best personal example is reading books.

I consider myself an average reader at about 2 – 3 weeks for a book.

But I’m sure we’ve all at one point read about how successful people read 1 book a week, 52 books a year.

So I fell for the trap that faster is better. More is better.

I started reading 1 book a week too. I did that for a few months. I thought I was progressing and learning at a much faster speed. It made me feel good and productive (who doesn’t want that?).

At one point, I even subscribed to Blinkist. It allows you to “Understand books & podcasts in 15 minutes” to be more efficient and productive.

Negative consequences of optimising for speed

After some time, I took a hard look at my approach. I found that I was racing against the clock, but not against my own growth. Reading 1 book a week became my primary goal and my actual learnings became secondary.

I was sacrificing my growth to reach the arbitrary figure of 1 book a week.

I did not allow myself time to think and process the information, and to ask the right questions.

It took me some time, but once I realised this I slowed things down. I no longer give myself a time frame to finish a book.

The goal is to learn, not to simply complete the book and give myself a pat on the back.

I now take as long as I need to achieve that.

The time spent can only be considered productive if I manage to learn/ get what I want out of it.

It’s your turn now:

Before you spend the time doing something (not just reading books), think very clearly about what your main goal is. Don’t be distracted by other arbitrary variables that prevent you from doing that.

If you can achieve that in a shorter time frame, that’s great. But speed shouldn’t be your main goal if you’re not getting what you want out of it.

(Bonus points if you set up a learning feedback loop via a quarterly review to compare your efforts VS outcomes.)