Back in my lawyer days, my office was 4 floors below one of the partners I worked with. Problem was, we were in different elevator banks. So every time I needed to be in his office, I’d have to take an elevator to the lobby, cross around to the next bank, then go back up to his floor.
Not a big deal when things weren’t on deadline (lol, like that ever happened), but when we were on a deal, already working insane hours, it became a bit luny. Not because it had to be, because I made it so.
As the deal deadline loomed, I’d start to move faster, task-multier, breath mightier and generally run around like a madman. Thus the “hair on fire” analogy. And an odd thing started happening when I hit that pace. I’d start to forget things on my trips through the elevator system. And, I’d start to miss things in the work I was doing.
By the way, an hour lost, a comma here and a word there on a $100 million deal, apparently all add up. Who knew?
I remember one time having to travel between offices and elevator banks over and over because as I kept going faster, I kept forgetting more.
Then I decided to try another approach. I developed a pretty good sense for what my hair on fire speed was. And I wondered what might happen if I dialed it back just one notch.
So I tried it.
Though I was moving slightly slower, I found myself missing less, making fewer mistakes, having to spend a lot less time on error correction and recovery and traveling between elevator banks far less frequently.
It may seen a bit counterintuitive, but I was actually able to get a higher quality of work done faster and more humanely not by working as fast as I could, but by working just a bit slower than my max-capacity.
At a pace I like to call hair on fire minus one.
Try it out sometime, you just might amaze yourself.
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