Being Fast At The Things You Do Is Important

Title: | Speed matters: Why working quickly is more important than it seems
Date: July 26, 2015
Article length: ~1,000 words (4 pages)

This recap is a little different because it’s based on a great article (which is short and you should probably read it anyways) by James Somers. I just wanted to remind myself of how good it is by recapping its contents here:

First off, speed matters. The faster you can do something, the faster you can do it again. For example, say you wanted to be a writer. Being a writer involves writing multiple pieces that people read. The faster you can get the first piece done, the sooner you’ll get to start the second and finish the second. Pretty soon, you’ll be able to string together a series of great pieces very quickly. Contrast this with the person who’s been trying to write the same piece for the last year.

. . . the only way to learn to do something fast is by doing it lots of times (James Somers)

James also has noticed that the faster he responds to an email, the faster he’ll get a response. This is because the cost of the email exchange is low if the speed is really high. Meaning, if you were to email someone and got a response with in a day, you’ll probably think of them again if you want a quick response for something else.

The general rule seems to be: systems which eat items quickly are fed more items. Slow systems starve. (James Somers)

He makes a great comparison to Google’s search capabilities. Because Google is so fast — a user gets a search response very quickly — users come back to Google because they can always expect a quick response. Some other examples:

  • Faster employees get more work; slower employees get less work
  • If your picture framing business is slower than competitors, customers will go to your competitors
  • If you’re a programmer managing an open source repository and are slow to merge pull requests, people will stop contributing

Unresponsive systems are sad. They’re like buildings grown over with moss. They’re a kind of memento mori. People would rather be reminded of life. They’ll leave for places that get back to them quickly. (James Somers)

Moreover, being fast lowers the activation energy to get something new started. It will feel less costly to start something with a low activation energy. If it takes you months to get a blog post written, you will think the activation energy to get started on another blog post to be too high to get started.

The prescription must be that if there’s something you want to do a lot of and get good at—like write, or fix bugs—you should try to do it faster. (James Somers)

He reminds us to not be sloppy, but that we should still push ourselves to move quickly. The more quickly we can complete something, the lower the activation energy we’ll consider future versions of that thing to have, which will have us starting the next thing soon thereafter. If we do this over and over again, the better we get at that thing’s domain.