speed kills

Nobody Cares That You Only Had the Weekend is another tale of trying to work in an increasingly […]

Nobody Cares That You Only Had the Weekend is another tale of trying to work in an increasingly fast-paced world. Unlike Morville’s request that we all slow down if we hope to produce quality, David Baldwin seems to think quality work can be produced in half the time and speed means new tactics, not fighting to go slower.

Who’s right? I don’t know. Sometimes longer timelines means one just procrastinates then rushes at the end. Sometimes long timelines means one ruminates, and the solution flows out effortlessly. Sometimes longer timelines means time to explore the wackier ideas, and allows for innovation. Sometimes it leads to taking on two or three projects at once, and still working 15 hour days. Depends on the company, depends on the freelancer.

In my personal experience a gentle timeline leads to rumination which leads to breakthroughs. You can’t “sleep on it” when it’s due tomorrow. I often have important breakthroughs in problems when I do go to sleep, or when I take an hour walk, or when I go cook dinner or wash dishes. The break from the problem allows the subconscious mind to go to work. When horrid deadlines loom, one tends to chain oneself to the computer, locked in a stressfilled countdown where any solution is better than staring at a blank screen.

Consider that we Americans have the least amount of vacation than any other country (Annual vacation days: Italy 42; France 37; Germany 35; Brazil 34; Britain 28; Canada 26; South Korea 25; Japan 25; U.S. 13.), and consider even a week of vacation can reduce chance of heart attack. Consider this information from an Oxford health survey: “Some 34 percent report they have such pressing jobs that they have no down time at work. A full 32 percent work and eat lunch at the same time. Meanwhile, 32 percent never leave the building once they arrive at work; 19 percent say their job makes them feel older than they are and 17 percent say work causes them to lose sleep at home.”

Now let’s look at speed. It may produce bad work, it may produce good work, but it uses employees like firewood.

Something has to change. The world actually has enough advertisements for candy bars, the world has enough espresso makers. Why don’t we slow down?

Slow down. Make better products. More importantly, make better lives.


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  1. 2
    Eric Scheid

    Is that what the designers* of our society wanted when they figured life would be better “faster”.

    One of the affordances of a slowed down system is reflection and consideration. Some systems/products we develop should emphasis that, and thus would be better off designed to be slow. A simple example of a such a product might be a holiday package — far better to have time to smell the roses, rather than be rushed on to the next tourist trap.

    Does this translate to web projects though? I know of one perverse example: over on the c2.com wiki there was a period where saving a change to a page would often result in a “database busy, press back and try again” message. Many/most people saw that as a problem, a bug, an issue to be fixed. The more observant thought noted a dramatic decrease in the number of spurious/low-content/spam/graffiti postings, and the site was better off for it.

    Like I said, perverse.

    * designers = the members of society

  2. 3

    I’m an Australian living in Sydney. In 1998 I was lucky enough to spend 12 months living and working in Atlanta Georgia.

    The thing that blew me away most was how slow everything was. It reminded me of Sydney 15 years ago. A friend recently moved to Singapore and the stories he tells about life at a truly fast pace are astounding. Instead of walking from the train to the office people now run. This is absurd.

    I equate workspeed to greed. In the quest for companies and individuals to make more money they are willing to forego lifestyle. This could be vindicated by N.Y.. Obviously you need more $$$ to live there hence a faster lifestyle.

    Funnily enough in these fast cities you seldom see a person smile.

    Anything of quality takes time. Deciding how much time vs how much quality will always be the dilemma.


  3. 4
    Eric Scheid

    Not just time in the making of, but also time in the consumption of. Restuarants are an example where they manipulate the delivery/consumption time to either lengthen or shorten average meal times. Well, depending on their needs that is. Bottom line though is that they know that a fast turnaround isn’t always the best thing.

  4. 5

    Time is definitely a valuable ingredient in design. From my experience in digital schedules are always pretty tight. And you stay the late hours to maintain a level of quality that you can live with. But once in a while you manage to get more time in the project schedule. But since there is really never enough time for design, rather than using the extra time for breathing or rumination, you find that there is more time to deliver even more.

  5. 6

    Sleep is good. Project is due tomorrow. Clearly the answer is to sleep now and work all night after the answer has come to you.

    Working at home makes this a much easier approach, of course.

  6. 7

    just passing through. Searched on Google for “Quality takes time”, and interestingly enough, most of the sites I’m seeing are high-quality sites. Kind of makes sense, doesn’t it?

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