The cult of speed, a false idea of productivity

Before, the big ones ate the little ones. Now, the fast eat the slow ones. So get ready to run.

Sep 2, 2019 · 3 min read
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Photo by Cris Ovalle on Unsplash

The concept of productivity is being taken to an extreme that I don’t like at all. I agree that time is very valuable and we should not waste it. But I don’t agree that we should lose our essence as human beings so as not to take a second for lost.

Software developers have our share of guilt. Productivity programs are designed for the user to save a couple of clicks here and there, to write as little as possible, to make it faster when it comes to working. Saving a couple of clicks or spending 30 seconds less to type a text will only generate a false sense of productivity. Productive management does not consist in finishing what you are doing as soon as possible, but in doing so so that everything is in its place, perfectly defined, so that you can make the best decisions when the time comes.

But remember, you cannot redeem time for quality. By looking for shortcuts to finish something sooner, you are generating a debt that you will have to pay later. What now allows you to go fast, in the long run, will be a brake, in addition to being a sink for your morale or that of your team and for available resources.

In this world in which we live, full of schedules and deadlines, we all suffer the disease of time and, consequently, we become submissive of speed.

You have to sleep the least, although that means needing stimulants, being irritable and reducing our reflexes and attention span.

You have to eat quickly to continue producing. That means not cooking, not sitting down to eat and not enjoying food. It does not matter that the food has no taste at all, as long as it fulfills its purpose. We do not eat, we refuel.

You don’t have time to exercise, and if you do, you’re not going to spend extra time warming up and stretching before you start. Most sports and gym-related injuries are due to wanting to get results too quickly.

Go for a walk and enjoy nature, without any other purpose? Unthinkable. Surely you can do something more “productive” at that time.

In Finland, they have passed a law to stop teaching children to write by hand since it will not be productive in a future governed by machines. Instead, they will teach typing. Not all the cognitive benefits of writing by hand, the creativity it produces or its influence on motor coordination do not matter. Are we crazy or what?

It hurts me very much that the existence of people is considered as a mere service to the economy. We have to work more hours, although it is shown that we are more unproductive, we make more mistakes, we get sick more often and we are more unhappy.

In my opinion — and in that of many others — doing things faster does not mean doing them right. Speed is not synonymous with productivity.

If you want to be truly productive, don’t focus on speed. Instead of constantly putting out fires, investigate the root cause of each problem and implement a real solution, not a patch. It will take you more time today, but it will save you a lot of time in the future. And nobody can complain about a problem that no longer exists.

You have to find your own optimal pace of work, that in which the speed at which you produce things is in balance with the quality of the product generated and the level of stress that you are willing to tolerate.

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