Painting (C) julie r neidlinger |

Work Faster By Slowing Down. And Also, Stop.

Slowness is an art, not a failure.

You are always backpedaling, trying to pick up pieces that drop from moving so fast. You feel like you’re not getting anywhere. You’ve never worked harder or been more tired in your life.

And nothing seems to get done.

How do you move forward when it seems you’re standing still?

Stand still even more.

Too Many Moving Parts

The problem is we have too much complexity.

We move toward complexity because it has more moving parts. Simple seems too simple. We swear complexity was what we wanted but once we get it, we fondly remember simpler things.

Maybe you’ve made an online app. People start using it, and start fixating on what it’s missing. They clamor for just one more feature that would make it perfect. After 20 or 50 or 100 of these requests, the level of complexity in your app is huge and yet people seem to be always one more feature away from being satisfied.

That simple, beautiful little app begins to look like every other app, trying to do everything and be everything for everyone. It has so many moving parts that it is only a matter of time before it grinds to a halt.

Don’t desire more moving parts, because that’s just more to maintain.

Too Many Loose Parts

The problem is we have too many ideas.

The more ideas we have rattling around in our brains, the fewer of them we actually get around to doing. They grow exponentially and make it difficult to find the room to act on any of them.

You must relieve the pressure those ideas are creating.

Some of your ideas aren’t very good, and some are great. They all take up space until you can sort them out, and you’re in danger of losing them. If you’re a blogger, that’s one of the main reasons you are blogging. You’re working through your ideas by writing about them.

Get rid of the noise in your head by finding a way to get the ideas out. Use a journal, an app, software — whatever works best for you. The key is having some kind of organizational structure, even if it’s as simple as an “inbox” and a garbage can. Review your ideas every two or three days so your system doesn’t become a dumping ground where you forget about it and never follow through. Junk the ones that you realize aren’t very good, now that they’ve seen the light of day.

Dump those loose parts and free up space for new ideas.

Too Many Squeaky Parts

The problem is we have too much input.

Brand new ideas are tenuous creatures. Be careful when and who you share them with. If your idea has made it far enough through your process where you are moving ahead with it, be sure it has legs to stand on (and you are ready to talk about it) before you share it, or that you have the wherewithal to keep progressing with an idea even if everyone tells you otherwise.

There is thinking out there that you should get as many people involved as you can.

Collaborate, get feedback, and have people prod you and make sure you finish what you started. In some cases, sure. But sometimes you haven’t found the words that talk about the idea yet. Maybe you don’t understand it fully yourself. And if that’s the case, telling lots of people and having their well-intentioned advice or thoughts intrude can be damaging to your barely-formed idea. You end up with the opinions of everyone else around you, suggesting things you should have and be and do and pretty soon, you find it easier to give up on your idea.

You stop because you’re convinced it’s a bad idea. You stop because so much conflicting advice has confused the issue and you have no idea which way to go.

Don’t get all that noise involved until you have the oil on hand to dull out the squeaks.

Now That The Extra Is Gone

By reducing complexity, ideas, and feedback, you might feel like you’ve lost momentum. You might feel like you’re standing still.


Standing still is not the same as falling behind, even though it feels like it might be, as all around us people are rushing madly forward. Forward motion is valued now, but mindless forward motion is just moving faster towards the wrong thing.

Catch your breath. Figure out who you are and what you’re going to do. Take a step forward, and resolve that all forward motion will be simple forward motion.

Do It Now:

  1. List 10 things you think you need to do, in no particular order.
  2. Remove five.
  3. Put the last five in some kind of order.
  4. Remove three.
  5. Look at those 2 that are left.
  6. Do one.

This is how you slow down. This is how you tackle that list of things you want to do but can’t seem to find time. Forget doing all things. Start by stopping to do just one.

Julie R. Neidlinger is an artist, writer, and private pilot. She has been writing the Lone Prairie blog since 2002. You may contact her here.