Fast and Furious
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Fast and Furious

Fast and Furious

Enhancing your productivity by doing things faster.

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Now that the holiday has, um, passed over, it’s time to get back to figuring out what we used to do with our time before we started either scrubbing or cooking absolutely everything in the house. Because we didn’t actually get anything done in the month before Passover that wasn’t actually Passover-related, and now we have to catch up. But how?

Now that the holiday has, um, passed over, it’s time to catch up.

If you ask experts for tips on being more productive, they will tell you, first of all, that you should keep a “to do” list.

That’s a great idea. I have a “to do” list on my computer that is, as we speak, 278 items long. On the average day, I add about 10 items to the list and then do about 8. Plus, there’s all that time I spend futzing around with my “to do” list.

But there is also another thing you can do to greatly enhance your productivity: Do things faster.

Sure, your mother told you that if you do things faster, you’ll just mess everything up and have to do it over. But there’s a pretty big chance that if you do things slowly, you’ll mess them up anyway. At least if you went faster the first time, you’ll have more time to do it over.

On the other hand, there are a lot of things in life for which faster isn’t necessarily better. Imagine if a surgeon said, “Okay, I know the surgery is supposed to take three hours, but I figure twenty minutes, tops. How big is your brain, right?”

And how about the people who attempt to run into an elevator as soon as the doors open, before the people who are in the elevator have a chance to get out? Do you think there will be more room in there if you get in first? Or do you think you can get started going up to the next floor while you’re waiting for everyone else to get out?

On the other hand, it would definitely speed up your day if the people who are in the elevator just got out faster. But they can’t get out, because you’re standing right in front of the door. So you spend a good 30 seconds in a stalemate, and that doesn’t do anything for anybody.

But yes, it will definitely help your productivity if everyone around you would move faster. For example, the people in front of you in the supermarket, who block the entire aisle and are moving so slowly that you think maybe their shopping cart doesn’t have any wheels. You know that sense that you have when you can sort of tell that there are people behind you, trying to get around? These people don’t have that. Maybe we should start equipping shopping carts with rear-view mirrors. And horns.

Or how about the people in front of you at the checkout, who, even though they’ve been waiting for the same 25 minutes that you were, they don’t even start looking for their supermarket card or their credit card until they get to the front of the line? Like it’s a total surprise to them that they need those things.

Or how about the people in front of you for whom, every item they’re buying, the cashier has to call the manager over like he’s never seen the item before in his life. “Do we carry this item? What is it? You didn’t just sneak it into the store and then attempt to pay us for it, did you?” and the customer, meanwhile, is trying to pay entirely in coupons from 1972. And then the person directly in front of you leaves his cart in line, and goes off to do his shopping for like the rest of the year, even though you got in line behind him in the first place because he didn’t have that many items in his cart. But then he looked back at your cart, and he got some ideas.

You didn’t just sneak this item into the store and then attempt to pay us for it, did you?”

“Gefilte fish! Where’d you find gefilte fish?”

“Over by the refrigerated fishes.”

“OOOOH! I’ll be right back.”

Or he looks at your cart, and he sees that you’re buying eight of something, and he figures that it must be on sale. So he goes off to find it, and of course he says, “Can you please watch my cart?” Like someone else is going to walk up and say, “Wow! These are exactly the foods that I need! Just ring these up for me!”

(Can you tell I spent a lot of time at the supermarket recently? This post-Passover restocking thing is killing me. And I’m not even really in the mood for any food right now in the first place, because – you know – Passover.)

There are also a lot of people in your way when you’re on the road. Now I don’t begrudge people for being on the road. But sometimes I’m sitting in my car, and I can’t go because the person in front of me is stopped, and has his window rolled down, and is talking to someone who is sitting in a car going the other way, who also has his window rolled down. I want to yell, “Get a cell phone!” Because at least then they’ll be moving. Sure, they’ll be swerving erratically, but at least that’s moving. And it’s one thing if they’re asking for directions, but they’re clearly not. When you’re asking for directions, you’re talking to someone all the way on the side of the road, and that person is bending down to see you and making vivid gestures with his arms, like that’s going to help you understand. No one asks for directions from people in the other cars. “Look, he’s coming from that direction! Maybe he knows how to go!”

And then there’s rubbernecking. Now I do understand the need to rubberneck. I hate it, but once everyone in front of you is rubbernecking, you’re also going to look, so you can see what the fuss is all about. You have to look, because now you’re late, and when you get there, people are going to ask why. “Why are you late?” And you want to give them a real answer. You don’t want to say, “I don’t know, first everyone slowed down, and then we started going again.”

But can’t people rubberneck faster? How long does it take? You get to the front, you look at the other side of the highway, you go, “That’s it?” and then you move! What is that, two seconds? We should be passing that accident at a rate of 30 cars per minute! But sometimes it takes people so long that by the time you get to the front, the accident is already all cleaned up, and your side of the highway is still backed up for rubbernecking. And then you have no idea why you stopped. That’s very frustrating.

I guess my point is that even though it won’t necessarily increase your productivity if you do things faster, it will definitely increase your productivity if everyone else goes faster.

But how do we get through to those people? Maybe we should put huge billboards on the side of the road (“PRODUCTIVITY TIP: DO THINGS FASTER”).

That will get them to speed up, right?

Published: April 6, 2013


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