(from Carl Richards’ 3/20/2014 Behavior Gap newsletter – click here for the original post. Carl is a Certified Financial Planner, the creator of the New York Times’ Sketch Guy column and director of investor education at the BAM Alliance. His book, “The Behavior Gap,” was published last year. His sketches and more can be found here.)
How fast can you read? The average reader (college level) can manage 200-400 words per minute. But what if you could read 1,000 words per minute? You could read War and Peace in one day (about nine hours).
A company called Spritz developed technology that makes it possible. It’s based on the premise that we waste time moving our eyes back and forth.The words flash on the screen in rapid succession, moving you through the text quickly. Try it for yourself. It’s pretty cool.
But what if faster doesn’t automatically equal better?
For instance, one of the best parts of reading are those “aha” moments. But if you’re cruising through the text at 1,000 words per minute, it becomes both more difficult to recognize those moments and less likely that you’ll pause to think about them. You’ve got more words flashing, and a minute later, you’re already four “pages” later in the book.
This idea of speed has taken over a lot of what we see around us. From fast food to car insurance quotes in 15 minutes, it’s easy to equate faster with better. We like to think that doing everything faster will leave us with more time to do the things we want later. Even with the best of intentions, I think it’s had a slightly different effect.
Instead of doing a few things quickly, we rush through just about everything. Maybe we can’t help ourselves. After all, as Isaac Newton observed, “A body in motion at a constant velocity will remain in motion in a straight line unless acted upon by an outside force.” This motion comes with a cost.
When we prioritize speed, we sacrifice the things that don’t respond well to speed. For instance, how many times have you heard (or said), “I don’t have time to talk about that now. Maybe later.” Meaningful conversations are one of the first things to go when we focus on speed. After conversations, we kick any sort of introspection to the curb. Who has time to think about what we did in the past when we’re trying to keep up with what’s happening right now?
There are a lot of other things we lose to this go-faster mentality, but these two have a direct impact on our ability to make smarter and better decisions about money. Once we stop talking about what drives our decisions and weighing our past decisions, we set ourselves up to keep making the same decisions, both good and bad, over and over.
If the decisions are good, it may not seem like a big deal, but how on earth will we know if we haven’t taken the time to put them in the context of what we say we value? In the big scheme of things, this may seem like a very small thing, but sometime during this next week, I challenge you to do at least one task slower than your usual speed.
What do you notice? How do you feel both when you’re doing the task and afterwards? I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised. Something happens when we hit the brakes and make the effort to be aware of what we’re doing and thinking at a given moment.
Plus, it may provide the insight you need so the next time someone asks to have a conversation, you’ll say, “Sure. We can talk about … ”
Give yourself permission to take the time to talk and think about the things that matter to you. Sometimes, faster isn’t always better.