For most of my career thus far, I have been working hard to be faster. To be one step ahead. Work hard, work fast. Productivity was my number one goal. Get as much work done in time time I have available.

What if, however, the number one goal was not productivity? What if we took time to focus properly on the task at hand, and not already be thinking about what’s coming next? I’m not saying being productive is a bad thing. I have spent quite a bit of time working to perfect my workflow, to have a set of tools that enable me to work as efficiently as I can. I wonder though, does the push for productivity affect our work? Does the need for speed impact the quality of code/whatever that we produce.

In the past few months, I have changed my focus, I’ve started to slow down. Instead of working as fast as I can to get through a task and move on to the next, I am taking time before I start work in order to think through the task, plan out a solution, be it on paper or in my head, before ever writing a line of code. I have tried to apply this to everything in my work, from small bugs to starting large projects. What I have noticed is that (largely) the end result of what I produce is much cleaner, more efficient, and more unlikely to contain bugs.

Taking time to think and plan means that the quality of the end product is much higher. When I do get down to writing code, I find that my time is spent on actually writing it, rather than debugging it as I go. This is due to the fact that I spent even just a few minutes before starting to think through the different solutions and possible problems I could run into. The end result? Cleaner, more concise code which is easier to maintain that its “rushed” counterpart.

The surprising outcome of slowing down is this: Slowing down has enabled me to speed up. I find that taking time to carefully think through an issue, enables me to work faster to resolve it. While the end goal is not productivity, but quality, it turns out that both can be achieved simultaneously. I find that my skills are improving, my problem solving ability is up and my productivity (surprisingly) is also up.

Work smart, not fast. Slow down.