Why do we rush?

Things happen; Life gets in the way, and suddenly we find ourselves trying to get to somewhere with less time than it's possible to actually get there in.  So in the intention to get there sooner; to somehow compensate ourselves for not being on time; we rush.  We run; we get clumsy, we drop things; we forget things; we make mistakes; we scribble instead of writing, we scramble and we slip up.

I am today telling you to stop that.  Don't do that.  It's literally the opposite of what you want to do.  This is a bug I have.

Rushing has a tendency to do the opposite of what I want it to do.  I rush with the key in the lock; I rush on slippery surfaces and I fall over, I rush with coins and I drop them.  NO!  BAD!  Stop that.  This is one of my bugs.

What you (or I) really want when we are rushing is to get there sooner, to get things done faster.  

Instrumental experiment: Next time you are rushing I want you to experiment and pay attention; try to figure out what you end up doing that takes longer than it otherwise would if you weren't rushing.

The time after that when you are rushing; instead try slowing down, and this time observe to see if you get there faster.

Run as many experiments as you like.

Experimenter’s note: Maybe you are really good at rushing and really bad at slowing down.  Maybe you don't need to try this.  Maybe slowing down and being nervous about being late together are entirely unhelpful for you.  Report back.

When you are rushing, purposefully slow down. (or at least try it)

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7 comments, sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 8:16 AM

If I don't rush a little, often I find myself spending more time than needed on tasks I don't enjoy. Dawdling is bad too. This is a case where variable mental state (due to sleep, other topics on your mind (cf. flow or focus), or ugh fields) can drastically change the rate at which I can do stuff effectively.

If you find yourself making mistakes, absolutely try slowing down. But also try other changes like checklists, different sequences of tasks, or presence techniques (meditation, pomodoro). You might be able to be efficient AND accurate.

In the American Military, they have a saying when dealing with firearms:

Slow is smooth, and smooth is fast.

Rushing is faster, unless rushing causes mistakes. This is why people rush. And they usually rush during tasks where mistakes are not likely and/or mistakes are mostly inconsequential in the event they happen.

Slowing down can feel better—it can induce less stress. And it can help you avoid time-wasting mistakes, as you've mentioned.

There are plenty of exceptions where a little bit of "slow" time spent planning before engaging in a hurried task can reduce the total time spent. This might be a good compromise.

But as far as overall net time spent doing menial tasks, I'd guess rushing buys you time...unless you are a complete klutz.

I enjoyed Elo post, but I think he is committing the following fallacy:

Everytime Elo made a mistake, he was rushing.

Therefore, everytime Elo rushes, he makes a mistake.

I don't know the name of this fallacy, but surely it has one. :)

I have done the experiment many times (including timing myself over many activities and many days) and on average it takes longer to finish things when I am not rushing.


Sounds helpful, but usually when I rush, there are fewer things I do which slow me down and which seem to matter. I forget my phone; keys; additional bags; but I do not, for example, start collecting the washing in case it rains when I am out, miscalculate and miss my bus. It is like I have two kinds of failure modes, and the rushing one is more easy to compensate for. Phone? Bah. Keys? Go back. Bags? Count them on the run. Pillowcase is going to get wet? Well, screws to be you, pillowcase.

I agree, but also I mentioned that when I have inspiration, I write my text very quickly, because I feel hyperactivation of my brain - and this is the way I create best my texts. So some tasks could be done only in the quick mode.