Have you seen those jugglers juggling at mind-boggling speeds? What about the chef who can cut an onion at insane speeds? Do you wish you had such speed and skills?
Don’t worry, you will learn to challenge yourself to improve, increase and intensify your work performance. By challenging yourself to do a little better every day, you will be able to improve your performance to a level that causes jaws to drop.
This article is Step 5 – Work Faster: Principles of speed which succeeded in Phase 2: Gain Momentum with Routine of the 3 phase transformation into superhuman productivity. You can begin right from step 1 by accessing the index here – 3 Phase Transformation into Living Your Dreams.
To understand the purpose behind the activity I recommend you to read through the article. But, for the busy bees, you can go directly to the exercise.
Let’s look at some insane knife skills of chefs. Not only are they faster but they also do their work more efficiently.
If you tried doing what the chefs did, you would end up cutting your fingers.
How do people work faster or do things at high speeds
Why are those people so quick and accurate at what they do? Take a guess.
Do you think they have a natural tendency to be fast at their skill? Or do you think it is their profession and by repetition every day they have got to those levels of pace?
Most people assume that people reach insane speeds because they are born with some superior genes.
Not quite true.
Let me explain with an example that backs it up:
Most of us have been using a keyboard for a long time now. How quick are we with our typing? We have put in enough hours of typing over the years. Now that we have been typing for a long time, shouldn’t all of us possess the typing skills of a speed typist? But we don’t.
Why do some continue to improve their speed continuously while others stall after a certain point? The differentiating factor is called deliberate practice.
The myth of practice makes perfect
Whoever said “Practice makes perfect” is mistaken. Practice creates routines. But these routines are not perfect unless you have practiced the right way. Mindless repetitions lead to habit formation and not necessarily improved performance.
Let me illustrate with an example. Try playing chess every day against a computer program at an average difficulty level. Even if you do this 8 hours a day for the next 10 years, what are the chances that you will end up being a grandmaster?
Take another example. If you give up your job and drive each day for hours, what are the chances that you can beat a professional driver who has lesser driving hours than you?
To continuously improve at a skill you need to challenge yourself to improve performance deliberately. It requires focus, attention, persistence and will be demanding mentally/physically.
It is rightly said, “What does not challenge you, will not change you.”
If you wish to play the guitar better stop playing only the 4 chords you are most comfortable with. Try playing those bar chords which you have assumed are too difficult for you.
Are you bad at Microsoft Excel and want to be good at it? Start with some numbers and challenge yourself to complete some data analysis by looking up online.
Are you spending 30 min to draft the daily status email? Challenge yourself to work faster by setting a 15 min deadline to complete it. If you have trouble setting goals and deadlines visit the article – How to use short term goals to achieve long term goals.
Why do you need to challenge yourself
When you set a goal and a timeline that is challenging, your body and your mind is stretched and pushed to make the goal possible. With enough repetition, the new pace becomes the norm.
If you do not challenge yourself with a higher difficulty or a tighter timeline, you remain where you are. Your mind takes the path of least resistance which is usually not the most efficient one.
The human body and brain are programmed to survive. It is not programmed to work faster, increase efficiency or improve a skill unless it increases your chances of survival. From the brain’s perspective, if you type faster or play the guitar better, it will not increase your chance of survival.
Therefore, your brain by itself will not put an effort to make you better at any task other than survival. So if you want to make everything you do faster, you need to challenge yourself to do it.
The concept of Goldilocks tasks
You must have heard the story of the little girl, Goldilocks and her three bears. In the story, Goldilocks likes the porridge which is neither too sweet nor too bland.
Likewise, to increase your speed, you must aim for stepwise progress.
If you believe you are already doing your best, you will stick to your comfort zone. If you aim for a goal too hard, you will give up thinking you cannot ever achieve it.
The right balance is choosing a difficulty level that challenges you to stretch a little without breaking down. The visual below explains how your brain perceives a challenge.
As your skills improve, an easy challenge leads to boredom. While your skills are not quite there yet, a tough challenge can lead to stress and anxiety.
When the challenge and your skill level align such that you feel a challenge but also have the ability to deliver it, you work in a state of Flow. This is the state where you enjoy the task as well as continue improving.
Do you remember an occasion when you started a task, went on with it, look at the clock and exclaimed, “What? Did 2 hours go by already?”
That is what flow does to you. You enjoy the task at hand so much that you lose track of the time you spent on it.
The concept is based on the book Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.
Example of increasing speed
Only when you challenge yourself and push your limits will the body/brain adapt. I was once a slow reader and remained the same for a long time.
I assumed I had already reached my highest possible speed. I thought reaching the status of speed readers required natural ability which was beyond my prowess.
One tip helped me realize how mistaken I was.
The tip was on one of the books on how to speed read. Unfortunately, I do not recall which book it was. All it asked me to do was, to gradually force myself to read faster. I had to keep increasing my target speed once I achieved the goal. When I began, the increased speed came at the cost of reduced comprehension but in no time, my brain was able to adapt to the new speed.
Sure, there were other tips involved such as subvocalization, skimming, etc. Considering all tips, challenging myself to go faster was the single most effective exercise.
I read more than 5 times my earlier speed and I continue to challenge myself even today to increase it further. I cannot compete with speed readers but I am far ahead of my previous performance.
Exercise to challenge yourself to increase speed
Starting today, challenge yourself to work faster than your usual pace. Even if the pace comes at the cost of quality, it is alright. Irrespective of what activity you pick, your target is to get things done in less time.
You do not have to attempt to work faster in all your daily tasks. Pick a few which matter and get going.
You should make an attempt to maintain the same quality at an increased pace. Chances are during your first few attempts you will struggle. Be patient, be persistent. With the power of the human brain to adapt, you will notice your quality catching up to the new pace.
Attempt these exercises on activities you do regularly. Here are a few examples:
- Getting ready for work sooner
- If you are learning, attempt to complete a chapter faster
- For programmers, attempt to increase your coding speed by a small factor
- While cooking, attempt to cut onions faster by starting to heat the pan halfway
- Get the bed done sooner
- If you are a writer, attempt writing more words in an hour
If giving a shot at increasing the pace on multiple tasks is tedious to you, pick just one. Once you have made up your mind, make a conscious effort to work faster. Only then will you see a change.
Leave a comment on which activity will you challenge yourself to do better
Speed vs Accuracy Threshold
You might be thinking you need time for your creative juices to flow. Sure, you are right. But you are not yet at the point of speed vs accuracy threshold.
The point of speed and accuracy/quality threshold is the point after which no matter how much you practice, increasing speed will impact quality/accuracy.
For example, let us say you can get the bed done in a record time of 60 seconds. If you attempted to go any faster the bed would not be very well done. Somebody else might be able to do the same in 50 seconds. However, 60 seconds is your point of speed vs accuracy threshold.
It is the point where you can no longer increase speed without compromising quality.
We falsely believe we are already at the peak speed we can operate at. Only when you challenge yourself will it be possible to stretch your limits. The reason is, when you try to go faster, you will fumble during the first few attempts. That leads you to believe that you cannot improve further.
If you dismiss the theory, saying that working faster will impact quality, you are making up an excuse. Yes, working faster will impact quality, but only after a certain point. You haven’t reached that point yet. Your field of expertise might be creative or monotonous, but you can still improve your speed of working.
You can most likely increase your speed on many activities without compromising quality. You will not succeed in the first couple of tries. You will need practice.
The amount of practice required depends on the task you’re attempting and your current skill level. You might see results in a day or you might need months to notice any significant difference.
Only after you attempt to work faster and increase your speed, will you reach close to your peak limit. Once you get the technique you can apply the same on various spheres to become fast in life. The key to work faster is to continue the right practice even when you struggle the first few times.
In this article, you learned the reasons why some people achieve peak performance with high accuracy. By going through the process of deliberate practice, you will be able to reach a similar state of performance yourselves.
You have also picked a few activities to improve your speed at already. Practice them on a daily basis even though you struggle during your early trials. You can apply them to become faster at reading, playing a musical instrument, at work activities, at sport or any other task.
When you do this repeatedly enough, the crazy becomes the new normal and the rapid becomes the usual. What you find as normal, will leave the others flabbergasted. From today, aim to work faster and smarter.
Are you reading to get things done fast? Leave a comment mentioning today’s date stating you will challenge yourself to do better from today.
This article is Step 5 – Work Faster: Principles of speed that succeeded in Phase 2: Gain Momentum with Routine of the 3 phase transformation into super human productivity. You can begin right from step 1 by accessing the index here – 3 Phase Transformation into Living Your Dreams.
What I am not:
What I am:
Continuously improving self-learner
Productivity/Time Management Obsessed