Monday, November 10, 2014

Things go faster when I slow down

I'm a tea drinker. In my office, my routine is to fill the water filter first. Then, I pour the filtered water into an electric kettle, which gets the water really boiling. Finally, I pour the water over the tea bag (a British college buddy taught me years ago not to dunk the bag into the water initially), and then I let it seep for a few minutes (longer if it’s Oolong or herbal).

Recently, I’d been experiencing some frustration with my routine. Rushing in between client meetings, I’d pour the water from the filter container into the kettle, and, just before the container emptied, the water would change direction and spill around and near the kettle. Sighing, I’d grab a napkin or paper towel, and I’d wipe up the mess. This continued for the better part of a year.

Finally, frustrated with having to mop up every time I filled the kettle, I decided that I was going to get to the bottom of the spilled-water mystery.

The first thing I did was I decided to fill the kettle slower, thinking that rushing and speed might be the cause of the spillage. Slowing down also allowed me to observe what was happening. When I did this, I noticed that slowing down alone didn’t prevent the mess. At the last second, the water stream angled downward and spilled down the side of the kettle.

The next time I filled the kettle, I decided that I would try to change the angle of the spout just before it emptied. Again, I poured it slower than I usually did so that there was time for me to observe what was happening and adjust what I was doing. As the container was about to empty, I angled the spout upward slightly to compensate for the water's change in direction, and the last stream of water angled perfectly into the kettle without mess.

It struck me that I'd put up with a frustrating situation for so long—doing the same thing over and over, just wishing that things would magically get better somehow. Slowing down the process gave me time to observe and choose a different, better course of action.

What other areas of my life could benefit from slowing down, observing, and improving my technique?

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