Welles: The age of speed

Master the use of timesaving devices so you have more time for life’s important moments.

Do you feel that life is a blur, that everything happens so fast that it’s hard to keep it all together? Is “more, faster, now” the operating mode where you work? As much as we love all the technology we have at the office and home, does it seem like all that speed is slowing us down? According to a new book, we must embrace speed if we want less stress, less frenzy and more balance. In “The Age of Speed: Learning to Thrive in a More-Faster-Now World,”Vince Poscente wrote “speed is the only way to get more time, more life.”

Poscente doesn’t suggest that everyone should do more or do everything faster. Rather, he identifies three skills to help you adapt to speed and harness it.

■ Be agile. In a constantly changing world, you must remain flexible. If you are agile, you can adjust to change when it happens and be alert to new opportunities.

■ Be aerodynamic. Eliminating clutter and drag will help you move faster. For example, although multitasking might appear to speed tasks, it can add clutter and chaos.

That, along with the interruptions of e-mail and instant messaging, can be primary sources of slowdowns.

■ Be aligned. As work and life accelerate, staying focused on a goal becomes more difficult. Spending time focusing on a goal can help you reach it more quickly.

Poscente has another take on Aesop’s tortoise and the hare fable. Instead of “slow and steady wins the race,” his view is that the hare was arrogant to lie down and think he would win on his terms. Speed was the hare’s advantage, and he didn’t use it. By contrast, the tortoise’s focus on the goal helped him win the race.

The author cites examples of companies that have embraced speed in positive ways.

For example, Google remained agile and open to change even when faced with challenges.

It didn’t miss a beat when YouTube began to dominate the online video market.

Google swiftly purchased YouTube to achieve its goal of providing Web-based video.

Poscente wrote that speed is trumping privacy, fear and expense as travelers submit fingerprints and iris scans to verify their identities at airports and speed through security checks.

Cell phones, BlackBerrys and other communications devices can help us thrive in a fast-moving world. But 25 percent of those who carry a BlackBerry or other handheld e-mail device say they sneak a peek at their e-mail messages while socializing, blurring the lines between work and home.

If you are not in control and have little choice in your work, the speed of the world can make you feel even worse. The author’s advice is to prioritize and separate the important from the mundane. For example, he designates a specific time to deal with e-mail messages, and he synchs his home and work calendars on his BlackBerry.

Poscente recommends accelerating activities that can slow you down to give yourself more time to do important things and get a life.

Welles (jwelles@1105govinfo.com) is a retired federal employee who has also worked in the private sector. She lives in Bethesda, Md., and writes about work/life topics for Federal Computer Week. 

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