Fast. It's a word that defines the early 21st century. We want things yesterday. We want to squeeze more and more into our day, our week, our lives. We want to be faster at doing things. We want the things we want to arrive quicker.
Other than the slow food movement, there's not much we want to slow down except our Summer Holiday. Or the treadmill at the gym if we get a bit over-excited.
I sat down recently to plan what I want to achieve with 2009. I started with looking at what I have achieved over the past 3 years. I chewed my pencil for a while on that one. I have achieved a fair bit, in fact, but a lot of it has passed in a blur.
According to Daniel Schachter, in his book The Seven Sins of Memory, one of the reasons we don't remember stuff is we don't notice it in the first place. Things we haven't noticed don't get stored in our memory. The classic example of this is not remembering where we put down our keys/glasses/wallet.
A lot of my achievements of 2005-2008 turned out to be not-very-memorable. Which is a shame, because I lose both the joy in doing worthwhile things, and in remembering I have done worthwhile things. What if the most memorable aspect of 2007 turned out to be that I couldn't remember much about it? I remember a couple of big "chunks" of effort, and the occasional drama, not the daily things that make up most of my year. I don't remember myself quietly achieving what I set out to do.
We're in love with the heroic. We want to throw a big effort at something - once - and have it sorted thereafter. This explains our ambivalent relationships with dieting, domestic tasks, home renovation, and learning new skills (among other things). None of these things respond well to a once-and-for-all, speed-based approach.
New skills require frequent practice, and sleep in between. It's during sleep that our brains "bed down" the new information. If you are learning something new, have a nap or leave the next bit to the next day and your brain will retain what you've learned better. It's all part of paying attention in the first place.
Music Logic (tm), the music teaching method I use, says that "Slow is Fast". It's one of those zen-like sayings that make some people feel impatient. Experience has shown me if I slow down, pay attention, and tackle one thing at a time, and aim to do some work every day, I will make progress. Progress that's actually 'fast' compared to my other strategy of throwing a large chunk of time at a task, but not thinking much about what I'm doing, then abandoning it in frustration, avoiding it for a day, or three (after all, I just 'wasted' 2 hours on it yesterday and didn't get anywhere much), then chucking a wobbly after a couple of weeks of that, and giving up. Or just forgetting to ever go back and finish it, because I'm caught up with something else now.
So I vote to slow down (a bit). When I slow down and notice what is happening while it's happening - rather than chewing my pencil later, or relying on my iPhotos, my iCal and my blog to act as external hard drives. I will achieve my goals. I might even enjoy the journey. I will be more aware of my accomplishments. I will get more satisfaction out of my accomplishments.
And that's why, sometimes slow isn't.
My thanks to John Barton, founder of the Music Logic (tm) method, who introduced me to the concepts 'slow is fast' and 'bite sized pieces'.