Are You Working Too Fast? How Speed Is Hurting Your Productivity

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This story first appeared on The Muse, a Web destination with exciting job opportunities and expert career advice. 

The ability to work with jackrabbit speed is typically recognized and rewarded in business. Simply put, companies like employees who can cruise through their to-do lists at Mach3 with their hair on fire. Because, after all, time is money.

But time is not money if that efficiency is not matched with effectiveness. Racing through assignments only to deliver sloppy results not only costs businesses plenty of moolah every year, it could cost you your stellar reputation, health, or (gasp) job if your great-balls-of-fire pace results in a doozy mistake, or compromises your well-being.

We don’t want that.

So, how do you know if you’re moving too fast? And, importantly, how can you slow down without impacting quality or your approval rating at the office? Here are a few ways to spot, and fix, the situation:

1. Your Typos Are Being Noted

I sent an email to a client the other day-;my proposed strategy for his resume project. In the note, I suggested, among other things, that we showcase his specific knowledge of the “footware” industry.

Hi, I’m a professional resume writer. Yes, he noticed. Of course he noticed. The man is paying me to spell correctly, for crying out loud. Fortunately, he was more than good spirited about it. And I promised that I’d gotten all of my typos out in that email, so his resume would be pristine.

But it doesn’t always end that well. When you’re sloppy in your correspondence, or in presentations or proposals, or really any written communication you use as means to get your job accomplished, it can (at a minimum) make people think you’re lazy or careless.

However, if that typo appears somewhere in which the stakes are high–think: an advertisement, a widely distributed presentation–it might not end in “just a chuckle” at all. If you’re hearing repeated feedback on one specific “tiny little sloppiness” issue, it’s probably time to start focusing on finding a way to avoid it.

How to Fix:

No matter how compelled you feel to move onto the next assignment, shut your laptop for the night, or impress the person on the receiving end with your lightning-fast turnaround time, double and triple check everything you distribute. Seriously. Unless it’s a 152-page presentation deck, it will probably only take you an extra few minutes–minutes you can easily recoup by staying off Facebook after lunch, or steering clear of the co-worker who always wants to chat endlessly.

2. You Miss an Important Meeting or Deadline

Another billboard-esque sign that you’re moving too quickly is when you flat-out miss an important meeting or deadline, because you were whipping along so quickly that you either failed to enter it into your calendar, or simply overlooked it.

You really only get so many mulligans in situations like this, especially if that meeting or deadline is a crucial one. Not to mention, you just end up feeling like a giant doof, and that’s just no good for your self-esteem.

Happen to you any time recently?

How to Fix:

Figure out what specific thing or things are out of whack here. Do you lack a viable planning system? Do you have unconnected calendars, meaning if you record a meeting in one place, you can’t see it in another?

Or, are you just so fried from deliverable overload that you’re starting to slip on them? Pinpoint first, and then strive to come up with tangible solutions or safeguards so that, no matter how rapid your pace, you don’t miss the stuff that truly matters.

3. You Make an Error that Costs the Company Money

Yeah, this one’s often a doozy. Not going to lie. And it’s worse if “costs the company money” equals large sums of money. Let’s assume we’re talking middle of the road (or less) cash here. But even when it’s nominal, guess what? Companies don’t like it when their employees make costly errors, especially if they’re avoidable (and especially if there have been conversations prior about “being more careful”).

If, and when this happens, you need to own up and mobilize, swiftly.

How to Fix:

First, the fix probably depends on how much money your speed has just cost the company. It it’s an enormous amount, you may be kindly asked to exit stage left. But, assuming it’s not nearly that extreme, the solution involves taking responsibility (immediately) for the error and then–when possible–proposing how you will correct (or reduce the impact of) the error. Next, you follow through. It’s also very important that you digest thoroughly how this happened, and create safeguards as you move forward, so that it never happens again.

4. You End up in the Doctor’s Office

In its most chronic from, moving too quickly–whether self-imposed or boss-driven–can cost you your health. A dear friend of mine had a dream job, or so she thought. Problem was, her supervisor was this incredibly intense, tough-as-nails-on-everyone-in-her-path cookie who hammered her direct reports to do more, more, more, more every single week. Part of the challenge here was that the woman (so it seems) was wired quite like a robot, and expected all of her team members to operate at this same, other-worldly pace.

My friend made it a little over a year, and then made her way to a doctor, when the anxiety and stress became unbearable, and began interfering with her sanity and family life.

Her blood pressure was at such an alarming level that the doctor, as she spoke of what was happening at work, told her she needed to find a new job, immediately.

How to Fix:

If your required pace is giving you panic attacks, high blood pressure, prompting you to abuse alcohol or drugs, or getting in the way of your day-to-day well-being, it’s time to sit down with your manager and suggest a new pace. If that’s not possible, it’s probably time to find a job (or career) with a sane pace. No position’s worth sacrificing your health or life over. Zero.

Speed is lovely, and so often valued (immensely) in the workplace. But effectiveness is paramount. If you master the combo, you’re going places. If you don’t? You’re heading right on over to Stress City.

And no one wants to hang out in Stress City. No one.