The pace of work is a myth.
Or at least, it isn't the powerful metric that you might think it is.
Of course, the rate at which you complete something is a fact; it took you x number of days to finish y task. But the pace, how quickly or slowly you finished it, is the word I describe the feeling of speed you had during the process, let me tell you:
You're hardly ever an accurate judge of the pace of work, let alone whether it needs to change.
I have so many clients and friends that want to be working faster. They want to be reading faster, writing faster, revising faster, prepping for teaching faster, doing just about everything faster. They want to know my best tips for making those tasks faster and more efficient, but when I ask them how long it takes to do those tasks normally, they rarely have an accurate answer. What I know then is that this is an emotion/feeling/perception issue, and less of a data issue.
The unspoken wish, when you're asking to be faster at something, is to have more time to do something else. And as anyone who has ever waited in the lobby for a doctor's appointment, 15 minutes can feel like 15 years if you're running late, if you feel behind, if you didn't want to be there in the first place. Wanting more time to do something else is a natural feeling - and you can get a lot of good data from that! But here are some questions to ask when you feel like the reason you don't have that time is because you're working too slowly:
- How long does it actually take me to complete this task? - Keep notes about when you stop and start things. Keep track of how many minutes or hours you spend on something, and also how focused you were - you might be faster than you think.
- How do I feel about the task while I'm working? - If you hate writing, you may naturally feel like you could be going faster. Ditto for if you're behind on a deadline, trying to make up for a slower start, or squeezing in writing around other tasks. Notice the conditions; make notes about how you feel before, during, and after the task.
- Where do I get my sense of how fast this pace should be? - Who are you measuring your pace against? How long do you think it takes other people to do this task? Are you assessing your pace based on how fast you feel like you do similar tasks?
- Is it my actual pace that's the problem, or how regularly/irregularly I'm working on this task? - Are you sitting down regularly to work on this task, or is the total amount of time the issue? If you're only truly devoting an hour or two to something a week, you won't progress as fast, especially if those hours are consumed with stress and anxiety about how fast you are or aren't working. You can ABSOLUTELY make progress on something in an hour a week, but it will be "slower" than if you could devote eight hours a day to it. Ditto for something you work on regularly - if you're in the habit of writing for fifteen minutes every morning, those fifteen minutes will feel more productive if you're not struggling to warm up.
If you're wishing that you could be faster, work smarter - I encourage you to pay attention to your schedule rather than focusing on how quickly you feel like you're working. Are you allocating your time in a way that aligns with where you want to make progress? It's probably impossible to make it perfectly align (we all have things we have to do!) but moving steps to make that closer and closer to ideal will give you more time to weather the inevitable ebbs and flow in the pace of work we all experience.