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July 8, 2011 1:43 PM   Subscribe

In some way, I'm too slow. It takes me a really long time to do things, especially if they're not interesting. This doesn't apply to all things though. I can move fast, and walk fast, and talk fast.

I can remember being called slow as a kid - and this was just when it came to doing boring kid stuff like getting dressed, or doing chores. It's also something that me and my boyfriend argue about. He doesn't understand why it takes me so long to do things. I never really paid it any mind but recently realized that it's true! It takes me forever to do the dishes or laundry or cook. No one at any of my jobs has complained but now I'm really concerned about being slow at work.

Time just seems to go by. I am a master daydreamer and procrastinator and try to use music to help with focusing on specific tasks. I've heard parents say that their kids are so slow and been behind people who I think are moving or doing something too slow (for me) and I don't feel like that's the way I am. Like the discussion about people who take 2 minute showers. There is no way that I could ever do that.

I would like to get things done quicker. I would like to be able to accurately know how long things should take and get them done in that time frame. I don't want to spend an hour doing the dishes. Are you a slow person or a fast person? How do you deal with others expectations as it relates to this?
posted by mokeydraws to Human Relations (15 answers total) 39 users marked this as a favorite
Since you've just described me to a tee, I can't offer much advice, but you aren't alone and I will be following the responses closely.

The only thing I can think that helps me is working in a role where action is required constantly/immediately in an interactive way - is there anything you could do to make your job more interactive?
posted by *becca* at 1:55 PM on July 8, 2011

Mindfulness training or meditation of some sort might be a huge help. You are probably wasting brain cycles with random thoughts, but not so many that you are completely unable to function. Contrary to the idea that meditation might only make your mind "more relaxed", it can really improve the ability to let go of distractors, improving your focus and thus allowing you to put all your energy on one thing.

What happens when you have time limits imposed on you by something external? Can you usually meet work deadlines without frantic last minute efforts? If you have a little pressure or incentive to get something done fast, can you?

I don't get a sense of anxiety being the issue here, but if I did I would say you need some pro help. If it's really just that you're letting tasks expand to fill the max amount of time, sounds like something that could be addressed simply with more explicit goals and planning, some more external incentives to get stuff done (race boyfriend to do the dishes so you can both go watch a movie) and some mindfulness training.
posted by slow graffiti at 1:56 PM on July 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

I wouldn't sweat it.

If you're slower, then that might mean you're thinking about things more fully. That's got huge long term benefits. I think the real question is if you're happy/interested in your life? If not, then you have a problem (and slowness might just be a symptom).
posted by Murray M at 2:10 PM on July 8, 2011 [2 favorites]

IANAD, but I have Inattentive-type ADD, and this is what it's like. Well, to be honest, I thought the same about the 2-minute showers, but you can-- and I can. Try this just to see (if it sounds fun): drink lots of caffeine, or listen to dance music, or move around and exercise right beforehand-- or all three-- and see if you can get the speed from simply challenge and motivation. For me it'd be difficult 'cause I have lots of hair to wash, but even that could be simply not done as well as I normally like. Since the problem is involvement/interest/engagement, and showers aren't too engaging, it's easy to daydream and get distracted doing something like that. Anyway, it really sounds like ADD. Really consider checking stuff about it on the internet, or (better still) seeing a doctor. I thought I was just a lazy bum and a slow-poke before (since I had to tie my shoes faster and failed in kindergarten), but I'm not. You're not.

I mean, some people are faster than others, more efficient, etc, but if you're only slow about things that don't hold your interest, then it's another issue. Like, when I'm interested, I can do stuff ridiculously fast-- and well. People who're 'naturally slow' will tie their shoes slowly but also write papers slowly. I can write papers like the wind (for example). Not that ADD makes me a fluent writer, but that being a fluent writer, ADD makes it so that I do it fast (hyperfocus on things I like). Sometimes cooking takes me hours. Most of that time, of course, I spend not cooking but planning to or 'taking breaks' while the raw chicken sits on the counter, etc.

Anyway, one of the most enlightening things I've read about ADD is that it's an issue of time-perception. I mean, it's two things: messed-up time-perception and messed-up (or "differently abled") executive function (commonly called 'will', but saying that makes me feel bad, so). That's the stuff that makes people do boring tasks normally, just 'cause they know they should and theoretically want to. 'Normal' people can do that stuff with a little effort. ADD people mean to-- really-- and then just get distracted for an hour or two or a few weeks or years or.... well.

So yeah, time-perception-- 'being slow'-- is actually at the root of it. I always thought my wonky time-perception was just a quirk rather than a symptom of ADD-- like, 3 hours pass and it feels like 30 minutes. My ex used to talk about 'you-time', and in 'my-time' a projection of being done in 2 minutes meant 25 to an hour and a half, and he'd say 'we just don't have that kind of time'. I used to get annoyed, but it was true.

Er, so yeah... here's a silly online ADD quiz, FWIW.
posted by reenka at 2:11 PM on July 8, 2011 [4 favorites]

I don't think what you've described is a problem. As long as you're happy and functional, it really doesn't matter. If you take a long time to do the dishes, then you take a long time to do the dishes. I bet those dishes are really clean when you're done.

If it's not affecting your work, don't worry about it. Start your day a little earlier and plan on being early everywhere. Say, "If I'm not early, I'm late." You'll give yourself extra time to daydream.

Also, Procrastinators, Leaders of Tomorrow! I'm at the Tuesday meetings. :)
posted by mitzyjalapeno at 2:29 PM on July 8, 2011

Medication for my ADHD? That's really the only thing.

I'm starting to suspect that there might be some other developmental stuff going on with regards to coordination, but primarily the slowness and daydreaming are ADHD-related.

It might help to entertain yourself more or write down a routine. I listen to music, I also have short simple checklists that keep me from doing the "put dish in a dishwasher...hmm something distracting...what am I doing?" thing.
posted by the young rope-rider at 2:32 PM on July 8, 2011

I'm definitely the same. In general I can procrastinate quite a bit, but when it comes to a certain kind of boring physical task, I repeatedly grind to a halt. I can spend all afternoon doing the dishes. And I'm aware how long it's taking! I know it would be better to get it done quickly! But still it drags on and... then I'm looking out of the window again. Or just every movement seems to take an age...

ADD conjecture aside, the only good lead I have is: my partner pointed out that if I'm in a hurry - not just a bit of a hurry, but a near-panic hurry - I can get shit done quickly. If my parents suddenly announced they were visiting me and would be arriving in 15 minutes, I would absolutely throw myself into tidying up as quickly as humanly possible. There'd be no daydreaming, it would be an all-consuming, high-adrenaline task.

So when I'm grinding to a halt over the dishes (or etc), rather than try to speed up to a "normal" speed, I try to imagine it's a massive rush and absolutely blast it.

It works, sometimes, a bit. But I think the answer that way lies...
posted by so_necessary at 2:55 PM on July 8, 2011

Yeah, I don't know about the rest of the stuff, but I don't think it's bad that you take a long time to do the dishes. I do too and it used to bug me, until I realized I just like . . . really clean dishes. The last person I lived with got dishes done a lot faster but then there was always crap stuck to them! It didn't really save any time at all because then they had to be rewashed.

I agree it's valuable to know how long it takes to do things, so you can plan accordingly. Try timing yourself. But really, it's liberating when you realize there is no benefit in doing certain things faster (like dishes.) Also, I've recently had to just accept the fact that lots of unpleasant tasks simply take a long time because they are a lot of work (ie most things involving cleaning.)* For me, getting faster at it wasn't the solution. Instead, now I just focus on how I am doing my future self a favor- I'll be so happy to come home later to a sparkling kitchen with a cabinet full of clean dishes! I probably spend MORE time on cleaning tasks now because I know the outcome will be even better, the harder I work. It makes sense, of course, but I think people frequently forget it in a culture obsessed with getting everything done as fast as possible. I think the only true shortcut to housework might be to hire a maid.

I'd also try not to be bothered by the expectations of others. I do take a long time to do some things but I finally figured out that I prefer it that way. Taking long showers, being meticulous with the dishes, etc. Once I stopped feeling guilty that I wasn't doing things the way other people would expected, I realized that I actually really like the slow way I do some things.

*if i recall correctly, there was an AskMe a while back addressing how many hours people spend doing housecleaning and that sort of stuff and I remember being shocked by how much it was on average. It helped put things in perspective for me a lot.
posted by GastrocNemesis at 3:10 PM on July 8, 2011

Found it.
posted by GastrocNemesis at 3:13 PM on July 8, 2011

Building on what so_necessary said... well, needing high adrenaline/panic/stress to do stuff you avoid is not 'aside from' but more like self-medicating ADD symptoms. If I was going to assume this is 'normal' procrastinatory behavior, I'd say look into organizing books... there's a whole lot written, some for people who're either ADD or not, like ADD-Friendly Ways to Organize Your Life, etc.

It's a little confusing because even ADD people say 'this is just another style of functioning'. If you left me to my own devices and I was lucky, I'd never really feel frustrated-- I just do things the way I do them. It's only compared to a 2-15 minute range that an 1 1/2 hour shower seems super-long. Since you want to change, it makes sense to explore different directions. Of course, no amount of effort makes someone not a daydreamer (thankfully). The thing that set my ADD-senses tingling isn't that you take a while to do X boring household task or you daydream, but that you have issues projecting how long it'd take in the first place.

That's a central difference: saying, "I'm okay taking 40 minutes dish-washing", and thinking "ok, this'll be 10 minutes" and then you take 40, and the situation being common. I agree that there's nothing wrong with being slow, procrastinating, etc-- I'm pretty sure aside from ADD, that's simply my laid-back personality type. The ordinary solution is simply to force time-sense through a rigid schedule-- like, you don't predict but create a block of time, and then if you're not done you either reschedule (do the rest of the dishes later) or add an equal further block of time. The question with the perception itself is more abstract and tricky. No one wants to stop daydreaming (I'd be the last), and in that sense our friends and loved ones simply have to accept we're not living life in the fast lane. But if you're responsible for something, it's a different story. Perceiving time can mean the difference between success and failure, and that's why I encourage you to explore the possibilities.
posted by reenka at 3:29 PM on July 8, 2011

In answer to your first question: I'm slow. Maybe not an-hour-for-the-dishes slow, but near enough.

However, I'm not quite sure what you're asking with the second part. Is the question: how do I deal with not being able match other people's expectations? (in terms of not being as quick as people expect me to be) or is it: How do I get quicker? (so that people don't notice I'm slow.)

For the first, regarding expectations, I think you're making something outta nothing. If you ask people (and by all means do ask people rather than assuming,) you're gonna find that 90% of the time people don't have expectations about how long activity X should take. People only care about how long you take to do a task if they're standing/sitting waiting on you getting it one, which, if you think about it, doesn't happen very often in our everyday lives.

It only matters that you take more than 2 minutes to shower when there is someone else waiting to use that same shower; and even then, it only matters to them at that moment. Like wise with the dishes or the cleaning, nobody cares if you spend hours doing it unless they can't watch their favourite show on TV while you hoover or if you're hogging the sink they want to use while you wash-up.

It has already be mentioned, but you will probably benefit from hearing it again. When you spend an hour doing the dishes, those dishes are going to be spotless compared to dishes rushed off it 10 minutes. Now, OK, for most people (and perhaps yourself too,) the dishes don't need to be super spotless; but I feel it's important that you realise that you are getting something for this extra time spent. It might not being something that you want or need and that brings me on the second part. . .

How do I speed up? My suggestion for this is to start thinking about how you do you're slow tasks and what you're getting back for the time spent. You always get something: be that cleaner dishes, a better written report at work, or an alphabetized DVD collection. But you have to ask yourself if you need and want what your getting.

Try redefining what it is to take a shower or tidy the house. It may well be that your house will be 'tidy' even if the DVDs are in no order whatsoever. Just having them all in one place where you can find them when you need one can be enough -- if you choose it to be so. Similarly, maybe you don't need to massage the shampoo into the roots of your hair when you shower for you to be able to say you've washed your hair. Soap works very quickly. Our bodies don't need to be scrubbed. Sure, if you don't scrub you won't be exfoliated, but I bet the person who showers in 2 minutes doesn't exfoliate. It's good enough for them and it can be good enough for you if you choose.

Wow, that turned out a little bit longer than I expected. But I'm a very similar person and I can identify with those feelings of anxiety associated with feeling like I'm taking too long. Most of it is in my head. Perhaps you have a genuine issue, but perhaps you're just like me and need a little perspective.
posted by davidjohnfox at 3:46 PM on July 8, 2011

I'm like this too. It took me about 6mos to paint my hallway, install coat hooks, paint the baseboards and trim, etc. My friend said, "the pace at which you work can not be called 'time.'"
posted by rhizome at 3:47 PM on July 8, 2011

I tend to be a fast person. If the chore is dull, like dishwashing (which I hate), I want to get it over with quick and get on to something I'll enjoy paying attention to. The way I accomplish this is to really pay full attention to the hated dishwashing while I'm doing it, and whiz through it fast. Then I can go do something fun or engaging.
But a buddy of mine is a slow person. God, he'll take forever to do the simplest task! Drove me nuts. To me he seemed slow-witted and, like, stuck in molasses compared to fast-moving me. But the thing is, he did damn good work. Took him forever but he wasn't satisfied until it was first-rate. And it usually was.
I think we both did first-rate work but it just took him longer, and it took me a very long time to figure all this out and get over my impatience with him. As long as you're doing well, and not inconveniencing others and keeping them waiting and pissing them off with what may look to them like passive-aggressive foot-dragging, I think you're fine.
Maybe you're doing first-rate work too.
posted by fivesavagepalms at 3:51 PM on July 8, 2011

I think it means you are content where you are.
posted by Like its 1997 at 10:15 PM on July 9, 2011

I am a fast person. This morning, for example, I was camping with some people (in the snow) and we woke up at 6:30am. We had breakfast, packed our stuff, went to the toilet, pulled down our tents, and got into the car. I was in the car waiting by 7:15. The others joined me around 8. (It was blizzard conditions, so no one would have been being deliberately slower than necessary).

I spent a lot of those 45 minutes trying to figure out why everyone else was taking so much longer. I think the main thing is a matter of forward planning.

I lay in my sleeping bag for at least 5 minutes this morning after waking and before I started getting up. I spent this time planning what I was going to do and in what order. By the time I got up I had an outline in my head of what I would do first, then after that, then after that, etc. E.g. "First I will reach behind me and find my trousers. I will put those on in my sleeping bag. Then I will wriggle out and shove everything into my bags. Then I will roll up my sleeping bag. After that I will put on my shoes, take my toothbrush and walk up to the tap to brush my teeth." Etc.

I wasn't doing it in words so much as stepping through the actions in my head. When I came to actually doing them, I could autopilot quite efficiently because I had rehearsed already in my imagination. Also I had eliminated possible hurdles ("Oh, I can't pack until I have left the tent at least once, because I have to empty my hot water bottle before I can pack it.")

I do this mental rehearsal with most things, partly, I think as a habit born from social anxiety. I don't know for sure that everyone else doesn't do it, but judging from the amount of back and forth and changing direction and packing and unpacking other people did this morning, I think not.

I don't think there's anything inherently wrong with being slower at doing stuff. But if and when you WANT to speed up, maybe the planning technique would help. I recommend it during blizzards.
posted by lollusc at 4:06 AM on July 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

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