Embracing slow time

When you work in a traditional office and have a question, instant gratification is hard to resist. It’s so easy. Just stumble over to a co-worker’s desk, make sure they stop whatever it was they were doing, blather on until the lights of recognition come on in their eyes, then await the answer.

Unless your query concerns inflammable materials currently engulfed in said flames you’ve likely wasted their time – in fact, you may have even wasted your own. One of my favorite side-effects of working remotely is the way slow-time communication forces you to stop and think before you speak. When I have a question for one of our programmers, for example, here’s a bit of what goes through my head:

The basic idea is this: you try to minimize the things that are bad, and maximize those that are good.

It’s usually at this point that I either figure out the answer for myself or come up with a new way of considering the problem, never having to even ask the original question. I didn’t bother my co-worker, I didn’t look like an idiot trying to articulate the question on-the-fly, and most importantly I figured out the answer!

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People who struggle to work remotely often bemoan the lack of in-person collaboration jumping from this tool to that tech in an effort to recreate the magic that only happens when we’re all in the same room. There are definitely advantages to face time, but too often it seems like facial expressions and waving arms are substituted for clear thought and courtesy.

The next time you have a question for a coworker, try writing it out as if they were 1000 miles and 3 time zones away – even if they’re sitting right next to you. You might surprise yourself with the answer.

  1. Ted Pearlman Reply

    I appreciate what you’re saying. But I think it’s dangerous to empiricize about what working style is most productive.

  2. Devan Reply

    But this both confirms and overlooks the fact that research has proven that articulating a thought process via a different medium (more often than not – by speaking the question) can often result in enlightenment. I am sure we have all at several time in our lives worked out the answer to our own question whilst just talking to someone else about it.

  3. Fred Merkle Reply

    Well, I disagree, and think this is a pretty idiotic assertion. Are you suggesting that reducing communication leads to better project and business outcomes? Do you have any data to back up the assertion that in talking to a colleague I have most likely wasted their time?

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