Haste Makes Waste

Everyone has heard this a million times, but how many actually slow down to do a good job… This lesson is taught at least daily in my observation and experience. Finding the right pace for each job is often the difference between a great job and an acceptable job.

The first time I seriously thought about this was when I was fixing a closet door at my wife’s late grandmother’s house a few years ago. The brother of my wife’s grandfather was there. After observing me work, he said (more or less) “You do good work but you must learn to slow down.” I discounted the comment a bit but… continued thinking about it without fully understanding his words until years later.

Last week, the contractor building a staircase for us had a couple guys nail the threads on the stringers with a nail gun ruining the stringers. To an untrained eye the job would look completely fine but when I saw it, I had serious issues. The contractor said he’d fix the situation after he realized what had been done. In his case, someone else’s haste resulted in his waste.

Another example is the case of using old work as backdrop for new work instead of treating new work as a completely unrelated project to old work. In the case of the staircase, the contractor used the existing stringer to trace the new 2×12 lumber thereby transferring the issues of the old stringer onto the new and leaving him without a reliable measurement for future. Had he kept a reliable measurement, he’d have saved himself a lot of time while remedying the situation. The concept of “reuse” in the corporate world usually has the same effect. You may argue that if everything had to build as new work ignoring old work (not reusing) that would result in less efficiency. Of course but efficiency is also decreased by waste.

Without getting too technical, in my opinion you should slow down to the speed of doing a good job. I have become much more confident in my own abilities ever since I realized that I had the skills for almost any job but lacked the discipline to find the right speed, the right tools, and the right advice. Now, projects are only a matter of time for me. And time is what I lack most. So, I do not have the luxury of rushing and making waste.


  1. I agree with your perspective but would like to add a comment. I have found that the toughest thing for me is understanding and helping others find their own best “speed”. I have trouble being patient with those whose “speed” is slower than my own. Now I have to find my “speed” in helping others find theirs!

  2. Thomas, and in every case it’s so different. Almost always, people with less experience in a task will perform slower for the same quality. How much slower depends on all of their other experiences that may contribute to the task at hand. But I completely agree that “haste makes waste” applies to dealing with people just as much as it applies to dealing with tasks. Thanks for commenting.

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