mnmlist: slowness isn’t comprehension

Kris Madden had a thoughtful response to my last post on reading slower, and I posted a response in the comments that I’d like to repost here:

Hi Kris … thanks for your thoughtful response! It actually gives me a chance to clear up some misconceptions.

Namely, you misunderstood a couple of points:

1. I didn’t mention reading comprehension in my post and if that was implied, I apologize. Slowing down was to make the process of reading — and of working in general — more enjoyable. That’s the main point of slowing down, not to comprehend more.

When we slow down, we move at a more leisurely pace, we don’t feel so rushed, we’re not trying to cram too many things into our day. And most importantly, we have time to think about what’s important, rather than just doing things as fast as we can.

2. I didn’t say everything had to be read at the same rate. I just said to read slower. This can be a different rate of slowness for different types of materials, but the basic point — to slow down to enjoy life more — remains the same.

3. Productivity as you’ve defined it is definitely the traditional sense. I’m rejecting that traditional definition, and have for awhile now. Read some of my posts on Zen Habits for more on this. I basically believe the traditional definition of productivity — to increase our rate of output — is outdated and based on an industrial model, where workers were machines and management tried to increase their productivity and thereby increase profits. I reject this — workers are not machines, but creative, imaginative humans with hopes and goals and the desire for freedom and happiness.

And so, I believe productivity shouldn’t be to output at a faster rate, but to lead to achieving things, to freedom, to happiness, to doing what you love. That’s why effectiveness is more important than rate — if you focus on what’s important, then you can get great things done, and do them in less time because you’re not trying to do too much.

Thanks for the opportunity to clarify my thoughts!