Slow down to move faster

Sometimes, you must slow down to go faster (Ann McGee Cooper)

Today, I would like to talk about an anecdote which I think is interesting about productivity.

Everybody knows a chinese game called Mah-jong. This game has often obscure rules, and is considered as an equivalent of dominos or rummy. It is performed by 4 players, and uses a set of 136 tiles based on Chinese characters and symbols.

In Occident, the solitaire version is more familiar for us, and its goal is to suppress all the tiles of the board, by matching pairs one by one, allowing the access of the tiles placed on lower levels. I have played a lot with a Facebook version of this game some years ago.

Mah-jong solitaire

This version has a very interesting set of features. More particularly, it was possible to gain points according to the speed of consecutive pairs suppressed. If I am fast enough, I was able to get 200, then 400, 600, 800, 1000 etc. points for each new suppression. But if I lose too much time, the counter was back to 200 points. Because the records my Facebook friends were visible, I had to find a way to get the highest score at this game…

The first solution I got to win this contest was to try to be as fast as I can between each pair, and to use the pressure to find the next pair to delete. Indeed, after a fixed delay time between pairs, the counter is reseted, and the next suppressed pairs does not give a lot of points. To succeed using this method, we have to be fast but above all lucky and reactive. However, I have found another method which has allowed be to defeat easily and strongly my friends : to slow down.

It may be paradoxical, but to slow down was very efficient. Instead of trying to reduce the time between consecutive pairs, I have learned how to measure the fixed delay time before the counter reset, and I was waiting for it systematically. So, if I know what is the next pair I can delete, I can use this extra time to find another available pair, and another again. Then, with some concentration and coolness, it is more difficult not to see what to do next, and I can suppress pairs with a high value counter.

This experience gave me some lessons, as the fact that we can be more efficient without stress and haste, if we are cooler, more mindful. The result was here in the game, and can be obtained for other application domains. Moreover, I have thought as very inspiring the fact that we find here the duality between relaxation and focusing that we know in martial arts or in the flow theory…

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