When it comes to work, a lot of Asians are fast and efficient. Sometimes scarily fast and efficient (when compared to others). It’s like a super power that some of us have.
I’m a fast worker. Part of my job at work involves processing: I stamp application forms and divide them into batches of 100, which takes me around five minutes per batch. But that’s not as fast as my Asian colleague, and let’s call her Mandy. Watching Mandy grab a stack of papers, flick the papers up by their corners and count each one until the 100th one in a matter of twenty seconds is like watching a magic show – the papers flick up in a blur, actually disappearing for a second.
Maybe some of us Asians do things fast because we want to be first, first to cross the finish line. Coming out on top and getting titles and rewards is admired in Asian cultures. When I was younger, my parents nagged at me to finish all my homework as soon as I got home from school so I could start the next set of questions in the maths revision books. I did that, because back then I naively thought keeping ahead of the pack made us truly happy.
And so we do things fast and perhaps achieve as much as we can because of pride. It’s a “face thing” in Asian cultures to do this, do that, been there, done that.
Perhaps some of us Asians are fast workers because we want something to do and want to keep occupied. Maybe in the past we lived the rough moving-around-pinching-every-penny Asian life to make ends meet, didn’t have the chance to put our skills to use and so are eager to seize the next opportunity to be productive and better ourselves today. When I finally found a job in the Australian Caucasian-dominated workforce after a dull year of unemployment straight out of university, all I wanted to do was throw myself into work and get everything on the job done ASAP.
Then again, maybe the reason some Asians work fast boils down to our hard work ethic – we know the value of working for what we want and it’s something we picked up as a kid.
Sometimes work demands we work fast. If the paperwork doesn’t get put away as it comes in at my work, it piles up. Maybe Mandy is the sort who likes to get it out of the way, though we don’t have an exact deadline for this task. Once she said to me, “Do you want to start processing? Because you’re fast.” The faster we work, the faster we get work of the way and don’t forget to do it.
Usually things go slower in the Western world: there’s more consulting than action compared to Asian workplaces; trains generally run slower. In all honesty, I’ve been guilty of working slow. The other day I counted papers slower than usual because I had a headache – and realised I needed my health to work. There have been times when I’ve wanted more time to rewrite my freelance articles and asked my editor for an extended deadline. It takes time to put feelings into words, time to do anything creative.
And going slow is something I’ve come to like. The slower we go, the more we see what’s happening around us. The more we live in the moment. When we’re doing things fast, chances are we get tired easily. Feel stressed more.
Now that I’ve come to appreciate working slow, perhaps I’m losing a bit of my Asian side? As an Asian Australian who slaves away at a repetitive 9-5 office job for money and moonlights as a writer, I suppose I’ve come to experience the best of both worlds: getting things done when I’m fast and seeing the finer things in life when I’m taking my time.
I could be Mandy the Magician and make papers disappear like her. Once she called me “little whiz” when I counted about 500 papers in twenty minutes, so I’m sure I can if I push myself. But if I do, I don’t think I’ll have the energy to blog after work. Watching Mandy process paperwork already makes me a bit tired. Then again, I’ll get bored if I took my time – I like moving on with tasks, doing different tasks at work.
Sometimes we can only work so fast. And work so slow. We all have our limits, and our good days and bad days.
Do you like to do things fast at work? Or do you take your time?