Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Adage Testing: Slow and steady wins the race

Recently I have begun a series here where I run tests on old adages to see how they work out in the real world. The first one, down a couple posts from here, tested whether you can judge a book by its cover. I won't give away here whether you can or not in case you haven't read it. Today we are testing whether "Slow and steady wins the race." I've discussed this issue in my blog a bit before, but that was discussion. This is science!

The ground rules:

1. "Slow and steady" seems pretty clear, but race against whom or what is more of a question. Traditionally slow and steady's rival has been taken to be "fast and erratic" as per its source in Aesop's Tortoise and the Hare, so I am going to go with that approach for slow and steady's opponent.

2. Since clerkmanifesto is a one person operation I am going to have to compete against myself. I will take two half hour segments of shelving. For one I will shelve at a sedate, but relentless, pace. For the other I will shelve more how I usually shelve; reading, writing, speed bursts, spacing out, rage shelving, etc.  As I believe all the shelving is pointless if it is not done well, fixing problems as I go and doing light straightening, I will be shelving under both modes to the same (hopefully high) standard. In the end I will tally which half hour got more items shelved.

The race and the total:

I started with slow and steady. I had one cart in order. It was full, but with a bit of give on the second shelf. Not being a huge part of my nature this was a strange way to work and I had to really concentrate. At the end of the half hour session I had shelved all but nine books on the cart.

Later that day I shelved a strictly timed half hour in my usual fast and erratic fashion. My cart was approximately the same as for slow and steady- maybe a touch more tightly full, but we'll count it equal. Even though this is how I usually shelve it was a very self-conscious process. I found I had to balance my knowledge that it was a "race" and accept that I was trying to beat slow and steady's amount (which I feel was more of a fixed amount, race or no. Slow and steady is slow and steady). But I also wanted to make sure I recreated the erraticness of a non race situation too. So I did a bit of writing in there, took a break, and I read a bit of a book. In the end I finished the cart six minutes early and used it to write this. I am currently just a minute or so past my half hour.


No. Slow and steady doesn't win the race. It loses. An adage more like "Slow and steady gets more done" may have merit, but we're not testing that here. In a race it's not even close. Frankly it was so lopsided that while shelving "fast and erratic" I was tempted to lay down and take a nap.


1 comment:

  1. A quasi-empirical quest that is bold, too bold. I think you are uncovering the dark mechanics of civilization again like some mad Franken-clerk. (no, not ya'll's senator). Some things should not be examined. Except perhaps your feverish caffeine intake! Madness!


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