Read the question

Since I’m back to writing exams as a graduate student, I’ve found myself re-acquainted to an old foe – the habit of making a mistake because of not reading the question completely. As a kid, this used to show in the number of “silly” mistakes I used to make. Copying a number wrong here and completely missing an important part of the question there were classic examples. Somehow, calling them “silly” seemed to soften the blow.

With time and reflection comes maturity (or at least that’s what I hope :-)), and I think I’ve learnt to slow down a lot more. But, I can still sense the old instinct and I’ve certainly caught myself not doing this as well as I’d like over the past few weeks.

The way I see it, reading the question is not just an examination thing. It is a general sign that I need to slow down a bit as I understand a problem. It applies just as well to listening to people completely and not jumping to conclusions mid-sentence. It also means holding that bias for action back for a bit so I can give the plan of action a bit of thought. And it means ensuring adequate reflection between iterations.

Often, to go fast, we first need to go slow.