The Slowpoke’s Guide to Working in a Fast-Paced Environment

Time. There’s never enough of it. Even when you’re on top of your to-do list, the pressure to move faster and get more done never seems to go away. And those are the days that don’t whip by.

If that sounds familiar, then the chances are good that you work in a fast-paced workplace and that you are struggling to keep up with the rest of your team. It’s no surprise; according to Simply Hired data, last year the number of jobs described as fast-paced grew 26 percent. And as the pressures to perform faster on the job grow, many job seekers wonder what it really means to work in a fast-paced environment and how they can tweak their skills to get by a little easier and achieve a faster pace.

Are you more of a slowpoke but interested in exceeding your past performance? Here’s a look at important insight into what it means to work in a fast-paced environment and to determine how to be successful once you take the job.

Fast-Paced Means Less Time to Think

Employers describe fast-paced jobs as dynamic, deadline-driven, highly collaborative, demanding, rapidly changing and filled with high growth. Looking at these words all together, a picture of what fast-paced really means starts to come together: it’s an environment where you often must make decisions with very little time to think them through.

This might sound dangerous, especially considering the important positions that are described as fast-paced, such as lawyers, nurses, chefs, pharmacists and executives. But not having a lot of time to think things through is only difficult when you aren’t sure what to do. Which is to say that it’s hard to perform in a fast-paced environment if you have not prepared yourself with the instincts, confidence and training to do the job well and quickly.

The answer to being more successful in a fast-paced position (and to determine whether a fast-paced position is a good fit for you in the first place) is to take direct action to refine your instincts, build confidence and pursue more training.

Improving Your Instincts, Confidence and Training

The legal industry indicates the biggest need for velocity with 24 percent of jobs describing themselves as fast-paced in 2015, followed by healthcare with 21 percent. Let’s use those two industries as our example for how improve your performance in a fast-paced environment.

Refine your instincts

Do you ever find yourself feeling confused, overwhelmed or uncertain about what to do in your workplace? Do you wish you had more time to make each decision? If you do, that means you don’t have the basic instincts of the position down. You consider each instruction or scenario independent of the context of your workplace, leading you to spend more time on thinking and doubting yourself before you act.

While some people are born with excellent instincts for a particular field, the rest of us need time and experience to instill those basic lessons as instincts on the job. The best solution here is to partner with an experienced veteran at your job and ask them to walk you through their decision-making process during certain times of the day.

For example, if you are a new nurse and you find yourself doubting the decisions you make throughout the day, it will help you to shadow a veteran nurse and ask her questions as she makes those decisions. Over time you will understand the context for her decisions (always putting the patient first, or thinking of what the doctor would prefer in a certain situation) that help her make decisions more quickly.

Build confidence

Do you make a decision and then spend a lot of time doubting if it was the right one? Do you take action but then secretly stress that you’ll be reprimanded or fired for it? Then you have a confidence problem and you need to go back to your roots to remind yourself that you are a highly-qualified professional.

We already know that confident people find jobs quicker and make more money. But they also function better in a fast-paced environment because they don’t waste time doubting their decisions or actions. It’s not necessarily that they have big egos or are always right; it’s that they make decisions from an informed, confident place that welcomes responsibility.

For example, if you are a recently graduated lawyer, you might not be 100 percent acclimated to working in a real-life law firm with fast-paced, serious decisions being made around the clock. However, you can gain confidence by breathing deep and focusing on the fact that you passed the bar and earned a degree. This deep understanding of the law will help you get used to your new environment and make quick decisions over time. You can also share your doubts with a more senior lawyer or human resources team member who can coach you through your doubts toward your best performance.

Pursue training

Do you freeze when you go to make a decision? Are you hesitant to do anything without a clear instruction in fear of making a mistake? Then you’ll find a lot of relief if you pursue ongoing training in your workplace.

Ongoing training is important in two ways. First, it naturally bolsters your instincts and builds confidence. The more time you spend with your industry subject matter, the easier it will be to consider tasks and requests that come up within the context of your fast-paced workplace. Second, the more training you have, the less time you will need to make a decision and follow through with it. This ultimately positions you to perform will in a fast-paced environment because you can make quick, accurate decisions.

As a paralegal in a fast-paced work environment, new processes, laws and customers frequently disrupt your workday. But if you consistently pursue professional development in your field, you will be able to stay on top of these trends and network with likeminded paralegals who can help you deepen your knowledge, your instincts and your confidence, ultimately leading you to make better decisions faster.

Fast-paced work environments aren’t for everyone. If you invest time in refining your instincts, building confidence and pursuing more training and you still feel uncomfortable and overwhelmed in your workplace, you may need to consider a new job or new career that won’t put those pressures on you. However, most people will find that focusing on these three steps will help them quickly make good decisions and experience high levels of success in fast-paced working environments.