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The Art and Science of Delay

Public Affairs,

15 min read
10 take-aways
Audio & text

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When it comes to making intelligent decisions, patience is a virtue.

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In this thought-provoking study of decision making, professor Frank Partnoy argues that people make the best personal and professional choices when they take their time. Too often, human beings act quickly when it isn’t necessary. Partnoy helps you understand the mechanics of your thinking so that you can arrive at informed, unhurried decisions. For those who would relish a more leisurely pace, getAbstract recommends this cogent argument that time is on your side.


The most challenging aspect of decision making is timing. While prompt, intuitive responses may sometimes be appropriate, often circumstances call for careful planning and analysis. Time management experts use every available second before they act. Most people respond too rashly, perhaps due to living in a high-speed, technology-driven society. In most cases, the longer you wait, the better the outcome, even if you pause only for a split second.

Professional tennis players, for instance, have roughly half a second to return a serve – a period of time that “precludes deliberation.” In that time span, they evaluate a great deal of information; they recognize the ball’s trajectory and spin, determine where it will land, and assess the server’s position. Most people – including professional athletes – have approximately the same visual reaction time – 200 milliseconds. But professional players’ ability to position their bodies and swing their rackets so they hit balls back over the net with power, speed and accuracy distinguishes pros from amateurs. Faster physical response times enable professional tennis players, baseball and cricket batters, and other athletes who play “superfast...

About the Author

Frank Partnoy is the George E. Barrett Professor of Law and Finance at the University of San Diego.

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    D. B. 1 decade ago
    Wait for it... wait for it...NOW!
    You can't rush a flower opening, incubation is perhaps the most important piece of creativity, and waiting for the dough to rise ensures a better loaf. How many generals have waited for just the right time to commit the reserves rather than rushing in? How many negotiation styles depend on feeling the other side out? If you need more time, try to take it until your gut feels it is time to act. This sounds like a wonderful reminder that judgement and wisdom sometimes take time. Take the time to do it right? Well, if you can afford to, for sure.

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