In early game, when little is happening, I too use 4X and wish for a faster speed. I live at 2X and pause when needed, and I may rarely use 1X when things are really hectic. But I have a feeling of "how fast ships are", and that is tied to running the game at 2X.
When I play I really don't like to lose colonies, and I don't mind to micro manage combat if there is a benefit. Like, enemies attack my colony. The real threats to the colony are the troop transports. So on an incoming attack (that I am warned about), I make sure some defenders are waiting. Once ships arrive, I target groups of ships on troop transports manually, and let the rest of the battle "do its thing".
The catch is. If they attack 3-4 colonies at once, something has to give .
I don't play a lot of games, and I have not met that kind of attacks a lot of times.