The Terrible Danger of Efficiency

I’ve had a major life course correction these past few weeks.

Imagine the old me efficiently mastering the tasks of the day in a frenzied zeal of productivity. 

Efficiency governed my life.

In fact, I judged the success of each day by how much I could squeeze in. I relished advanced preparation, shortcuts, multi-tasking, checklists, and all the other trappings of a Type A, High I, ENFJ type of woman.

More, more, more! Faster, faster, faster!

But why? Why?

I was cutting up chicken for tomorrow’s pot pie, and I thought about all the time I was saving. But was I really saving time? What was I doing with all this hypothetical time? I was just cramming in more stuff, being ever more efficient, in a stifling, exhausting, and never-ending cycle.

What would happen if I simply weren’t efficient anymore? What would happen if I stopped trying to maximize my productivity?

In a strange and beautiful moment, time froze as I put the pot pie away for another day. I rested my chin on my folded hands and took a deep breath.

There’s no benefit to efficiency if it only keeps you on a treadmill. There’s no benefit to efficiency if it keeps you so future-oriented that you’re never actually enjoying the present moment at all. 

Lately, I’m enjoying my tasks in a slow, focused, and present manner. I’m not interested in saving time. I’m interested in living my life fully and joyfully. Efficiency steals that kind of life from me. Efficiency steals peace from my heart.

Besides, it all gets done anyway–at least the important things. Try abandoning efficiency, and you’ll see what I mean.

(I actually don’t see Jesus as efficient in scripture, by the way. Do you?)

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  1. Dr. H, I completely agree you on this.
    Over the past few years with doing missions to the Dominican Republic and Haiti and seeing how they live their lives, I've been impacted in a significant way. One of the main ideas I took away from those trips was what I do with my days and how I organize my time.
    I've always been a “let's see how much I can get done today!”-person and this attitude cheapens a day to a rat race mentality. Especially in Haiti, I noticed how much people valued their time together and how focused they were in conversations with each other. They value the quality of their day over the quantity of their day. For them, it is better to have a day of three solid conversations with friends and family, then eight meetings where they barely exchange small talk.
    I've been trying to adapt this mentality to my life this year. Valuing my time with people rather than treating them as an agenda item to check off my list. It's a shift of mind and heart that isn't easy – but it's worth it.

    Quality over quantity. Always.

  2. It's like you have a camera taping the evenings at my house! I am SO the React/Rescue one! Ugh! After the fact, I could kick myself. Funny thing is, when my husband does the respond and react thing to me and tries to solve it all, I get annoyed with him and say I just want you to listen to me! So why can't I see how aggravating it is when I do it to my kids/siblings/friends? I love your alternative! Maybe I will start by clicking my heels together and repeating “respond and rejoice”, “respond and rejoice” – ala Dorothy – until it sinks in:o)