I have spent most of my adult life perfecting the art of efficiency. And why not? Efficiency is lauded as a high art and cultural ideal. Professors and bosses have praised me for my multitasking prowess: balancing as many projects as they could send my way and beating every deadline set before me.
From a day-to-day perspective, efficiency is incredibly useful. I know the precise combination of zigs and zags between my home and the yoga studio at which I teach to minimize waiting at intersections and maximize the use of pedestrian-right-of-way crosswalks. I have mastered the art of ensuring multiple dishes are finished at just the right moment for an elaborate dinner party. Upon entering the front door of my house at the end of the day I am singularly focused on the five tasks I must complete - and the order in which I need to do so - to clear my head and prepare for the morning.
But efficiency has its downsides too. Heaven help my husband if he makes an unexpected trip downstairs to ask about my day before I have crossed the intended tasks off my to-do-list. And don’t even think about delaying my precisely calculated 12 minute commute to the studio by saying hello. Pity the poor dinner guest who arrives at my home 15 minutes early or late and finds their otherwise gracious hostess perturbed by unplated appetizers or fixated on how the minor delay will affect the first course.
Efficiency has served me well in many circumstances, but I am growing to realize it leaves very little time for connection and interaction – and is utterly unconducive to a life outside my own head. Intentional exercises of inefficiency do not come easily, but I have found them incredibly freeing. Choosing a less direct route to the studio – and making eye contact with passersby – has enabled me to recognize and interact with friends and neighbors I encounter along the way. Setting my things down and saying hello to my husband – or peeking at my sleeping daughter – before delving into tomorrow’s plans and preparations has created opportunities for a meaningful debrief on the day. And it turns out dinner guests don’t mind watching the appetizers come out of the oven.
How can you be less efficient today? Where can you create margin for relationships and happy accidents?