I’ve always been a fan of efficiency. And When I say efficiency, I mean the mindset of getting something done in a timely manner. A mindset devoid of distraction, procrastination and focused on doing things that will save time, money and wear and tear. All of these attitudes and habits are great, but sometimes they overwhelm us.
Efficiency is held up like an idol in our society especially regarding work or services. Just look at the way we evaluate if someone is a 'good' worker:
Can you finish things on time, if not before a deadline?
Can you maximize productivity?
Can you churn out products consistently and quickly?
Are you organized?
If the answer to any of these is Yes, then people will regard you not only as a hard worker, but also a good person. If you can be efficient, then you are the best of the best. You’ll be a success. You’ll have money, and reach your goals!
I'm not saying that we shouldn't look for these things in employees, however we cannot deny how the emphasis we put on speed, organization and work have negative effects too. While efficiency is essential, I've realized that focusing too much on it negatively affects every day life.
Here are three ways efficiency hurts more than helps us in today's world.
1. It doesn’t consider human needs/limits:
I’ll admit it. I’ve valued my own efficiency over the needs of my mind, body, and soul. My to-do list seems more important than the rest, care, and nourishment I need. However, I never considered it a serious problem until I started to value efficiency a little too much. So much, that when I started to feel sick or exhausted, the feeling of guilt crept into the back of my mind. Why? Because I wasn’t getting things done! My own well-being suddenly became inconvenient and I measured my success by how much I finished. This is totally ironic too, because being well rested, exercising, and participating daily prayer/meditation are ESSENTIAL to an individual’s daily success. When all you can think about is saving time, money, and getting things done, it doesn’t leave room for the things that are equally essential to your over-all happiness! To sum it up, the first problem is that efficiency is unforgiving. When it becomes the main focus, physical ailments, spiritual attention and rest become an inconvenience rather than something that should be fulfilled. Efficiency might be great for making money, but it rarely understands the fallibility of the human body, mind, and spirit.
2. It creates impatience: We've all seen it. That one lady in line at McDonald's that throws a fit when someone isn't working fast enough for them. They treat the person behind the computer like crap and only think about how their time (usually a few minutes) is being wasted. In this day and age food can be served in less than 5 minutes, and people are expected to be accurate and speedy. This isn't confined to the food industry. The time we save through new technology and the constant increase in quick production leaves all of us expectant of timely and cheap products. Not only do we expect efficiency, we feel entitled to it! Like the lady who has to wait a couple extra minutes for her Big Mac and Large fries, we don't want to wait. We value the efficiency of a product or service offers, but much like the unforgiving nature of efficiency people become unforgiving too. For instance, I started planning out my days to maximize my productivity, but I became so focused on productivity that my spiritual, mental, and physical needs became a burden. When efficiency becomes the goal, we lose patience for mistakes or uncontrollable events which affect our daily lives. Rather than valuing the people behind a product or service, rather than realizing that our day will rarely go according to plan, imperfections become tiresome. Not only is efficiency unforgiving, it removes any understanding or patience for the uncontrollable situations life throws at us daily.
3. It devalues leisure/rest: In 2016, over 500 million vacation days weren’t used by Americans in the work force. Now this could be for a lot of different reasons, but it speaks wonders to the Idol of efficiency. Americans consistently work an average of 44 hours a week, hundreds of hours more than other countries. Why? Because work gives us purpose/value and because we prioritize money over other important things. Just like how I valued being timely and crossing things off my list as more important than my personal well-being, workers are valued by the same measure. To put it simply, If you’re not working you’re not valuable or dedicated. This attitude makes leisure time seem like WASTING TIME. In today’s society we are constantly told to work hard, but were never told that vacation, rest, and personal time are necessary to be excellent! Don’t get me wrong, work is very good and the value it provides in life is also good. But when work and efficiency become the absolute way we value employees and ourselves, we devalue the important rest and relaxation we need. Work is essential, but so is leisure!
Now that I’ve explained a little bit about how efficiency affects us negatively, how do we combat it?
There are three simple things you can do every day no matter where you are:
Take time off! Carve out time for yourself and your loved ones where you can play, relax, and let your mind rest. If possible, don't work on weekends and use ALL your vacation too. It’s just as important as work!
Be patient. Take care to value changes as opportunities and time as something to be used carefully, not speedily.
Be forgiving of others and yourself. Recognize human limits or struggles other people go through and respect them with understanding and reassurance.
We all get caught up in trying to be super productive machines every once in a while. When that happens, don't be afraid to step out of that rigid fairy-tale into imperfect, but beautiful, world we live in. Who knows, you might end up being happier and healthier in the end.