So much of my life is spent avoiding inefficiency. The more I can combine tasks and move smoothly, the more I accomplish and the more content I am. I spend an enormous amount of time avoiding traffic. There is nothing more inefficient than getting on an eight-lane highway built for speed and crawling home for an hour and a half. When I cook, I cook and clean simultaneously. No matter how great the food and wine is, all I can think about during dinner is the massive clean up following the event. So I clean, constantly, even getting up immediately after the last bite to clean up…to maintain efficiency.
I think most “American” thinkers struggle with this in some capacity. This is why we have so many tools to keep us efficient. The market for efficiency is colossal. From Calendars to whiteboards and Outlook to administrative assistants, we invest a lot of money to remain efficient. Personally, I’m obsessed with finding the perfect calendar app. I know it’s out there!
If you travel overseas, chances are you have encountered a culture that is much less obsessed with efficiency. From Island life to siesta, “accomplishing” is less of a focus. Sitting through a four-hour authentic Italian dinner complete with four courses, cafe, grappa, and cigars, you’ll find on the other end a stressed out frazzled American or an individual who has discovered the antithesis of efficiency; relationships. Nothing hinders a neat and orderly life more than the challenge of building relationships. Like driving, sometimes our relationships are cruising, other times we’re in rush hour. Sometimes junk from their past gets in the way causing a backup, and other times we’re so distracted that we miss the brake lights and slam into their emotions causing gridlock for weeks. Relationships are extremely inefficient and the more we try to fit them into our neat and orderly schedules, the more cold and distant they become.
Working to have dinner together as a family three to four times a week is inefficient, but critical. Potty training my son is so inefficient, but the mess needs to happen to accomplish the goal. A non-negotiable weekly date night costs money and time but provides the opportunity for my wife and me to connect at a deep level. Being patient and affirming my daughter’s emotions slows me down but builds her confidence in my love. Seeking to understand others before implementing your managerial duties takes time but builds trust. Depending on God to come through in the difficult times is stressful and inefficient, but the faith and trust that is forged in the depths of a challenge will stabilize you and your family for the coming journey.
The more efficient I am at work, the more I accomplish. The more flexible I am with my relationships, the more I experience love. The more I allow relationships to nudge slightly ahead of schedule, the more fulfilled I am as an individual. The challenge is, our lives drift toward accomplishing tasks. Crossing something off our list is much more concrete (instant gratification) than taking time to truly listen to a co-worker or friend. So much of our time investment is ROI driven, but time invested in relationships is always a long-term investment and much harder to justify as we prioritize our daily activities. But, if you really think about it, of all your agenda items, what will really matter 25…30…50 years from now? The only thing that truly matters is the lives you have impacted and the relationships you have built.
I have to allow relationships to trump schedule. Choosing to open my eyes to those around me and allowing their lives to intertwine with my quest for efficiency leads me to a deeper place of love and personal discovery. Ultimately, I find my life more efficient as I navigate the “traffic” within the framework of healthy relationships and a sense of fulfillment.
Prioritize efficiency and you might miss those around you, but strive to see those around you and your day will hum like a well-oiled machine.