There’s a lot of talk about efficiency. With the advent of smart phones, and all of the capabilities inherent in syncing various parts of our lives, the conversation around efficiency at work and elsewhere has taken off. Websites like Lifehacker are jam packed with useful tips for saving time and spending less money.
I spend an awful lot of time thinking about the qualitative parts of life; those aspects of living that aren’t neatly quantified in minutes or dollars. There’s a good deal of qualitative input that could stand to be added to this efficiency conversation. I’d like to start with some thoughts on emotional efficiency.
Those who are into the efficiency game recognize the value of well-organized to-do lists, a zero-in-box email strategy, and real-time syncing of contacts, emails, and calendar updates. They save time and minimize scheduling mishaps. But what about the impact on our efficiency (at work and everywhere) of the emotional burdens like stress, worry, anxiety, anger, and underdevelopment? If we were to attempt to quantify the impact of these inefficiencies on our time and work output (and someone really should; I’m not the guy to do that) I suspect the results would be vastly more substantial than the cost of a slow internet connection. How effective is a salesperson who’s always anxious about whether or not she’s going to land the next sale? How much enjoyment do a father and daughter share when dad’s constantly worried about whether his daughter’s getting enough sleep, or making friends at school? How effective is a relationship between coworkers that’s riddled with enmity? No matter how strong your time-management skills are, if you’re stuck emotionally, you’re not going to be very effective anywhere in your life.
This post isn’t about solutions; there are plenty of thoughts on what to do with these kinds of emotional struggles here, and here (for example). What I hope it can be is a call to arms for adding qualitative thinking to our conversations around efficiency and productivity. Businesses and schools could stand to benefit. And we could change the calculus for ourselves around where we put our priorities, with emotional growth a bit higher on the list. (What if you spent as much time researching and as much money purchasing emotional supports as you did on gadgets?).