The cult of efficiency


Sir: “Time is running out.” The thought itself makes us cringe. The anxiety caused by such a thought makes us run faster and faster and find new ways of doing things, as well as pack as many things as possible within a set of time.

To be more efficient, often we opt to do more within less, thus taxing every aspect of our lives. We have even created and marketed successfully what is called “time-management.”

We have done a great job in organizing ourselves. We did something that no other social animal could even think of. We have successfully compartmentalized the time itself. In compartmentalizing time, we have created years, months, weeks, days, hours, minutes, seconds and even microseconds.

In trying to control and manage time, we find ourselves being controlled by the time itself. We have become its slave: its work-time (which takes up most all of our waking hours), its lunch/supper time (which never seems to arrive for many because we are being super productive), its family time (which many of us have forgotten what family time is), and its sleep time (only to find that we are suffering from sleep deprivation).

So much for trying to be efficient.

Why are we rushing, multitasking, trying to do excessive numbers of things within a short time frame? Or achieving efficiency at what cost?

A quick reflection on our efficiency would suggest we are getting stressed-out, simply because we are trying to achieve more and more, with less and less. Efficiency is possible, but at a cost of inner peace, relationships and dissatisfaction with life?

Our families and friends are the first ones to become victim of our obsession with efficiency and greater productivity. We have less time and energy with those whom we love.

Couples sacrifice their quality-time because they have to be more productive at work.

Children are left at empty homes with their electronic toys.

And what about “me” time? Don’t we care for our inner-self and spirituality?

In the name of time-efficiency and greater productivity we have even lost the art of slowing down, the art of being alone, or the art “to be.”

“To do” has replaced “to be.”

I am not suggesting we do nothing but stay idle. I am not even suggesting that we spend all the time with our family and friends. I am merely suggesting about maintaining a balance within various aspects of our lives – there is a time to work, to volunteer, to be with family and friends and to be with ourselves, alone with our Creator.

I am not downplaying the need for better-time management and higher productivity, but I am questioning the cost of efficiency on the relationships with our family and friends, and on our physical, mental and spiritual health. Is it worth the effort?

Undoubtedly, speed and efficiency have their place within our lives. But we need to go back to our primal question – what is our priority? Does quality of life matter anywhere within our cult of efficiency?

It seems that we have exchanged quality of life with speed, deadlines, production quotas, low cost coupled with higher profits. We are running on our self-created treadmill faster and faster to a point that we are getting exhausted and sick.

Once again, I ask how would we define our quality of life? Is it more time with family, friends and with ourselves or being exhausted and sick because we are being efficient?

Do we want to be more productive? Well then we need to take time for ourselves and our family and friends. This will rejuvenate us, we will be more productive, and also have a quality of life.

To rejuvenate, relax, go for a walk, read a book, listen to calming music, meditate and spend time with loved ones.

Slow down. Let go of the attachments with the materialistic values.

There is no need to run faster and faster in our life, as this will make us exhausted, tired and sick. Furthermore, we will likely lose our family and friends. What matters is maintaining a balance in life. It’s not worth losing our family, friends and our-self while obsessing with efficiency.

Naresh James







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