I’ve been striving for something, a means to make my resources go a bit further without needlessly placing myself at breaking point over and over again. For the most part this has involved working with a self-produced echolalic ticking clock. A useful, if stressful tool by which I make myself aware of time passing and the need to keep on keeping on –it’s like a full court press when down by seven.
It hasn’t really worked. It’s certainly made me aware of particular moments of waste, a certain slowness at times, and also a strange belief in the value of doing hard things first (like squats at the gym, or eating the broccoli before anything else). My awareness has not resulted in me doing things better or quicker or safer. Quite the contrary, it’s resulted in an absent-minded inattentiveness. I find myself making rookie errors and having to do things more than once.
Efficiency has not produced better or more valuable outcomes. My efficiency drive has built a work practice that de-emphasises work at the expense of time. The concentrated effort of doing has been displaced by my self-consciousness of the opportunity cost of every second and what else I might be doing. The echoes of time passing in the periphery of my senses is distraction enough to lose whatever centred wholeness I might be able to garner from the practice of working.
Best practice outcomes are applicable, and productive, when the inputs are the same, precisely identical. When the inputs require thoughtfulness, creativity, desire, ingenuity, or courage it is going to be a very tricky thing to see those deployed in standardized units. They are going to come in the shape they come in: they aren’t resources they’re qualities and trying to make them efficient is going to be counter-productive. There’s always going to be a hole in that bucket.
When every second counts there are no spare seconds to foster courage or kindness or care. Everything is forced to stay in place, producing a return on time and labour. This kind of stagnation might be seamless and efficient but it can only exist and decline. For something to be efficient over a long arc it is necessary to build in inefficiencies, to acknowledge the opportunity cost of waste, and celebrate it.