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The Case for Blissful Inefficiency

If you are anything like me and everyone I know, you have spent decades mastering the art of productivity:

You have determined the exact last moment you can leave your front door in the morning and still make the bus.

You have figured out how to straighten up the living room, paint your nails, and meditate... all at the same time.

You have outsourced cleaning, cooking, shopping, and goodness knows what else to third party services.

You dictate to your phone instead of typing because it saves you precious seconds.

You don’t like arriving places early, because of all you could have done with those extra minutes.

The end goal is clear: to organize your day so that you can do more things. You want to "have it all," and efficiency seems to be the solution.

But there is trouble in paradise. Because, well, living your life this way sometimes doesn’t actually feel like paradise. In my experience, the more you are able to cram into your day, the more you want to cram into your day. So you try harder, against an ever-steepening energy barrier to do so.

Before you know it, you have morphed into a task-oriented machine whose main purpose in life, it seems, is checking off items from your ToDo list. Can you relate?

It is an endless treadmill that is never fully satisfying.

Meanwhile, your kids are being cute and your partner needs a hug and the tree outside is blossoming and where are you? Not at all present. And anxious, to boot.

So today, I want to take a stand for blissful inefficiency. What this means is that you focus on doing things in a way that is enjoyable to you, sometimes at the cost of doing them efficiently.

If you are a list-monger, you may never have thought about this concept. You may be so focused on accomplishing your tasks that you are not even trying to enjoy the moment-to-moment experience of them. Are you happy while getting ready in the morning? Are you enjoying life while checking email at work?

This is your opportunity. Start to pay attention. What would it take to make blissful the experience of your daily life tasks? And what inefficiencies would you need to accept in order to make them so?

For example, here are some things that I do that are blissfully inefficient:

1. I take the bus.

I absolutely love public transit. I love experiencing a random group of people—the older woman with a cane and bag of fish, the pack of teens not-so-subtly flirting in the back, the preschool class in their matching neon “don’t hit me” vests. I love soaking it all in, as the bus comfortingly groans and rumbles its way across town. The thing is, while the San Francisco Muni system is ubiquitous, it is usually the slowest way to get anywhere. But still, I have started investing the time to take the bus anyways. When I get off at my destination, I leave with much joy and goodwill… and it brightens my day.

2. I write notes by hand.

For many years, I tried to avoid writing anything by hand. I mean, after all, typing is faster, easier to read, searchable, organizable, copy-and-paste-able, formattable. And it doesn’t waste trees. What is not to like? But the truth is, I enjoy the act of writing by hand. Journal entries written on the computer vs. in a beautiful paper book just aren’t the same to me. I find beauty in writing. And so I keep my journal, my blog ideas, and even, yes, my ToDo list, on paper.

3. I take baths.

Compared with showers, baths egregiously lose the efficiency race. They take longer, get you less clean, and I have yet to figure out how to read a book or do anything "productive" in one. Most of my baths even require a shower afterwards to rinse off. Yes, not efficient at all, but boy they sure feel decadent. And so I make it a point to have a bath every so often.

4. I give extra time.

If you are one of my clients, you have likely witnessed this phenomenon. Sometimes, the end of our session rolls around and we are on such an exciting topic of discussion that I simply don’t want to leave it hanging. And so I invest an extra 10 minutes to bring the topic to a conclusion, usually with terrific results. Sure, that decreases the price of my billable hour, yada yada yada. But those extra minutes can bring the hour we spent together to a new level, and that is a bliss-win for me.

5. I send letters.

I love the act of writing someone a letter. Picking the card, ducking into a coffee shop to compose words of care over a cup of tea, sealing it with a sticker. Compared to an email, this takes longer to write, costs more, and requires days to deliver. It loses on all of the efficiency fronts. But when I write someone a letter, I feel connected to them in a special way that I love.

There is no doubt that living my life this way means that I do a bit less. For example, on Friday my bus was delayed a full 20 minutes because of a bomb threat. But by focusing on bliss instead of on efficiency, even a delay like that was a rich experience for me. It gave me a chance to chat with the bus driver, take a look at the neighborhood we were stopped in, and just enjoy the experience I had created for myself. Because I do not gauge the value of my day only by how efficient it is, a delay doesn’t destroy how I feel about my day. That is the key.

Where would you like to be more blissfully inefficient? What would that feel like? How would it impact your enjoyment of your daily life? Write me a note and share!

Inefficiently yours,

Photo Courtesy of: Juan Salmoral

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