Monday, September 27, 2010

Eff "Efficiency"

A word that I think everyone is familiar with is efficiency. Now I don't know about you but I don't have the best associations with that word. It means getting more done in less time which should be a good thing, right?. Get the dumb crap out of the way so that you have more time to spend on the things that matter, right? But it always seems like whoever wants to talk to me about efficiency wants to eat up all of my time. They don't see efficiency the way I see it. They see me getting more things done in less time, and then take that free time, and then make me work harder.

A word I associate with efficiency is insecurity. The story goes something like this: you need to work as hard as you can, pinch every penny and milk every minute because if you don't someone else will and you'll be thrown aside. It's a little mind game employers, teachers and other authority figures play with you. The only way to stay in the game and reap the "rewards" of the system is to constantly figure out ways to deliver what they want faster and faster. And you have to play the game, or else someone else will take your spot. It could be your friend. It doesn't matter. You better start running or better get packing.

Since we can't be productive all the time we then have to justify our natural non-work needs like sleep and food. We call these "breaks" because work is what's supposed to be the norm and things like destressing and clearing your head are considered deviations from work. While no work is done on breaks, breaks are believed to make you more efficient. It's hard to quantify how efficient a break can make you so there's always pressure to keep breaks as small as possible to maximize work. This creates a very nonsensical situation because then we'll rush to bed to relax for the sole purpose of being ready to tackle all that work you have to do that you're probably freaking out. And somehow in all of this, efficiency means doing more in less time. Where's that extra time? Where's your reward for all of your hard work?

Am I the only one who thinks this idea is a load of crap? Work hours on average have doubled since the 1970's, and are only continuing to rise. If we took all of those time saving hours and gave them back to ourselves instead of reinvesting them into our work, the average person would only have to work 850 hours a year or just over 20 hours a week! We can work 20 hours a week and still have the same standard of living! What the hell is going on here!


  1. I agree with what you're saying, but really, what can anyone do about it?