Efficiency is not the realm of the spirit
December 1, 2017•405 words
The paradox of productivity and creativity is such that the former requires a near ruthless approach to distraction and optimization and the latter flourishes in moments of daydreaming, exploration and even kismet.
As things become more efficient they begin to lose a quality of humanity that people identify strongly with. Efficiency is the Toyota Way and while Tesla's engineering is also efficient, the design and attention to detail pushes on our sense of vanity and desire. The Alfa Romeo Guilia, recently awarded MotorTrend Car of the Year, has technical aspects that are flawed in practical use, but the car evokes a distinct feeling of craftsmanship and excitement. This sense of "humanness" is also the difference in how people react to the errily capable and efficient Atlas robot versus Sophia, the world's first robot citizen.
In a world of ever-increasing competition for our attention, distraction has become one of the top enemies and the topic of personal productivity is soaring, calling for more efficiency in our lives. People like David Allen, who wrote Getting Things Done, and Derek Sivers suggest an approach of carving out areas of your attention and energy that don't directly feed what your current goals are. The simple message from Sivers is if it isn't a "Hell yeah", its a "no". This approach is wildly effective if employed properly and will ramp your productivity up, but there is a hidden cost in not allowing things through that don't have an immediate connection to what you are focused on—the new, exciting, speculative, maybe even romantic.
Humans have a near infinite capacity for horizontal growth—whatever your industry, job, role, occupation or area of expertise, it can benefit greatly from the knowledge, experience and playfulness that can be gained from seemingly unrelated industries, hobbies or topics. I suggest regularly (not necessarily frequently) examining your daydreaming or things you come back to in your mind, find one thread unrelated to your areas of focus that excites or interests you and allow yourself to follow it. Dive in a bit, swim around and see what is there. Whether you stick to it or not isn't really what matters, what you experience and how that exploration can energize the things that you most value is the opportunity.
Thank you to Cory Doctorow for his piece, How to Do Everything (Lifehacking Considered Harmful), which allowed for several weeks of deep thinking on this topic before writing down my thoughts.