The Cost of Efficiency

I like to think that I am an efficient person; or at least I try to be. For most routine tasks in my life I have created a standard way of completing them, I utilize various apps and software programs to stay on top of my ever-growing To Do list, and my desire to organize my life borders on obsessive compulsive behavior. In fact, now that I consider it, I spend a potentially inefficient amount of time thinking about how to be more efficient. But we’ll leave that for another blog post.

Earlier this week, Caroline and I attended an event where the guest speaker is a recognized e fficiency expert. He’s written books on the subject and specializes in email efficiency, which is the one area of my life that I have given up on trying to manage. Needless to say, I was eager to here him speak and went prepared to have my life transformed.

The majority of the tips and tricks he presented simply utilized many of the built-in features found in most email clients – rules, templates, shortcuts, etc. Some I had never considered using before and so I took note, but my life was not yet changed. Then he brought up the subject of returning to a massive inbox after being out of the office on vacation or a business trip. I slid closer to the edge of my seat with anticipation.

When leaving the office for an extended period, the speaker suggested creating a new rule that automatically places all new messages into a folder. A nice psychological trick I thought, you return to an empty inbox and can then sort through your emails at an appropriate time. But then the speaker threw a curve ball: ignore the folder with all of the emails from your absence. Completely. Just forget it even exists. In his opinion, the majority of the emails are junk and those that are important can be ignored until the sender contacts you again.

This notion of increasing your own efficiency at the expense of others’ efficiency didn’t sit well with me and I have thought about it a lot over the past few days. What I’ve come to realize is that I do this kind of thing all too often. I like to keep certain office supplies near our worktable, so I move them there without telling anyone else. Now everyone else has to spend time hunting them down. Or I schedule a doctor’s appointment for my sons, but put it on my personal calendar and not the family calendar shared with my wife and she in turn schedules a second appointment.

The realization I’ve come to is that my efficiency is not simply dependent on what I do and how I do it. Nor is the efficiency of those around me solely based on their actions and decisions. Efficiency, evidently, is a team effort. So, to the rest of the Floricane Team, where would you all like to keep the stapler?