What Is The Value Of Inefficiency?

Everyone wants to be productive. Our jobs demand it, our busy lives require it, and our brains crave constant stimulation. But is there a value to wasting time? Of inefficiency?

Generally, different people use different methods to maximize their time spent on things. To-do lists. Productivity software. Comprehensive calendars.

If we feel overworked, that might stress us out, so our solution is to try and maximize our daily routine. Perhaps you can shave a few minutes off of making breakfast. Showering at the gym might save some time. Listening to audio books or podcasts during your commute allows you to make better use of wasted time.

Related: Listen to an episode of the Intellectual Roundtable Podcast, where Lee and Michael discuss this question: ‘What is the value of inefficiency?’ We also discuss another question as well, ‘How can we encourage debate?’

However, there is some value to unstructured time. Having a tightly-packed schedule where every minute is accounted for is subject to disruption. An unexpected event can throw an entire day into chaos.

Beyond that, there is some indication that proper functioning of the brain requires some down time. After all, what is our need for sleep if it is not inefficient? For roughly eight hours each night we lie still in the dark, as our brains, through dreams, process events from the day or worries we might have. That’s not very good use of time!

Our higher-level, strategic thinking is not something that can be done while running errands or performing routine tasks. For that, you need to devote time to thinking. And sitting and thinking doesn’t appear, from the outside, to be very productive.

In addition, people need to have some time that is spent just relaxing. Just as a muscle can only work for so long before it needs to rest, our brains need breaks occasionally to function properly.

What is the proper balance between thinking and doing? Between productivity and relaxation? What is the value of inefficiency?

Related questions: Why do people like games? How important is the repetition in our lives? How do you set priorities? Are we too busy?

4 thoughts on “What Is The Value Of Inefficiency?”

  1. One thing before I respond directly to the question of what’s the value of inefficiency: There is a huge difference between wasting time and resting/sleeping. As a former marathoner, I remember the phrase “rest is part of recovery” being regularly shared by my coaches. Broken down muscles get built up stronger, but only if you take the time to rest and repair. I believe the same is true for the brain. Downtime is vitally useful recovery time, whether it be done by meditating, zoning out, or the repair that sleep provides for our cognitive functions. None of us can always “be on;” we all need breaks to process our experiences. Inefficiency? I don’t think so.

    Now, is there a value to inefficiency? Absolutely! For instance, learning is rarely an efficient process. An example comes from learning from mistakes. A mistake is not the quickest way to perfection, nor is it the most comfortable way to learn. But there’s a value to both knowing the consequences of failure as well as figuring out how to home in at perfection by learning from prior errors.

    Trial, error, adjust, repeat.

  2. I am usually a very efficient person who likes to get things done completely right away. There are times though when, for some reason in my gut, I just cannot even FORCE myself to devote the time needed to do something. In my mind, I try to convince myself that NOW is just not the right time, but just can’t put my finger on a valid reason for delaying. Sometimes I even get frustrated with myself because I feel like I am being inefficient or simply procrastinating. However, my experience has been that sometimes while delaying a task, a better opportunity presents itself. That’s when I take a step back and realize that perhaps that scenario did not work out because all along in my heart, it just wasn’t meant to be. So it seems that sometimes there truly is a value of being inefficient.

  3. I agree Dorothy. When you’re heart is in it. It, gives you a alot more satisfaction than when things are done half-hearted.

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