The Art of Efficiency

Everyone I know grapples with efficiency in some way or other. Efficiency is a slippery construct that promises more reward in just about every aspect of life if only we knew how to be more masterful with our time. Now, as many a sage person has pointed out, it is really our perception of time that is the problem, not how we micromanage it. As I cannot profess to being a particularly wise person I’ll just overlook that line of thinking and continue with analyzing efficiency.

It has been my experience that one only considers their efficiency when they are already overwhelmed. This would be an example of inefficiency. Caught up in the panic of potential failure lists are made, priorities set, and sleep minimized in order to realize the unreasonable. But the truly organized person rarely finds themselves in this state; they’ve already made the lists, set the priorities, and consequently enjoy a high level of operation with grace and time for sleep.

I’ve met a good number of people and most of them fall somewhere between hyper-efficient and criminally incapable. While the criminally-incapable are better fodder for scriptwriters in Hollywood I’ve always focused my attention on those rare ubermensch that I encounter. What is it that makes them so productive?

Thus far I’ve only come up with a few observations. The most efficient people tend to display these common behaviors:


“Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.” quoth Mr. Franklin who was, by all accounts, a powerhouse of productivity. Everyone I’ve ever known with remotely comparable intellectual prowess to Mr. Franklin has risen early and gotten straight to the day’s work. The flip side to that obviously being by 9pm they’re ready to pack it in, making them miserable bar hoppers and lightweights of late night conversation— but I hardly need to state the inherent disconnect between beer-steeped evenings and productive days, right?


Nobody wants to hear this but it’s true— the most productive people tackle the difficult tasks early on in the day when they’re most rested, alert, and capable. Every corpuscle of your being may pull you towards checking your My Space page upon first waking to see who has been at Your Wall, but really, shouldn’t you finish that business plan first and then reward yourself with some mind-numbing internet drivel?


Some people make lists and other write plans. A select few (whom I’ve never encountered) are rumored to keep every aspect of their lives neatly inventoried and prioritized in their head. Chances are you aren’t one of those people. Like other mere mortals you should write what needs to be done down. The simple act of committing your commitment to some tangible form, be it paper or pixels, grants it importance and helps establish what should follow what. Every highly efficient person I’ve met follows this rule in some form or other.

Now some people turn making lists and establishing priorities into yet another monumental chore that has to be done. I’m sorry for them but, if they have to be chores, then do these chores first (see THEY DO THE HARD STUFF FIRST above).


This one will be an affront to all cool, hip, and creative people out there but I’ll type it anyway: the most productive people seem to wear a sort of uniform. They find one outfit that they like wearing, or they find an outfit that will work for nearly any social occasion, and they stick to it. They buy many copies of this get-up and keep them together in one place. Like a chef or hazmat worker, they are all business. No time waisted shopping, browsing Cosmo, puzzling over what to wear, or sorting clothing for the laundry. It’s worked for personalities as disparate as Einstein and Pollack so it may work for you. Head on over to the craft store and purchase fifteen white tees for twenty five dollars to complement your fourteen pairs of pleated khakis—

It’s time to get productive.

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