It’s easy to get so caught up in being productive and efficient that you forget everything else. I want to check as many things off the list as I can and get it all done in record time, but I forget that there’s so much more to life.
Here are a few important principles to live by when you’re torn between your unfinished to do list and your family sitting down for dinner.
You can’t be efficient in relationships
I first read in 7 Habits of Highly Effective People that you can’t be efficient with relationships, and I absolutely love how he phrased that. Relationships take time and there really is no substitute. Cultivating a deep and healthy relationship with family or friends takes quality time together .
The other thing is that you can’t schedule deep, meaningful conversations – instead they just happen when they have the space. Some of the best heart to heart conversations have come about when I least expected them.
This is particularly true in my relationship with my kids. To achieve high quality time together it’s necessary to also have a high quantity of time together.
You can’t be efficient when teaching others
Teaching others is rarely quicker in the short term, but it pays dividends in the long run. It’s always easier to do something yourself, and it would get done faster that way. But in the long run, you’ll free up way more time by teaching someone else to do it.
It’s hard to be patient when the person who is learning takes twice as long to accomplish the task, but it can also be a good experience.
For example, anyone who has small children knows that it takes 2-4 times as long to do a household chore with their “help.” However, they learn so much – not just about the task itself – but about core family values by helping. It helps me to view my time with my kids teaching them how to be good humans as the primary thing I’m trying to accomplish and the actual tasks as secondary. If I get through the day and only got a handful of things checked off the list, but they learned how to be hard workers, it’s a win!
You can’t be efficient with self care
It’s also tough to be efficient when it comes to taking care of yourself. This is another area where an up front will pay off later. Many of the things we do to take care of ourselves take time. Getting enough sleep, taking a shower, putting on makeup, etc, make me more productive throughout the day, but it’s time I’m not spending checking things off. Things like eating healthy foods and exercise boost productivity day to day and also increase long term health.
These are also things that can’t be outsourced, even if you had all the money in the word to hire someone to do them for you. No one can sleep or exercise for you. You might be able to hire someone to cook you healthy foods, but you are still the one who has to eat them.
My advice here is to make sure you account for the time these things will take, and build it into your schedule. If you are really struggling to make them happen, go ahead and write them down on your to do list.
You can’t be efficient in caring for others
We already talked about how you can’t rush forming relationships, and specifically caring for others (like someone who is sick, small children, elderly parents) is beautiful, meaningful work that’s also very time consuming. You have very little immediate, visible return for that work.
Caring for others is often constant. I’m always responsible for my children, and just keeping them fed, dressed, and everything takes plenty of time. The important thing is to keep this care feeling joyful instead of letting it become an annoying chore.