Why Do We Have To Be So Efficient?

Imagine what life might be like with no one endlessly yammering on about maximizing your time.

Jacqueline Dooley
Human Parts
Published in
6 min readJul 8, 2023

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My dog Roo on a local trail — Photo by author

The trail was designed to have no end, a wild place on which to be comfortably lost for as long as one desired.”— Ben Montgomery, Grandma Gatewood’s Walk

Good things take time to do or make or finish. Good things like art, ideas, and the planting of a halfway decent garden take hard work and patience.

In this age of ultra-productivity, technology holds the threat and promise of getting us to the end without bothering to go through the important steps of the journey. This is an empty, pointless endeavor. Some people are in the business of optimizing every moment of their waking lives. I’m not one of them.

I like a slow burn. I like a meandering trail. I like to let the hours and days and weeks trickle by without worrying too much about what I have or haven’t accomplished. I like to get things done, but I’m okay with doing them slowly. After all, faster isn’t always better.

Robin Wall Kimmerer reminds us of this when describing the purpose of nuts (the kind you find in trees) in her luminous book, Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants. She writes:

“Nuts are designed to be brought inside, to save for later in a chipmunk’s cache, or in the root cellar of an Oklahoma cabin. In the way of all hoards, some will surely be forgotten — and then a tree is born.”

You can’t force a tree to grow faster than it wants to grow or maybe you can — I don’t know anything about tree cultivation. But I do know that the trees that grow fast tend to be weaker than slower-growing trees. Slow growth gives a tree time to dig its roots deeply into the ground. It gives the tree access to more nutrients which makes the tree stronger. That’s the tree I want to sit beneath.

What can be done about our national fixation on being as productive, as fast, as useful as possible? I have some thoughts.

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Jacqueline Dooley
Human Parts

Essayist, content writer, bereaved parent. Bylines: Human Parts, GEN, Marker, OneZero, Washington Post, Al Jazeera, Pulse, HuffPost, Longreads, Modern Loss