The Benefits of Being Less Efficient

For almost ten years, I’ve made it my business to help people become more efficient.

Now I’m going to make you less efficient.  

Less Doing has always been about squeezing maximum value out of every hour worked in order to create more time to do the things you love. But what if reducing your efficiency is actually the key to long-term productivity?

Let me give you an example.

Imagine two teams in two different companies—each team has a standing meeting every Monday to plan for the coming week.

Team #1 is all business—no chit-chat, no “how was your weekend?” Their meeting takes 15 minutes and at the end, everyone jump headlong into their work.

Team #2 is more business casual—they check-in on each other, ask about the weekend, and converse over coffee. The meeting has a far less rigid structure and—consequently—it takes a little bit longer to get down to business. Their meeting takes 30 minutes.

A strict disciple of Less Doing would probably say Team #2 is wasting time—they could have answered emails, sketched the outline for a blog post, or outsourced some work in those 15 extra minutes. 

But here’s the thing I’ve come to realize—it’s possible Team #2 will be more productive in the long run. Yes, they’re sacrificing short-term efficiency but they’re building cohesion, teamwork, friendship, and trust through that sacrifice. Those are the types of intangible assets that keep morale, creativity, and productivity high in the long-run

How about another example?

Imagine for a moment that you’re a copywriter, and a client asks you to help them build an email marketing funnel. 

You’ve dabbled in email marketing before but ultimately, you have no significant experience building funnels. Following conventional Less Doing wisdom, you need to turn this offer down—the time it will take to learn the skills necessary will make you far less efficient in the short term.

But what if you rolled the dice and said “yes?” 

Yes, you’re going to become less efficient in the short term, but if those newly learned email marketing skills will improve the likelihood of hitting your long-term goals (building a robust digital copywriting business), you’re actually becoming more efficient overall. 

The key word in both these scenarios is of course long-term.

To be a successful entrepreneur, you need to be efficient, but you also need to be a tactician.

Your strategy defines your future.

Productivity isn’t just about nailing short-term goals. It’s about defining where you want to be long-term, and making continuous progress towards that dream. 

Some of the things that serve your long-term goals—high energy; a passionate, tight-knit team; continuous upskilling—aren’t always served by a relentless drive for efficiency.

In the age of 10+ hour factory workdays, Henry Ford was ridiculed for introducing the 8-hour shift, but he had the last laugh when that shorter workday led to better employee productivity.  

Think in terms of ‘lifetime value’—invest in yourself, your skill set, and the people around you. Taking a short-term hit in efficiency can actually make you more productive by significantly adding to that long-term value.

Don’t get me wrong—efficiency is still VERY important, and I don’t believe in wasting time. That being said, I’d encourage you to think creatively about what the best uses of your time really are—go beyond short-term goals. 

When you become a master of strategy, when you start working towards long-term goals, you’ll often find being a little less efficient today leads to being a lot more efficient tomorrow. 

-Ari