'Efficiency' is bad for your health, and your learning

10 Jun 2019

I used to stress a lot about the "efficiency" of how I was using up all the minutes in my day. I'd to cram in as much as possible into time. eg. read on a 10 minute train, write code in the half hour before bed, etc.

While I stressed about it a lot, I never found that I did the "10x" things I read about that were supposed to emerge as a result of this extra "efficiency". For example I have only finished one of the three side projects I started in 2016, despite promising myself that those wouldn't take long.

Having worked professionally now for coming up to 5 years my attitude to this has changed a lot. I've been lucky to have found a job I enjoy in a workplace that actively encourages a healthy attitude to work life balance. I don't have the energy to beat myself up about 20 minutes three times a week. TBH my brain has enough stress worrying about the big things to be concerned about these little ones.

It's not feasible for a Real Life Human(TM) to be "totally efficient" with their time, using it all for either productivity or the subset of leisure activities that I internally think "count", in this bizarro time-economy.

Nearly all personal development for professional related skills happens in your job. That's always likely to be the case just because of the number of hours you spend at your desk (unless you're in a job that doesn't challenge you at all, in which case you have a different problem).

I've found myself to be much happier to only do extra things when I'm really interested, rather than see it as a "must do" just to keep up. Given that tech is already an industry that tends to promote working stupid hours at the cost of your mental health, and the marginal skills gains from all this side-hustling are pretty crap, as far as I can tell you're better served not stressing all the little things in the name of productivity.

And if you give yourself this little bit more leeway, you'll have more energy to spend really focussing on the things you do do, so you'll probably learn more from them anyway.

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