Sometimes the Less Efficient Way is Better

Thomas Hintz .

I've found that breaking things down into small, discrete units, helps me complete more tasks and do them better, even though it sometimes seems less efficient.

When I was younger, I would often try to discover the most efficient way to do something. Usually, the most efficient way, was the way that had the least concrete finished subsections.

Say I'm raking the yard. The seemingly most efficient way, would be to rake all of the leaves into small piles, then come along and pick those piles up, and move them out of the yard. This is more efficient because I'm not wasting time switching tasks.

But what would happen, is I would get a sizable amount done, and then step back and take a look at the yard, and I would see a bunch of small piles, and none of the yard completely finished. In my head this is confusing, because I don't have anything concrete done and I have no concrete idea of how long it will take, or what else will be involved, that I didn't foresee. You could think of the rest of the job as a question mark.

But if I was to clean up the piles as I went, the question mark wouldn't be there, and that would actually help me do a better job. No longer do I have to wonder, I now know how long it will take me to finish and I know what the whole process looks like. I also now have a discrete amount of the yard finished, which feels better to know that you are making progress.

Knowing that you have actually made progress and have a certain amount complete, gives you the encouragement to keep going. We all like the progress bars that update frequently and go 1...2...3...4, not the ones that go 1........100. This is because seeing progress actually being made, we have more faith that the task will actually be completed. This gives us the encouragement to keep going.

I've learned that the same principle works in other areas, such as programming. If I work on my program in functional bits and pieces, the chances of the whole program working is much higher than the times that I take weeks to write everything up at once, and then hope it all works correctly. As well, I hate doing the dishes but I noticed that if I just wash and dry a few, and put them away, instead of washing all of the dishes first, then rinsing all of them, them drying and putting away, I immediately see that I'm making progress and I can see that the pile of dishes is actually smaller, which helps me to keep going.

In general, the things that may seem more efficient or easier to do in an assembly line fashion, are often better done in small discrete units. It may cost more, short term, but long term you will have more encouragement to keep going when things get tough, and you will be a better judge of how best to complete the future tasks.