One of the most popular classes & keynotes I’ve delivered over the last five years is on how to hack your productivity. We’re all so curious about the latest trick, tip, and gadget that’s out there. If it can be done and done faster, we’ll add it to the cart, download the app, and follow the hashtags.
It seems there is rarely a day that isn’t bursting with busyness and adding to the current and future list of to-do’s. As we seek shortcuts, the Bottom Line on Top of this episode is that there is a cost to every convenience. Every shortcut you use is a detour from something else. So make sure you know the cost of each trade and make sure you leave room to savor the sweet parts of the slow parts of life.
The expression “a penny saved is a penny earned” speaks to the value of not spending money and, thereby, maintaining or increasing financial wealth. It’s often attributed to Benjamin Franklin, yet it is a sentiment that has been espoused as early as the 1600s.
So this penchant for seeking savings has long roots in our society. It has taken a modern flare in our quest to save pennies of time. But what do most of us do with the calendar currency we save? Well, we spend it on…doing more things.
This episode offers two elements to consider before – or as – you’re starting to look for detours.
Let’s start with the brain. When we apply logic to the desire for more time, the brain starts looking for pathways and patterns to help navigate all the maze of minutia and find ways to plan a plan. There is an abundance of theory out there on how to organize, prioritize, color code tasks, and delegate the details.
As we are doing the work of thinking about the work, our brain continues to scan the horizon for what else is out there and where to store on this vast mental menu. Psychologically, we’re collecting all these time pennies because that’s when we tell ourselves we’ll do all the stuff we really want to do. Let’s get all this stuff out of the way so we can then have the job, relationship, time with our kids, vacation, and hobbies we keep bookmarking in our brain.
You might think you’re getting ahead by plowing through digital noise on weekends and vacations – but you’re actually getting behind…on your life. On being present in the moment where the people are right now.
You see, there’s something special in all the ordinary-ness that we overlook – especially when we’re looking past it, trying to find a shortcut.
I love convenience. I love moving money on apps and skipping lines at stores, but technology – too much technology – can lead us into the quicksand of excuses. It becomes a busy buffer so that we are doing more and feeling less: “I’m sorry I can’t get to it. I’m really busy.”
But what we’re saying there is: “I can’t get to you. I can’t prioritize this.”
It also means that our wants get stuck on the other side of those digital demands.
To help try and fit it all in, we are looking for those detours. In scrambling for the shortcuts, we also are skipping some key steps that make life longer, yes, but also add to the fabric of our collective humanness. During the pandemic, convenience was so important. I so appreciated grocery delivery. And I still use that delivery service to help with the crunchier days.
But if I only opted for that convenience, I would miss the little moments, too. Wandering aisles with my kids talking about dinner and the day, handpicking the perfect avocado (because that’s a real thing), and small talk and eye contact with the people I see when there. All the micro courtesies remind us that we share this messy world with others.
Technology has brought many innovations – and it can also add wide layers of aloneness. Scrolls of text and images but none of the physical fingerprints of life.
It’s the unsmoothed textures of life that make it life. The hiccups, accidents, bumps, and shared belly laughs – those are the commercial breaks in our otherwise fast and serious days.
But convenience sands off the rough edges, and it’s a great option on occasion. But depth never comes from a drive through. A digital birthday wish is easy, but that’s the thought that is being counted by the other person. Are they hearing you say: hey, here’s the fastest way I could wish you happy without having to actually speak to you.
Courtesy isn’t convenient. It takes time and may not be understood or acknowledged. Courtesy is a muscle that you use for yourself. It reminds you of who you are.
Compassion also isn’t convenient. Technology creates a thick wall of awareness without presence. We can see what is happening, over there, but we watch it from over here. It’s convenient to hit an emoji instead of finding the door in the wall.
But when life gets real, we need real things instead of digital courtesy. The call, the card, the visit, to let us know that we are seen. Don’t wait to be asked. Life is often awkward and words often fail us (all of us) when life gets hard. Simply saying that you don’t know what to say is both a courtesy and it’s compassionate.
When it comes to people, take the longer route. There is a cost when we don’t.
Do a quick inventory of where convenience enhances your life and where it removes you from connection.
People come into our life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime. We won’t always know which is which in the moment – and we rarely get advance notice of when we have our last connection.
So be here now. Don’t miss these days later. It’s not always convenient to navigate this messy life, but none of us are on the road alone.
So until next time, I hope you have a little less convenience in your day and also time to take good care.