In Defense of Inefficiency

Photo © Adam Hill


I have never been the most efficient person. I will always say “yes” to going on adventures. Attend dinners when I probably need to work and certainly need to wake up early. Board planes to foreign countries with friends when maybe something else is happening more locally that week. Take calls from friends who need a shoulder when maybe I could have been studying for an exam. You know, the important stuff. The stuff that makes life unexpected and grand. 

Until the last two years, when everything changed.

At first, it was thrilling. Staying home, I developed a “routine.” I woke up at the same time each day, for literally the first time in my life. I knocked out work on my computer. I thrived, because I’ve been conditioned to produce, and produce massively. And for the first time, there were literally no interruptions. 

I worked out outside and pounded the pavement harder than ever. (Literally, until my physical therapist told me to stop and asked if people asked if I was “thundering” when I entered a room). My inbox had zero unread messages—also for the first time. My desktop got cleaned out, mail filed as soon as it came, and I became up to date on everything. I was super organized. I stayed on top of things. I was the dream and envy of the Type A personality—something that had previously been completely elusive to me. 

I was finally “Reaganing” (a 30 Rock joke where Jack runs a perfect 24-hours of solving problems). I felt like skinny Oprah, but with disorganization. I would never “gain” chaos back again. That was the old Piper, the one who lost control of her inbox. Old Piper’s desktop had tens of thousands of unfiled photos, articles, and other shrapnel. But I wouldn’t let that happen again. The files wouldn’t pile up. I had an infallible system. 

Photo © Adam Hill

But then as the world opened back up, I started to travel like Old Piper. As time and non-essential travel normalized again, I realized I would have to make a choice of fighting my nature to be a Type A organized machine or succumb to my nature and miss emails for the sake of adventure. 

The pandemic, at least in terms of productivity and focus, made me someone I wished to be. But that person, a violation of my true self, was a fundamentally lonely and unhappy person. Even when I was “on top of the world” with everything, I felt empty. Because your email doesn’t love you—no matter how much you check it. Your friends and family love you. And they’re deliciously inefficient. 

During Equine Affaire a couple of weeks ago, I realized that I was in downtown Columbus, where an old friend lived who I had not seen or communicated with in several years. I reached out. He suggested brunch. Clearly not a horse person, he asked if 9 am too early? I smiled thinking of the lives civilians live and for the first time in a while, considered what I might be giving up for this horse passion of mine. Equine Affaire started at 9, but I said yes anyway. I set up our booth before the meeting and left realizing that it would be more “productive” if I stayed at the booth instead of turning the reins over to my copilot. But regardless, I left.

I fretted the whole way over to the breakfast location. Was I being irresponsible? Did I owe The Plaid Horse more? How could I live with this inefficiency when I could be spending my time answering emails or entertaining interested parties on the trade show floor. What a monster I was, going to have brunch with a friend.

But I let it all go when I got out of the car. I walked into a restaurant and part of town I would have never encountered. I had my cake and ate it too—literally, I ordered carrot cake for breakfast. And I have no regrets. I spent an hour (inefficiently) talking about good times, the state of the world, parents in sports and what they have in common across the board. Family, company, and things each other had said that later turned out to be prescient. 

You know, we were friends. Socializing. It was delightful. 

At Fox in the Snow in Columbus, OH. Photo courtesy of Piper Klemm.

I walked out into the rain and headed back in time to get 9 straight hours talking to readers of Show Strides, The Plaid Horse, and hear lots of opinions. I got to stock and stack and restock and restack with a little spring in my step that only comes from having a full life. From seeing the comparison of how I’ve grown and healed since the last time I saw my friend. For giving myself the permission to be something other than a productivity machine. To ease off of a militantly scheduled day for maximum efficiency. 

Resuming a full life and a social life can seem like a mountain right now. It feels exhausting. It’s normal to not want to go out, to not be able to justify it, and to further procrastinate any possible inefficiency. To stall our triaging robots of the last two years. 

You have permission to blow something off and spend time in real life with your phone tightly tucked away. You’re more than a machine to your job, your horse, or anything else. Go out. Be inefficient. 

About the Author: Piper began her tenure as the Publisher of The Plaid Horse Magazine in 2014. She received her B.S. with Honors in Chemistry from Trinity College [Hartford, CT] in 2009 and her Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of California, Berkeley in 2012. She is an active member of the hunter/jumper community, owning a fleet of lease ponies and showing in adult hunter divisions.
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