What is an efficient life? What is efficiency for that matter? We’ll start with defining our term. Efficiency is any system designed to achieve maximum productivity with minimal waste or expense. And this has truly become the thesis for Simple Economist. An efficient life is one lived without wasted time, money, or resources. It is a life where the unnecessary has been removed and only the useful remains. It is a life in which we understand what brings us true satisfaction and we are actively pursuing it. It is about knowledge, self control and behavior. By applying the principles defined in economics, we can leverage efficiency to live a fulfilling, productive, relaxing, and awesome life.
The post is designed to be an evergreen post with further reading in almost every category. I’ve listed 9 practical areas in our lives where inefficiency tends to creep in over time. Areas where we end up wasting time, energy, money, or resources due to disorganization and poor planning. I’ll be the first to admit that I am not always productive as I wish. I still waste more than I should. I’m only slowly becoming aware of when I’m being efficient and when I’m not. And we must be careful because inefficiency is quite profitable for others. McDonald’s and Visa know this. Marketers are fully aware that we live inefficient lives and are often there to fill in the gaps. If we take the time, we can utilize the knowledge and resources we have developed to live awesome, exciting, efficient, waste free lives.
Efficient Food – The process of deciding, buying, making, and consuming food takes surprisingly more mental energy and time than most people think. I’ve long advocated for batching the planning process and designing a healthy lifestyle around wholesome food. Understanding what we put into our bodies and learning to control that aspect of our lives determines so much of our health and overall well-being. We must be efficient with our sustenance and food habits.
Efficient Finance – Contrary to popular belief, financial efficiency is not simply about being cheap or not spending money on anything. In fact, it is more about taking control and spending on the things that actually give you true value. It is about spending heavily on the things that make us happy and not spending excessively on things that provide fleeting excitement or temporary feelings. It is about organizing and developing automatic systems. It also includes investing in places that align with our goals and risk; instead of what the late night talk show hosts sell to wishful thinkers.
Efficient Work – Getting your work done and understanding why you are actually working are important principles to consider when deciding on a job or continuing to participate in your current occupation. Is your career in line with your goals and can you be more efficient at work so you are not forced to bring it home? Are there more efficient ways to do what you are currently doing? Tim Ferris has written one of the best books on workplace productivity in years and one of my favorite books of all time. We spend so much time at our primary occupations, yet we rarely step back and evaluate if it is truly bringing us satisfaction.
Efficient Exercise – For many people, the idea of exercising hours a day, every day, for the rest of their lives is overwhelming and simply not realistic. But, honestly, even some experts suggest that you only need a few hours of exercise a week. And if you are active to begin with, exercise is often a bonus. Exercise is one of the few free things that makes our lives exponentially better. We still enjoy running, tennis, frisbee, hiking and skiing but I personally feel biking encompasses so many aspects of efficiency that it should be almost mandatory for anyone who wishes to live an efficient life.
Efficient Transportation – Ride a bike. And if not; Location, Location, Location. That is where it starts. Living fifty miles from your jobs in an isolated suburban location will not lend itself to efficient transportation. Live close to where you spend your time. Plan your transportation without a car in mind. Even if you own a car, plan like you do not. In almost any city there are certain areas that are much more efficient than others. You already spend more than you think on your fancy car, and driving is both time consuming and more expensive than most people realize.
Efficient Housing – Most American’s have houses that are way too big for their needs. What percentage of the space in your house goes unused? What about your garage, basement? Do you have space you do not need or do not use constantly? A huge house that is unused is not a status symbol- it is a huge flaming sign of unapologetic wastefulness. The notion of growing into a house is extremely inefficient. I know people who will buy a house with four extra bedrooms without kids. When you have six kids, go get you a big house- but you don’t need one when you are twenty two and single. Plan your decision on what you will actually use.
Efficient Relationships – Can relationships actually be efficient. Yes, and No. You can’t rush relationships, but you can choose to spend time with the people that are moving you in a positive direction and spend less time with the ones who bring you down. People are your greatest asset. You can take the time that you do have and make it quality time instead of distracted cohabitation. Be intentional with relationships and don’t let fancy electronics or mental stress steal your focus when spending time with people you care about.
Efficient Entertainment – Our tendency is to simply find the most exciting, comfortable, and affordable type of entertainment we can afford. We tend to do what our friends do or what we are asked to do. There is also a pressure that we tend to engage in entertainment that is expected of us. However, efficent entertainment, is getting the most value out of your time, energy, and money. Most people fail to take the time and really determine if they are actually getting full value in the way we entertain ourselves. Spending more money does not necessarily equate to more pleasure. Focus your entertainment on building and maintaining strong relationships to maximize the time and money you spend.
Efficient Communication – Email, calls, texts, social media, and additional messages can consume all of our extra time and are always in competition for our attention. Set aside specific blocks of time to address email, communications and media. And stick to it. Don’t waste time with back-and-forths; give people all the information they need to make decisions and take action when you do communicate. Be intentional about who you actually want to be in constant communication with and make them a priority.
An Efficient Life
An efficient life is one lived without wasted time, money, or resources. It is a life where the unnecessary has been removed and only the useful remains. For me the essence of efficiency looks a lot like the renaissance man of financial freedom. It is about clearing the clutter mentally and physically. It is about the combination of knowledge, self control and behavior. What can you do to make your life more efficient. Go ahead. I give you permission to live an incredible life. A fullfilling life. A life without waste.