If there is one thing that I am good at, it is feeling overwhelmed. I always seem to have to-do lists as high as the Himalayas, and, undoubtedly, as sure as I am feeling good about checking things off, the list fills up again. Some days, I literally feel like I am drowning; my brain is not getting enough oxygen and it’s hard to think straight. Do you know the feeling?
I think that a lot of people have similar stories as mine. In fact, our culture seems to praise being too busy. Everything from our education system, to our jobs, even our churches, are designed to keep us going. There is a misnomer about sharks that if they stop swimming they will die (this is kind of true for a couple of species, but that’s beside the point). It seems like we have moved that misnomer over to the human race. We believe that busy equals productive. We get our purpose from being busy, but have we gone too far?
There is a term called optimum efficiency. It is used to represent the perfect rate of productivity. It is a number that, if decreased or increased, will lower productivity. If you have too many people on the assembly line, for example, the line will get too crowded and instead of increasing productivity, the line will become less efficient.
The same is true in our daily lives. It is true that we need to have a purpose each day, things to keep us busy, engaged and moving forward. Too few activities and our brains slow down, causing laziness. But on the flip side, if we have too much on our list, our mind cannot keep track of it all and our bodies can’t keep up. Exhaustion sets in and productivity slows to a crawl.
So, what is optimum human efficiency? Like with any system, the level is different for each individual, but there are some key signs that you have increased your level of busyness past optimum efficiency:
- You’re always rushing and often late
- Small decisions (i.e. what do I want for dinner) become overwhelming
- You add more to your to-do list each day than you take off
- You don’t sleep or eat well
- You don’t have time for a hobby
- You feel used and abused
- Important things slip through the cracks
- You don’t feel like you have time to do anything as well as it should be done
- You don’t remember what friends and family are for
You may have one or many of these symptoms; either way, it is important that you learn how to recognize when you, your family, or your business has taken on too much. It is also important to understand that the only way to recover is to slow down. Sometimes you have to stop altogether in order to evaluate what is really important, and what is just getting in the way of your own optimum efficiency.