Intense(ly) Inefficient by Default

You don't have to be efficient to get a lot done.

Hey friends,

Whenever I see a successful person who's achieved a lot I tend to assume they're a highly effective person, or an effective executive, or someone who's mastered their habits, or, in other words, is efficient (in addition to being a hard worker).

Yet whenever someone tells me they're impressed by how much I got done I shrug and tell them "yeah I guess I just spent a whole bunch of time and effort on it". I'm used to working a lot and intensely, not necessarily efficiently.

So there are two ways to get a lot of stuff done: by being efficient (less effort = more output), or by being intense (more effort = more output).

Generally, before you can be efficient you have to be intense(ly inefficient) for a while (aka "quantity leads to quality") while paying close attention to how your effort translates into output (aka deliberate practice).

The main challenges I've experienced with intense inefficiency are:

  • The feeling of being inefficient sucks. You know that you're doing it wrong, you haven't yet found the right way to do it, and it takes a ton of effort to go through iterations before you get better at it and can start becoming more efficient, and it oftentimes feels like a massive waste of time, why am I even doing this, I should just quit.
  • Efficiency feels mandatory. Whenever you're doing something inefficiently, it's easy to go down the rabbit hole of trying to find the right (efficient) way to do it, spend too much time on it, and end up not doing anything at all.
  • The deliberate part of deliberate practice isn't straightforward. Some activities and situations are better suited for immediate feedback loops than others. It's much easier to keep improving when you see the result of your actions immediately and/or have someone to tell you whether or not you're moving in the right direction. But it's not always possible.
  • Intensity can be hard. It doesn't have to be but oftentimes is. Being intensely focused on some things usually means completely disregarding many others.

But as long as you can live with these challenges you can go far in life (if you feel like it) without having to be efficient most of the time as long as you're intense by default since most people are neither efficient nor intense.

Have an intense week,


A few thoughts

Shared spacetime. I generally prefer not to share my space and time with anyone else unless I'm socializing, which might be the consequence of growing up an only child. But there are some people I can be around without being bothered by it and I haven't yet fully figured out what sets them apart from the rest.

Your thoughts are more valuable than you think. Whenever I feel like a particular thought or idea isn't worth sharing because it's too banal or trite I share it anyway (in writing or otherwise), and every now and then someone finds it helpful and thanks me for it. Someone's trash is someone else's treasure.

Enjoyed this

How to be More Agentic "I often hear agency talked about as if it’s an inherent trait: Either someone has it or they don’t – in which case, too bad, they’re doomed to a life in the minor leagues. This hasn’t been my experience. Over the years, as I’ve gradually grown dumber relative to my peers through a combination of aging and making smarter friends, one of the main ways I’ve compensated has been through dialing up my agency, which I think of as something like “manifest determination to make things happen.”"

The road ahead reaches a turning point in 2024 "There’s no question these are challenging times, but I remain optimistic about the future. The speed of innovation has never been faster. We’re making big strides on tough problems—like Alzheimer’s, obesity, and sickle cell disease—that will improve the lives of millions of people. My friend the late Hans Rosling used to say that “things can be bad and getting better.” It’s a good reminder that progress is not only possible but happening every day."

The fun part

I don't always drink beer, bake bread, and play games that look like they've been released back in the 90s, but when I do, it's with good friends who don't mind flying over from a thousand miles away to keep that friendship going.