Intentional Inefficiencies

At least a couple of times a week, my wife and I do a school pick-up or drop-off together. This is utterly inefficient from a time management standpoint but makes perfect sense in the context of what a productive day looks like for us.

Dropping off or picking up kids from school is a job a parent can manage alone. When both parents participate, one of them is technically redundant. They could be doing something else with that time.

But the point of both attending the ritual is not about efficiency. It’s about quality. We have young kids, and we love to see them interact with their peers. We like to chat with the other parents. We want the kids to see us doing things together as a family, even when they are mundane. Especially when they are mundane.

My wife and I know we only have a few years’ worth of school runs. Before long, our kids will rather ride to school with their friends than be seen around with their boring parents. So, as inefficient as it might be, we make time to savor this fleeting experience—together1.

The point of productivity, the one done right, at least, is not to squeeze as much output from every minute of the day. Productivity should be about maximizing the value you get out of your time.

The shift from output to value is subtle but crucial. It requires sometimes being intentionally inefficient in the short term in favor of activities that will pay off in the long term.


1 – A pushback this post might receive is that not everyone has the privilege of a schedule flexible enough that both parents can take the kids to school together. There are also single parents out there who have no choice but to attend every pick-up and drop-off. Obviously, this reflection is not for them. But many folks do have that luxury, and, hopefully, many more will in the future. I am one of those, and the best I can do is try not to squander it.