The downfall of being too efficient

By Sabrina Chen-See
Sabrina Chen-See
Sabrina Chen-See
May 20, 2016 Updated: May 28, 2016
Kids don’t need to meditate to be more centred. They need unstructured time to “just be.”
Many ailments of old age occur from being too efficient with our bodies.

In certain circles, I’m known as the “Efficiency Queen.” Basically, I try to get more tasks done in a 24-hour day than most.

What is the opposite of efficiency? Chaos, random activity, trial and error, exploring, daydreaming, idleness, and inactivity. The opposite of efficiency is wasting time, money, energy, and space. Babies and children are the epitome of chaos and inefficiency. Why travel in a straight line when you can go up and down, stop and smell the roses, investigate a bug, and forget where you were going in the first place?  

As a parent, I’ve learned to do both. I’ve learned to be more efficient at handling greater amounts of responsibility on limited resources, and to give efficiency a rest.

Kids don’t need to meditate to be more centred. They need unstructured time to “just be.” To adults, it looks like daydreaming, or going in circles, or moving aimlessly. Children need time to process their thoughts in order to learn, remember, and make connections. Through free play, kids develop common sense.

Adults also need time to “just be”—and this doesn’t mean zoning out in front of a TV or computer screen. For many adults, it’s not easy to sit, meditate, and empty their minds, or to find the time to “do nothing.”  This is where a simple walk in the woods or colouring in an adult colouring book might help.

Regarding exercise, kids left to their own devices (unstructured, non-screen-based free time) do not need exercise per se. Their default activities involve movement. Exercise as an activity is both efficient and inefficient. Exercise is “voluntary physical stress to the body,” which is an inefficient use of time if your priority is to make a living (work), take care of your home (chores), and take care of other people. Exercise is, however, an efficient way to work your muscles, joints, and cardiovascular system.  

Ever since the Industrial Age began, human work has become more and more mechanized, repetitive, sedentary, and efficient. Compare the farmer of the past who fed the chickens, milked the cows, and harvested the corn by hand versus today’s highly mechanized farms with very few farmers operating massive equipment. With the increased efficiency, we’ve lost the humanity of treating employees like family, listening to the body clock (shift work), family time together (Sunday shopping, long hours), and normal movement of the body (sitting or standing all day). 

Being ‘less efficient’

We can’t turn back time, but we can choose to be “less efficient” and walk a few blocks instead of taking the car, dance just for the fun of it, swing our legs when sitting on a stool (a great activity to reduce swelling in the knees), and even wiggle in our seat like a 2-year-old (relieves lower back pain).

Many ailments of old age occur from being too efficient with our bodies. A better description is being too stingy about using our bodies. There is no immediate economic advantage to improving your tennis swing if you’re not a pro, but if you use this time to stimulate your body and mind, have fun, and enjoy time with others, this time is not wasted.

Instead of aiming to prevent “wasting time, money and energy” for efficiency, try thinking about “maximizing your expression of life with your limited time, money and energy.” Want more family time? Turn off the TV, computer, and smartphone and spend time with the family. Want better health? Spend that time making and eating nutritious meals together.  Go out and have fun doing something active. Breathe in the fresh air. Laugh. Be silly. Have an epic water balloon fight.

Want to save money for something important? Skip buying the latest technology and associated accessories and build your own fun, like growing a garden, writing a book, or interviewing older family members about stories from the past. Want more energy? Ditch energy-draining gremlins like sugary foods and drinks, TV, unnecessary screen time, and negative people.

What’s the point of being super-efficient and productive if it means you don’t get to enjoy life? Many people at the end of life regret not spending enough time with loved ones, putting enough priority on their health, or going after their dreams. Nobody regrets not getting enough time to watch a TV series or playing more video games, being more active on social media, or not putting in more overtime at work. 


How can chiropractic care help? Our goal is to help you get the most out of life. By removing interferences to the nervous system through regular chiropractic care, you can be more aware, able to see the big picture, and thus make better choices so you can improve your own life as well as help the greater community.

Dr. Sabrina Chen-See is a pediatric and family wellness chiropractor based in Vancouver. She is a firm believer in making positive contributions to society, and regularly volunteers her time and chiropractic skills for community and charitable events. Website:

Sabrina Chen-See
Sabrina Chen-See