Reflections on the Efficiency of Inefficiency

I don’t know about you, but I am a fan of podcasts. I feel efficient because I can learn and do something at the same time. Who doesn’t like that feeling? Our culture sees efficiency as key to success in life. I buy into it, too. We want efficiency in our gadgets, our food, and in our access to information. Efficiency can feel so good.

I was struck with how this can apply to therapy when listening to a podcast called “Inefficiency” by Matt Inman. The podcast explores this concept in all areas of our life. His premise is that we make time for those things that we love, even if they seem inefficient. There are many good truths and concepts in the podcast. We can linger in inefficiency as long as we find value in why we are doing it. Therapy itself can, at times, feel inefficient for clients. Setting aside an hour a week to talk, explore, and learn about ourselves can seem really inefficient. We can struggle to see the value if we are not seeing immediate change.

However, inefficiency can create connection and provide opportunity for self-care. In fact, embracing inefficiency may just be the key to helping us grow more in loving and understanding ourselves. For example, when a parent decides to walk their kids to school instead of letting them take the bus because it gives them more time with their children, they are fostering connection. Or when you go to a certain store because your partner asked you to pick something up and, though not ideal, it lets your partner know they are important. It could be choosing to make a meal from scratch to nourish your body and share in that creativity with someone else even if that meal takes a good amount of time. Inefficiency can lead to connection because it can symbolize that you don’t mind taking the extra time when time is so very important in our society. You are worth the time. Inefficiency is a way of loving someone or yourself, even if it seems inconvenient. This is hard to do for others and especially for ourselves.

I see inefficiency as essential to the therapeutic process. Both client and therapist can have an expectation of a timeline in treatment. While I understand the desire for expediency – the drive to create change quickly, financial limits, and the benefit of short-term, evidenced-based treatments – adhering to such goals can lead to a rushed experience. Is it okay to allow yourself to be inefficient if that means that you can foster deeper connection within yourself? Could you make time even if it feels “extra” to care for yourself in this way? Doing so can lead to your goals while also facilitating deeper connection. I don’t believe in “forever therapy,” but could just the concept of space to talk be beneficial even if it does not feel efficient?

Sometimes, the long way home, the changing of our relationships with others and ourselves without a prescribed path, can be inefficient, but it can also be life-giving.

I recently purchased the pictured tapestry to symbolize what I see in the therapeutic process. I hung it above the couch in my office to remind myself and my clients that time in therapy is like that tapestry. It took time to make. The knots and bumps are not perfect and they may feel inefficient, tedious, or exhausting, but in the end, if we allow ourselves to linger even when we feel inefficient, all the parts of ourselves and our stories will come together to create a beautiful work of art.

If you want to take time to facilitate a deeper connection with yourself, contact me. I have offices in Kansas City and Manhattan, KS.

Inman, M. (2015, March 5). Inefficiency. Podcast retrieved from

Tapestry by Hello Hydrangea,