When you take a walk, you make a loop, starting and ending at your home. The most efficient way (in time and energy) to get home would have been just to stay home, but walks aren’t about efficiency of locomotion; they are about walking.
If your walk has a specific destination, say if you’re walking to your favorite breakfast restaurant, you may want to take the fastest route. Or you may not, depending on whether you need a walk and have time to spend. Efficiency only matters when you are too sore to walk much, or if the destination is so far you might not be able to make it in time for breakfast.
Fun isn’t efficient
Many of our daily activities are a bit like walks. You need to spend your waking hours doing something — you can’t finish the day early and move on to the next one before the rest of us. That ‘something’ could either be one of a few regular tasks that you need to do, or it could be entertainment and busywork that were created to fill the gaps.
Given the choice between cramming all my planned activities into 5 hours and spending the remaining 10 watching TV, versus slowing down and spacing out activities like work, reading, housework and commuting to take up the whole day, I’d pick the latter. The trick is to get the ratio right, and the order.
The brain changes behavior through the day
Do you stack all your cognitively demanding tasks back to back? Do you break them up into small chunks separated by breaks? Do you start with the hardest task (to get it out of the way) or the easiest one (to build momentum)?
These are the questions I’m asking myself as I set up my home office and decide on my writing and work schedule. The goal is to set a pace that suits your brain and makes the day enjoyable.
Efficiency can be a part of this process. If there are long periods of waiting for something that disrupt your momentum, or lags that you have to rush later to make up for, it is worth modifying that task to make it more efficient. But that is a local process, in response to an issue with the ergonomics of your day, a term I am using loosely to describe when your activity load doesn’t match what your brain is ready for.
Ergonomic issues with your day may include indecision, fatigue, decision fatigue, eye strain, stiff muscles, hunger, thirst, sleepiness, and boredom. Finding the time intervals and order in which to have breakfast, work, work out, walk, plan, cook, tidy that meet all your needs is the big-picture problem to solve. Defining and adjusting the efficiency of tasks may be a part of this.
Decreasing the efficiency of some tasks may be part of the solution, too. I find that staring at the water I’m boiling for dinner, chopping vegetables at snail pace, and taking ambling walks to places I could drive to give me some of my best ideas.