The seeking for efficiency in the post industrial age has come to mean getting more and more for less and less. In other words, the purpose and spirit of efficiency have been reduced to serve human greed. But around the world, for centuries, efficiency was sought at different levels to serve different purposes:
- Through a time lens, it did not mean producing more in less time. It meant providing ‘not more, not less’ but just enough time to do a task to ensure quality in the output. And increase attentiveness, sincerity and patience in the doer – for a task is done not just for its external output but also for the internal changes it could affect in its doer.
- At the level of skill, method or approach, it did not mean relentless reduction of number of steps and eliminating redundancies for the sake of increased productivity. It meant a movement towards perfection of the task in all its aspects and increase in self-esteem of the doer.
- At the level of knowledge and tools, it did not mean more and more specialization, precision and pace. It meant increased integration with other tasks, simplicity and ease of use.
- At the level of cost, it did not mean squeezing out the last paisa of value. It meant providing adequate amount of resources for the robust completion of the task and eliminating careless and needless expenses.
- In short, efficiency is best achieved when a balance is achieved in the mind and heart of the doer along with the various aspects of a task and the various purposes for which it is undertaken.
- In farming, efficiency could be achieved by keeping with the seasons (planting and harvesting on time) and not let the market decide what one grows; allowing nature to do its work and not hasten it by artificial means (allowing the earthworms and not a tractor to do the ploughing); good planning to minimize human toil (plant seeds among living mulch instead of spending time, energy and money eliminating weeds later); to use tools that are neither primitive nor monstrous (good access roads and a single wheel farm trolley can save many a trip); to work to one’s capacity and not towards arbitrarily projected goals; to produce one’s own needs and count unspent money on those needs as an income; to allow time and attention to cultivate mindfulness, purify ones thoughts, observe one’s biases etc while doing the external work.