Arranging the Pieces… Is efficiency making us miss out on special connections?


By Tabitha Bozeman

Efficiency. Short-cuts. Time-savers. There are so many ways to be more efficient, and so many gadgets and programs and podcasts and businesses built on the premise that everyone everywhere needs to save time and effort. And, I have to be honest, every time I get in the car, I mentally run through all the possible ways to get where I am going so I can choose the most efficient route. When I am cooking, I plan the steps to be the most efficient. I even have a song I made up that I sing with the girls to help them remember that it is easier in the long run to do a couple of things at the same time. It goes, “Clean up as we go, do-da-do-do-do-da-do, See a need, Fill a need, Clean up as we go.”

They hate it. And to be fair, I am not always the most efficient person, even if I like to think I am. There are plenty of times I walk around in circles forgetting one thing and then another, but I know this about myself, which is why I think about ways to counter my general state of being.

Unfortunately for my husband, I also am constantly on the lookout for ways he can be more efficient, especially if we are driving somewhere. If we are going on a leisurely family drive, I do not care what route he takes. But if we are running errands or headed home from work, I am absolutely running through the mental GPS always scrolling through my mind. Bless him.

Efficiency isn’t necessarily bad, and saving time and effort isn’t a negative thing, unless saving time and effort means you also miss out on opportunities to connect.

Recently, I bought a special keychain thingamajig that works in Aldi buggies. I am forever forgetting to make sure I have a quarter on me, which necessitates going into Aldi first to get a quarter from an employee, then going back outside for my buggy. This irritates me to no end because it is the least efficient way to start my shopping trip. So, when I saw that I could save myself some annoyance and time with this little keychain gadget, I was more than happy to order one.

Another time and effort-saving device I love is my mini food processor. I use that thing at least once a day. I use it to blend up tea mixes, chop onions and garlic, puree tomatoes and make homemade whipped cream. If it can be chopped, mixed or pulverized, you can bet I’m going to throw it into that thing.

Both the key chain and the “chopper-dopper” are useful, and both save time and irritation. But they are very different when it comes to connection. The food processor helps me connect, but the key chain discourages connection.

When I forget my Aldi quarter, I have to connect with either the cashier or a stranger who is returning a cart. These connections are brief, but they allow me a chance to connect with someone I might not have even said hello to otherwise. There have been many times when those quick quarter or buggy exchanges have provided a moment to catch up with an acquaintance, answer a question about school for someone or just let someone know they are appreciated.

I’ve saved a lot of self-annoyance since I got my Aldi keychain in the mail, but on my last shopping trip, I had to tell someone I was so sorry because I not only did not have a quarter to gift them, I had to put my buggy up to get my keychain back. It might seem small and silly, but it really made me think about exactly what I am missing by being efficient when it comes to this one small thing.

The food processor, on the other hand, helps me connect, specifically with my kids. This gadget saves me time and effort, but it also allows me to break a task like chopping up veggies into two steps that my girls can help with. The other day, I was bagging up chicken and veggies to freeze so I have ready-made chicken noodle soup starters. My youngest wanted to help, but carrots can be tricky to cut without accident when you aren’t used to them. Instead of telling her no, I was able to chunk the carrots, then let her toss them in and chop them herself. She was so proud to help, we had a great time together and now she knows she helped get those future meals ready. I’m crossing my fingers that this translates into her willingness to actually eat those meals.

On family drives, if we are in a hurry or don’t know where we are, I am grateful for the GPS. It allows us to save time and effort while we are connecting. We take a lot of leisurely family drives, though, that don’t require a timeline. When we are meandering around, I get to be the GPS. I love picking out a left or right turn, happening upon an old restaurant or store or finding unexpected signs in the middle of nowhere. One of these days I’ll have to tell the story of happening upon a Buddhist monastery in the middle of rural Tennessee. Our youngest still asks when we are going back to visit. On that trip, connection took precedence over efficiency, and we ended up with a discovery none of us will forget.

Tabitha Bozeman lives in Gadsden with her family and teaches English at Gadsden State Community College, where she is the editor-in-chief of the Cardinal Arts Journal. The opinions expressed in this column are her own. Tabitha may be reached via e-mail at

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