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creativity, health, healthcare, hope, hospital, medical, medicine, time

Leap: The Tricky Truth About Using Our Time Efficiently

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I am by nature an efficiency hound. I hate wasting time, I love to be productive, and I feel an outsized sense of pride as I check off items on my to-do list. Yoga and meditation have taught me a subtle truth about efficiency that I didn’t know for a long time: sometimes what looks inefficient in the short-term is the most efficient thing to do in the name of long-term productivity.

At the suggestion of Anne Lamott, one of my favorite writers, I started reading God’s Hotel: A Doctor, A Hospital, and a Pilgrimage to the Heart of Medicine. The book chronicles the 20+ year career of Dr. Victoria Sweet at Laguna Honda Hospital in San Francisco, the last almshouse in the country. Low-tech and human-paced the work of Laguna Honda is a far cry from any hospital I’ve ever been to or read about. Early on in the book, Dr. Sweet gives samples of surface inefficiencies that proved to be tremendously helpful when viewed with the gift of time.

There was a nurse who dedicated a good chunk of her work time to hand-knitting blankets for each patient. Efficiency consultants were aghast and put a stop to it. However, those blankets were tangible symbols of how personally vested the entire staff at the hospital was to all patients. It let the patients, many of whom were so ill that no other hospital would admit them, and their family members know how much care and attention was being paid to their health.

Another example of inefficiency was the process of giving Christmas gifts. Collected and wrapped every year, the nursing staff would dole out the gifts randomly and then a day of festive trading between the patients would ensue. It made for a lively atmosphere with plenty of interaction throughout the entire hospital community. Again, the efficiency consultants saw all of this festivity as a terrible waste.

Rather than collect random gifts and wrap them up without any indication of what was inside, the nurses were instructed to ask each patient what they wanted, including size and color, and then that is exactly the gift they would receive. Though the gifts were still lovely, the loss of the trading process deflated the celebration. Christmas at Laguna Honda lost its sparkle when it lost the activity of swapping. And with the loss of celebration, they lost some of the spirit of deep, true healing.

These examples made me think about the efficiency of my own life – my to-do list, the structure of my days, and my constant pursuit of more productivity in less time. These things have their purpose and they’ve served me well but perhaps there’s a bit more wiggle room than I typically allow.

Maybe it’s okay to spend part of my afternoon at a museum today rather than spending that time on business development. Going to the museum probably won’t yield a client contract, but what it may give me in terms of inspiration may be just what the doctor would order and exactly what I need to be at my best tomorrow.

About Christa Avampato

The short of it: Writer. Health, education, and art advocate. Theater and film producer. Visual artist. Product geek. Proud alumnae of the University of Pennsylvania (BA) and the Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia (MBA). Inspired by ancient wisdom & modern tech. Proliferator of goodness. Opener of doors. Friend to animals. Fan of creative work in all its wondrous forms. I use my business skills to create passion projects that build a better world. I’ve been called the happiest New Yorker, and I try hard to live up to that title every day. The long of it: My career has stretched across Capitol Hill, Broadway theatre, education, nonprofit fundraising, health and wellness, and Fortune 500 companies in retail, media, entertainment, technology, and financial services. I’ve been a product developer and product manager, theater manager, strategic consultant, marketer, voice over artist, , teacher, and fundraiser. I use my business and storytelling to support and sustain passion projects that build a better world. In every experience, I’ve used my sense of and respect for elegant design to develop meaningful products, services, programs, and events. While building a business career, I also built a strong portfolio as a journalist, novelist, freelance writer, interviewer, presenter, and public speaker. My writing has appeared in The Washington Post, The Huffington Post,,, Royal Media Partners publications, and The Motley Fool on a wide range of topics including business, technology, science, health, education, culture, and lifestyle. I have also been an invited speaker at SXSW, Teach for America, Avon headquarters, Games for Change, NYU, Columbia University, Hunter College, and the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America. The first book in my young adult book series, Emerson Page and Where the Light Enters, was acquired by a publisher and launched in November 2017. I’m currently working on the second book in the series. A recovering multi-tasker, I’m equally at home in front of my Mac, on my yoga mat, walking my rescue dog, Phineas, traveling with a purpose, or practicing the high-art of people watching. I also cut up small bits of paper and put them back together as a collage artist. My company: I’m bringing together all of my business and creative career paths as the Founder of Double or Nothing Media: • I craft products, programs, and projects that make a difference; • I build the business plans that make what I craft financially sustainable; • I tell the stories that matter about the people, places, and products that inspire me. Follow my adventures on Twitter at and Instagram at


6 thoughts on “Leap: The Tricky Truth About Using Our Time Efficiently

  1. And you never know if going to the museum won’t yield a client contract. The Universe is constantly surprising us but you need the time to refuel and refresh and during that time of enjoyment and relaxation, your mind will be calm and open — so important to our health and well being.


    Posted by Mary McManus | September 1, 2012, 7:28 am
    • So true, Mary. Opportunity is often hiding in the most unexpected places. A few days ago I went out the park to walk Phin and met a corporate recruiter who was out walking her dog. It was a good reminder for me.


      Posted by Christa | September 2, 2012, 9:28 am
  2. I’ve heard other versions of the gift swapping situation. Conclusion is always the same regardless of age or nation, and it’s one of the best examples of why markets (within reasonable bounds) are still the best way to get things and services to people. The additional friction created by trading actually enables discovery of the real value of things (when not distorted by subsides, policy and corruption), and increases efficiency AND quality by allocating production to those who do it best.


    Posted by Michael | September 1, 2012, 1:09 pm
    • Agreed, Michael. In innovation and efficiency, the fun factor is lost far too often as a luxury. Fun must be recognized as something that stimulates creativity, cognition, and memory.


      Posted by Christa | September 2, 2012, 9:26 am
  3. This is exactly what I needed today, beautiful yogi! 🙂


    Posted by CharmedYogi | September 6, 2012, 10:48 am

I'd love to know what you think of this post! Please leave a reply and I'll get back to you in a jiffy! ~ CRA

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