Millions of us are “living fast” and are well acquainted with the many ways that too busy and having too little time drains pleasure from our lives, damages important relationships, and even makes us sick. In fact, a fascinating body of research confirms the widespread notion that “life is speeding up.”
The most egregious purveyors of “speed” over the past 30 years have been the popular prophets of effectiveness and efficiency. Their books and performance programs have sparked epidemics of “time starvation” and “hurry sickness.” Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, usually praised as a singularly effective tool for establishing an outcome-oriented, efficiency-based worldview, can be reinterpreted as a specimen of “efficiency porn.”
Like conventional pornographers, Covey succeeds in both titillating and inspiring self-loathing. His material inspires a persistent sense of failure in every reader who fails to its Olympian summons to unlimited efficiency, diligence, productivity, and performance. Covey’s perversion of authentic human experience has been abetted by the book’s massive reach; after all it spent years on the New York Times bestseller list.