What Are Your Favorite Anti-Shortcuts?

Time-saving hacks are great. But it’s just as important to know when to take a ‘longcut’ — the longer and more difficult path.

While I appreciate a good time-saving productivity hack, the opposite of the shortcut — what I call the longcut — doesn’t get enough credit. Typically, we think of the long way around as a fallback: It’s what happens when a shortcut backfires. It’s seen as counterproductive, wasted time. But what about deliberate longcuts?

There are times when choosing the lengthier path can offer advantages no shortcut can ever provide: traveling along a longer, more scenic route, for instance. Or doing your own taxes to develop a greater sense of financial awareness. Or choosing to join a company at a lower title in order to spend more time learning with less pressure.

Early in his career, the journalist Robert Caro, best known for his book The Power Broker, heeded a wise editor’s advice to write slower. He spent decades writing his multivolume biography on Lyndon B. Johnson. Throughout the process, he took many longcuts. He left New York to spend years of his life in Johnson’s hometown, the isolated Texas Hill Country, so he could talk to people who knew the former U.S. president. He turned through thousands of pages to verify facts. I’m sure the idea of outsourcing the labor occurred to him — but he never did. His work paid off. Caro’s biographies won the Pulitzer Prize and he’s been called the greatest political biographer of our times.

Of course, most of us don’t have the freedom or funds to take a longcut that extreme. And shortcuts can be great — it often makes sense to automate routine administrative tasks. But I hope we continue to preserve the value of longcuts, and to look for ways to take them when we can, however we can fit them in. Life isn’t meant to be optimized to death, but to be lived.

Tell us in the comments: What longcuts have been valuable to you? When has choosing the longer path made a difference in your life?

I write about personal and collective growth. Author ‘There Is No Right Way to Do This’ herbertlui.net/reps/

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