Category Archives: Efficiency

Guilt from Being Unproductive

It has been a while since I last wrote an update about my life. In fact, it has been a while since I last wrote anything on this blog. I have been mostly busy with going out and enjoying my city’s beautiful summer weather (Vancouver’s weather is pretty depressing all other times of the year). I have been spending so much time outside with others that I have found no time to read, research, study, write, work on music, or hit the gym. I don’t feel it as intensely as I did before when I used to be very OCPD, but I still do feel some guilt over not being super productive and not making the very best use of my time.

Gifted individuals and people with OCPD tend to feel extra guilty about not being productive.

Work on Vacation

So where does this guilt come from?

Well, first of all, emotionally sensitive people experience the emotion of guilt much more intensely than normal, average, boring people do (haha just kidding about the “boring” part). A stronger sense of responsibility comes with the territory of being highly emotionally sensitive. Because of their natural ability to see, imagine, envision, strategize, and produce excellence, gifted individuals and people with OCPD feel a very strong sense of responsibility to contribute excellence to the world. But excellence takes a lot of time and effort, no matter who you are, no matter how much talent you have. When this time and effort is not being invested, gifted individuals and people with OCPD feel guilty.

Read more about the obsessive-compulsive preoccupation with the efficient use of time here.

This guilt is a big-time joy killer. It removes you from your present moment that might be filled with so many amazing things that you can enjoy and wonderful people that you can laugh with. Many people attempt to eliminate this guilt by keeping themselves very busy. Being busy, however, does not always lead to excellence. Busy-ness that is driven by guilt can actually do a lot of damage to the joy that you derive from participating in your area of excellence. During my workaholic years living in Korea, I lost a lot of my joy in producing music because I had spent so much time dutifully working on musical projects that I had very little interest in. Although being productive controls this pervasive feeling of guilt, it never gets rid of it.

The way I now respond to this kind of guilt is much healthier. I now let myself feel the guilt and let the emotion take its course in and out of my system. I remind myself in my head that it is NOT my responsibility to bring excellence into this world – being born with all the right tools does not automatically sign me up for a life of duty. My faith also helps me deal with this difficult emotion. I trust that this world is in the good hands of an omnipotent God who loves to share His unrivaled excellence with the rest of the world. I think of all the imperfect people in the Bible that God partnered up with to do this. God didn’t need them to be constantly busy. It was the condition of their heart that mattered much more to Him. I then tell myself that everything will be just fine and turn my focus back onto the present moment.

Another step that really helps to lessen the intensity of this kind of guilt is putting an end to judging others negatively. Many people with OCPD fall into judging others for their “laziness.” After judging others in this way, people with OCPD grow to be very unforgiving toward themselves.

So yeah… I am going to continue to enjoy my summer! I hope all of you are enjoying whatever season it is in your part of the world 🙂

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Working Alone

Imagine you are living in a different world that is much simpler than ours, where humans live only off of slabs of bread. Most of the inhabitants of this imaginary world are content with their plain food because they have never tasted anything better. But among them, there is one visionary who knows that the experience of eating can be greatly enhanced with the invention of “peanut butter and strawberry jam.” He looks for a team to help him find his ingredients. “No. I’m pretty content with my plain bread and I’m sure everyone else is too,” says one of his prospective business partners. “That sounds like too much work,” another complains. When the entrepreneur finally manages to find a few people that are on board with his mission, he soon discovers that they cannot even differentiate between good and bad strawberries. He tries to teach them but they are unable to pick things up as fast as he can. Out of frustration, he reviews his options: (1) give up, (2) spend more time and money on training the wrong people, (3) do everything himself until he finds the right people to work with. Since it is neither within his nature to give up nor compromise his standards for excellence, he decides on the third option and creates the best peanut butter and strawberry jam the world has ever tasted.

People with OCPD tend to work alone when their passion for excellence is combined with their preoccupation with the efficient use of time and money.

The third option in the above story is the option taken by most employers. There really is not much disagreement against that decision. It is a widely accepted labour practice to replace those who cannot deliver the expected results with those who can. It just so happens that it takes a much longer time for people with OCPD to find the right people to work with because their standards are so high.

The OCPD need to make efficient use of time can also greatly delay the process of finding the right people to work with. There may be plenty of people who just need a little bit more training to eventually be able to deliver the results required by those with OCPD. However, people with OCPD who are preoccupied with the efficient use of time often lack the patience to wait for others to become good enough for the job.

The OCPD need to make efficient use of money can delay the process of finding the right people to work with as well. There may be plenty of professionals who can deliver the results required by those with OCPD at a cost. But people with OCPD often feel guilty about paying for services that they can easily do themselves.

Finally, people with OCPD who are very critical of the efforts of others are more likely to avoid group work with people who can outperform them. After habitually judging “My gosh! You are terrible at your job!” every time others perform poorly, people with OCPD become convinced that others are thinking the same thing about them when they do not measure up to the level of excellence of the group. These people rather work alone than to put themselves in a position where they might disappoint others.

Does this mean that all people with OCPD are not team players in the workplace? No. Not all jobs give people the freedom to materialize their uncompromisable love for excellence. People with OCPD can definitely be team players.

This OCPD tendency to work alone does not just occur in the workplace. I tended to work alone when I used to make music. Although I am best at the songwriting (melody and lyrics) portion of the music making process, I was unable to focus all my attention on it because I could not find a composer to work with who could compose the accompanying instrumental better than I could. There were professionals, of course, but I felt like I did not have the proven track record of profitability to spark their interest in working with me. I settled with doing everything myself. You can hear some of my original compositions on the “About Me” page.

This OCPD tendency to work alone can be hurtful in a group setting when others are in a position to share their input. In the story that I mentioned above, the strawberry pickers are not in any position to say “No. I will just continue to pick bad strawberries because I want to.” But in other group settings, like the family setting, people want to feel that their input matters. No matter how much of a good job she does, an OCPD mother who rejects the input of every other member of the family in the “management” of the children will likely cause a lot of hurt and resentment. In these group settings, people with OCPD must show that they actually value the input of others.


Know which group you are in and conduct yourself accordingly. If you have been placed into a group with members that would like to feel that their input matters, give them that benefit so that they would not develop resentment towards you. When they share their input, respond to them with “Hmmmm, that is great idea!” Even if you feel that your way is better than theirs, be diplomatic and show your openness to their way of doing things. If you want others to adopt your way of doing things, help them decide for themselves by evaluating the pros and cons of all the proposed options together as a group and asking them to decide on the best option. This will only work, however, if excellence is the goal of every member of the group. You need to recognize that, in many cases, excellence is not everyone’s goal. Some people just want to do whatever requires the least effort.

Say something like this to an OCPDer whose pursuit for excellence forces you out of the picture: “I applaud you for your way of doing things. I can really see its effectiveness in producing great outcomes. However, I feel very excluded in the way that you are going about reaching those outcomes. I feel like you do not respect what I have to say. Even if my way of doing things happens to be less effective than yours, I would still appreciate having my input considered. Is this something we can work out?” If the OCPDer cares more about people than outcomes, he or she will try to change. If the OCPDer has no plans to change because he or she is the type to care more about outcomes than people, you have three options: (1) break the partnership (not recommended for family setting), (2) follow his or her way of doing things, (3) do your own thing in your own way. If you choose to go through with either of the last two options, prepare yourself for OCPD all-or-nothing criticism. Be confident in your performance and do not take any of their judgments personally.

If you are the type of OCPDer who cares more about outcomes than people, everyone you work with will sense it because your tunnel vision probably causes you to focus so much on the outcomes that you completely neglect the people altogether. This will greatly decrease your chances of getting promoted at work. You will become frustrated as you watch others who work less than you do get promoted instead. So if you want to improve your chances of promotion at work, be consistently excellent in how you deal with the people around you as well.

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People with OCPD like routines for two reasons: (1) routines save them the time of having to inefficiently think about what to do; (2) routines protect them from being overwhelmed by unanticipated surprises.  

Because of their sensitivity, people with OCPD are thinkaholics who inefficiently think too much about what to do. This inefficiency conflicts with their need for efficiency. For the sake of being more efficient, people with OCPD then try to cut out the thinking part altogether. They do this by getting all the thinking over and done with in the beginning and figuring out the “best” fail-proof course of action. Once they figure that out, people with OCPD repeat the same action over and over again for every situation. Their fear of mistakes can also contribute to their resistance in trying out new things.

The 1997 movie “As Good as it Gets” demonstrates this kind of preoccupation with routines.

In the movie, Jack Nicholson’s character responds to his hunger in the same way at the same hour of everyday: he goes to the same restaurant; he sits in the same seat; he orders the same meal in the same way from the same server; he eats his meal in the same manner; he pays the bill in the same amount. During my workaholic years living in Seoul, I had been very much like Jack Nicholson’s character. The thought of trying out something new for lunch seemed so troublesome when I already had a place and meal that I could expect to be satisfied with. Trying out something new would have required me to inefficiently think again about which place to eat at, what menu item to order, and so many other things that take me a much longer time to think about than most other people. 

Some of the world’s most successful people follow routines. One of Korea’s most successful people in the entertainment industry, Jin-Young Park (workaholic singer/songwriter, dancer, record producer and former CEO and founder of major entertainment company “JYP Entertainment”), told “Healing Camp” on an interview that he had been following the same morning routine everyday for the last seventeen years.

[ wake up (8:00am), take vitamins/supplements, eat the same healthy breakfast (15 minutes), stretch (58 different stretches in 30 minutes), do vocal exercises (30 minutes), work out (2 hours), get dressed (5 minutes) ]

The breaking of a routine is a big deal to people with OCPD because their all-or-nothing thinking hyperbolizes the consequences.


Remember that your all-or-nothing thinking wrongfully hyperbolizes the consequences of a broken routine. If others cause you to break a routine, go along with it and tell yourself that you are going to be ok. If you catch yourself hesitating to do an activity that is not a part of your routine (helping out a friend, going to party, etc.), examine yourself carefully and see if your hesitation is caused from your attachment to your routines. If it is, regardless of how inefficient it might be, push yourself to think about whether it is more important to follow your routine or try out the new activity.

If your OCPD friend is upset by a broken routine, try your best to show empathy for the intensified pain that your friend’s all-or-nothing thinking causes him or her to feel. If you can see that your OCPD friend is enjoying his or her time after having broken a routine, help him or her break out of his or her attachment to routines even more by mentioning in a friendly way, “Don’t you think this is a much more wonderful way to spend your time than just redoing your routine?”

Understand that, in some cases, it is better to take the time to think about what should and should not be done. After all the thinking, what you decide to do in the end may be quite different from what you would have done had you blindly followed a pre-established routine. When a rule is broken, fight against your all-or-nothing thinking by telling yourself that the consequence will not be so bad.

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As discussed earlier in my post titled “Human Doing,” people with OCPD are preoccupied with the efficient use of time. To their frustration, however, the combination of their sensitivity and orderliness causes them to inefficiently think too much about what can and cannot be done to maintain order in this world. Since rules maintain order without requiring the follower to inefficiently have to think too much, people with OCPD demonstrate a great liking for them.

People with OCPD like rules because rules save them the time of having to inefficiently think about what can and cannot be done to maintain order.

Behind every good rule, there was a person who thought long and hard. Repeating this long and hard thinking process would only be inefficient and redundant. All that is left to be done is following the rule.

But which rules people with OCPD follow highly depend on how much they trust the original rule maker. If they do not trust the original rule maker, people with OCPD will do much of their own thinking and making up of their own rules. Since their own rules were born out of much of their own trusted thinking, people with OCPD will follow them religiously without much concern to go back and inefficiently question their original thinking process, even if it was all flawed.

The breaking of a rule is a big deal to people with OCPD because their all-or-nothing thinking hyperbolizes the consequences. People with OCPD find it “unfair” when others break the rules that OCPDers try so hard to follow. They can feel so much anger when they see this kind of injustice. When people with OCPD break their own rules, they can feel so much guilt.


If you really believe so strongly in some of the rules that you follow, follow them yourself without expecting others to do the same. If others have not asked you to share your thoughts on what can and cannot be done, do not go ahead and impose your ideas onto them. If others break a rule that you follow with so much conviction, do not be quick to judge that they are doing that deliberately to hurt you.

If your OCPD friend is upset because you broke a rule, first let him or her know that you did not mean to make him or her upset. In the case that your OCPD friend’s all-or-nothing thinking causes him or her to see you as an enemy, be strong and do not take personally any of the offensive language he or she might use. Assure him or her that the consequence of the broken rule is not as bad as he or she thinks. If he or she claims that the consequence will be something extremely bad, disagree confidently and assist him or her in seeing the “middle-ground.” If your OCPD friend is upset with him or herself for breaking a rule, try to comfort your OCPD friend by telling him or her that it is ok, that the consequence of breaking that rule is not as bad as he or she thinks.

Understand that, in some cases, it is better to take the time to think about what should and should not be done. After all the thinking, what you decide to do in the end may be quite different from what you would have done had you blindly followed a pre-established rule. When a rule is broken, fight against your all-or-nothing thinking by telling yourself that the consequence will not be so bad.

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Losing Track of Time

As discussed in my earlier post titled “Human Doing,” people with OCPD feel like they are always racing against the clock. Once in a while, however, they completely lose track of time.

People with OCPD tend to spend their time extremely generously when their preoccupation with the efficient use of time comes together with their hyper passion (tunnel vision).

Time is hardly an issue for people with OCPD when they are engaged in an activity that they are passionate about. For a moment, the world feels to them like it has stopped spinning and nothing else matters than the object of their fixation. While others hold back on spending too much time on one activity to be realistic and safe, people with OCPD can give up all of their time.

So many of the world’s greatest success stories come from this kind of all-in time investment. While a lot of people, including my very Korean parents, would consider dropping out of Harvard to be an unwise decision, both Bill Gates (founder of Microsoft) and Mark Zuckerberg (founder of Facebook) did just that because they felt that college was hindering them from spending all of their time on their respective passions.

This tunnel vision time spending can become a problem when so much time is invested into one priority that no time is left for other important priorities. When people with OCPD are in the zone, they can sometimes even forget to eat, sleep, shower, and spend quality time with other human beings. Such an unbalanced lifestyle can be detrimental to one’s health and even lead to early death. But not even the risk of death is enough to discourage a passionate OCPDer.

For more information on tunnel vision and its strengths, read my post titled “Tunnel Vision.”

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