The Faster Elevator

Let’s say there are two elevators in your building. One is ten seconds faster than the other on each trip. If you take the slow elevator twice a day and live in the same building for 20 years, that’s 40 hours of time. An entire workweek, spent in elevator shafts.

The lesson here is that both privilege and productivity often rest in hidden places.

A food vendor who lives on the seventh floor of an old building in Mumbai — no elevator — will lose a lot more than those 40 hours. Meanwhile, a banker in the UK enjoying her daily ride in a Mitsubishi Electric probably won’t think about that ride at all — let alone consider that it’s something she is actually enjoying as in “benefitting from.”

If you’re closer to the food vendor than the banker, shaking your fist at her privilege won’t help, of course. What might is looking for other, similar tiny gains that are accessible to you. Perhaps there’s a way to lug less food up and down the stairs. Maybe you can shorten your commute by 10%.

When I’m staying at my girlfriend’s house, I barely look at my phone. Last week, my screen time was down 40%. That was half an hour a day not spent on checking WhatsApp, news, or other nonessential media. It’s also something I can easily repeat, if only I pay attention to it.

Notice your privilege. Notice your potential. Be thankful for both, and then make the most of it. Here’s to taking the faster elevator.