This week we’re talking about evaluating the relative importance of quality versus quantity in various areas of our productive lives.
Which is better: quality or quantity? It depends on what our priorities are.
Centuries ago, Seneca the Younger advised that “The wise man will always reflect concerning the quality, not the quantity, of life.”
According to one dictionary, “quality” means the degree of excellence of something. Quality is subjective, though. As we talk about this today, think about what quality means to you.
Why does it matter?
In her “less but luxe” blog, a woman named Christine shares 7 reasons we should choose quality over quantity:
- “Investing in quality saves you money. [My thoughts on this: you spend more upfront, but quality items generally are more durable and last longer; sometimes buying cheaper items is a false economy, because you end up replacing them more often]
- Choosing quality saves you time (and energy!). [My thoughts: because they last longer and hold up better, you spend less time searching for and buying replacements, less time fixing what’s fallen apart]
- Preferring quality over quantity supports sustainability. [As she puts it in the article, “When you love your quality items and take good care of them, they’ll last longer. Thus, they’re less of a burden for our environment compared to the usual throw-away stuff.”]
- A quality over quantity approach reduces stress and overwhelm. [My thoughts: You end up with less stuff to take care of, less time spent on repair and maintenance, and less frustration form things not working the way they’re supposed to. She notes “An abundance of things, tasks, obligations, and choices tends to overwhelm us. We simply can’t have, handle, and be everything.”]
- Quality brings more satisfaction and happiness. [The example she offers is food–the difference, for example, between binging on a lot of mediocre chocolate, versus savoring one piece of really high-quality chocolate.]
- Quality makes you care more. [My thoughts: Whether possessions, relationships, activities, or anything else in our life, we care more about those high-quality options we’ve chosen intentionally than the multitude of mindless options.]
- Choosing quality is an act of self-love.” [As she puts it, “By not wasting time and energy on low-quality stuff, we can direct these precious resources to what actually matters to us. Inviting quality in your life is telling yourself daily that you’re worth it.”]
Areas of our life where we should consider a quality-over-quantity approach:
Consider the difference in value added to our life between a multitude of superficial relationships–business or personal– versus a small group of mindfully curated ones with people who mean something to you (and to whom you mean something!). One writer asked a thought-provoking question:
“Would you rather be in a relationship with someone who is constantly accessible but doesn’t really care about you or with someone who makes an effort to get to know you and is there for you whenever you need them?” [from Best Quality and Quantity Quotes 2022]
Friends – In a world where people amass hundreds of “friends” on social media, we feel more isolated and alone than ever. There are plenty of studies confirming this. It’s far more rewarding and fulfilling to have a few “true” friends–those who know you and who you know; those to whom you can bare your soul in meaningful conversations; on whom you can rely for support, encouragement, and a helping hand when needed, with whom you have a history and a lifetime of shared experiences and jokes. These can be hard to find as an adult. But definitely worth the effort. According to Frank Sonnenberg: “While the number of friends may feed your ego, it will never satisfy your heart.”
Clients – The Pareto Principle applies here: 20% of your clients or customers provide 80% of your income. Business and marketing experts note that retaining customers or clients is more efficient and productive than finding more new clients. On the other hand, quantity can matter here–to find those special few close friends or outstanding clients, or even a spouse, you might need to have a lot of interactions with a lot of people. Just don’t mistake numbers for value added to your life (or theirs).
Some have said, “There’s no such thing as quality time; there’s only quantity time.” There is some truth in this. Kids, for example, need lots of our time and attention.
American singer Josh Turner has said:
“You hear about the quality time a lot but I really think that quantity time with a person is really what strengthens a relationship. That’s when you really get to know somebody. You get to know their strengths and their weaknesses and that brings you closer.”
But simply being in the same space with them for hours at a time won’t necessarily build a relationship. Whether you’re talking about your kids or your spouse or anybody else, the quality of that time matters–in the sense of how much of your attention they have while you’re with them
Actor Leo Christopher reminds us: “There’s only one thing more precious than our time and that’s what we spend it on.” If we reach the end of a day or week or month or year and feel unsatisfied, like the time passed with no results that bring us joy or the satisfaction of accomplished goals, it’s worth the effort to look at what we’re spending our time on and evaluate whether the time was spent in quality ways.
Clothes – Fashion designer Vivienne Westwood urges us:
“Buy less. Choose well. Make it last. Quality, not quantity. Everybody’s buying far too many clothes. I mean, I know I’m lucky, I can just take things and borrow them and I’m just okay, but I hate having too many clothes. And I think that poor people should be even more careful. It doesn’t mean therefore you have to just buy anything cheap. Instead of buying six things, buy one thing that you really like. Don’t keep buying just for the sake of it.”
She also noted that choosing quality, not quantity, is “the most environmentally friendly thing you can do.”
Furniture – quality furniture is more durable, and often more comfortable.
Decor – depending on the look you’re going for, consider whether a few carefully chosen, high-quality pieces will give you more satisfaction and joy than filling your space with lots of cheaper stuff. Remember when we talked recently about the value of white space (see, for example, episode 406)–fewer things, but better (i.e., that you really love) will shine if they’re not obscured or overwhelmed by lots of stuff around them.
Tools – better quality tools help us get the job done more efficiently and effectively, with less frustration.
Activities and experiences
We can fill up our days with activity that adds no value or meaning to our life, or we can choose to focus our finite time, energy, and attention on a few activities and experiences that are important to us–that bring satisfaction, joy, and significance. Too many activities and commitments result in overwhelm, exhaustion, and stress, and we neither enjoy them nor get any value out of them.
Brian Tracy, author of Eat That Frog! reminds us: “It’s quantity of time at home and quality of time at work that counts; don’t mix them up.”
He’s reminding us to consider working to support our life at home rather than the other way around. Whether our paid work or our household chores, we can be more efficient and effective, and accomplish more in less time, if we are giving our best-quality attention and focus.
As we think about our work, more isn’t necessarily better. Doing quality work, expending quality effort, matters. “Because it demonstrates that someone cares enough to make the additional effort, quality is vital.” [from Best Quality and Quantity Quotes 2022]. On the other hand, quantity of time matters in our work in the sense of the more we practice (if it’s quality practice), the better we get.
- Consider the idea, discussed in Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers, that it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert
- Recognize that to become an excellent writer or painter or piano player, you need to write a lot or paint a lot or play a lot. The same applies to
Even at that, though, quality matters in how those many hours are used. Practice doesn’t make perfect; practice makes permanent
Gathering up tons of useless facts isn’t necessarily as beneficial. Calvin Coolidge is quoted as saying,
“Knowledge comes, but wisdom lingers. It may not be difficult to store up in the mind a vast quantity of facts within a comparatively short time, but the ability to form judgments requires the severe discipline of hard work and the tempering heat of experience and maturity.”
William Ellery Channing, an early 19th-century preacher and abolitionist believed:
“It is not the quantity but the quality of knowledge that determines the mind’s dignity.”
In the business sense–American academic, hedge fund manager, investor, and writer Joel Greenblatt says:
“Remember, it’s the quality of your ideas not the quantity that will result in the big money.”
That being said, this is another area where quantity can matter: we have a better chance of finding that quality idea if we intentionally try to capture lots of ideas.
How can each of us make her life reflect quantity? Simply start by being aware, and in every area, choose intentionally, with thought and care. In his excellent book, Essentialism, Greg McKeown encourages us to adopt the motto “Less but better” in every area of our life. For me, that’s a wise motto for all of us to consider.
What do you think?
Is there an area of your life where McKeown’s mantra of “less but better” could be put into practice? Post your thoughts in the comments section below or in The Productive Woman Community Facebook group, or email me
Resources and Links
- 10 Simple Reasons to Choose Quality over Quantity – Minimalism Made Simple
- Best Quality Vs Quantity Quotes 2022
- The Truth About “Quantity vs. Quality.” One is actually better. | by Marti Sanchez ✍️ | Medium
- How to Focus on Quality Over Quantity in Your Life – Happier Human
- Buying New Furniture: Why Quality over Quantity Always Wins – Rainbow Furniture
- 7 Reasons to Choose Quality over Quantity – #lessbutluxe
- Not So Social Media: How Social Media Increases Loneliness – PsyCom
- Does Social Media Cause Loneliness? | Social Media Victims Law Center
- The Pareto Principle (80:20 Rule) for Customer Success – SmartKarrot
- The 80/20 Rule of Marketing and How to Take Advantage of It – Marketing Insider Group
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