Recently, I was rifling through the pages of an old copy of Bloomberg Business Week when I came across an article that I thought would be just the right follow-up to my previous post : Stress-Free Time Management.
Basically, the writer, Brendan Greeley was recounting an experience he’d had with this top efficiency consultant (Jamie Bonini). Bonini worked with Greeley to help him become more ‘efficient.’ In the article, Greeley walked us through his daily routine (how he woke up in the morning, had his cup of coffee, checked his emails, social media, yada yada…) while Bonini observed and identified areas of inefficiency in his routine and offered suggestions for improvement. At the end of the 2-day period, here are the efficiency principles Greeley had ‘intellectually’ learned.
- Get a good start – Do something ‘personal’ just for you
- Make a specific plan – have prioritized objectives
- Organize and maintain a clean work space
- Do one thing at a time & complete it( i.e. Use the Flow Process). Avoid batching.
You see, Bonini is an expert at Toyota and he’s got this thing down to where he knows how to shave a fraction of a second off the manufacturing process to improve efficiency.
As for Greeley, he assesses his progress four months after his experience with Bonini. He’s been able to make inroads into some of the waste in his routine.(Bonini had previously determined that 60% of Greeley’s time was being wasted). There still were some things Greeley hadn’t been able to improve. He attempted applying these very principles at home but having just welcomed their fourth baby to the family, he wasn’t quite successful at this.
Usually, efficiency becomes necessary when we take on additional responsibilities. Trying to do more in the same limited time requires eliminating waste in our schedules and using our time more wisely. As Greeley learned, it’s a lot harder to be efficient at home than at work. Here are some reasons I think that’ so.
- Design and Function: At work, a lot of research went into designing your furniture ergonomically and partitioning/outfitting your work space to give you the best shot at being efficient at what you do. At home, those French windows in your kitchen were specifically placed to overlook your flower garden and well-manicured lawn to give you a relaxed and enjoyable experience in your home, not to efficiently do your chores.
- Expectation and Consensus: The purpose for arriving on the job every morning is to get the job done. This is your expectation and that of your co-workers and bosses. This unified expectation makes for easily arriving at a consensus on what needs to be done and for all to follow an agreed plan. On the other hand, at home, both you and your family members have varying expectations of you. While some see you as the parent, others view you as the spouse , yet another group sees you as Mr. Fix It. As varied as their views of you are so are their expectations. Consequently, while you are acting in one capacity, you are being ‘distracted’ by other expectations of you. This surely makes for a less efficient outcome of whatever you’re working on.
- Social Interaction: ‘Home is where the heart is’, is how the popular saying goes. We get a big chunk of social interaction at home. We are ‘ourselves’ at home. While we might limit social interaction on the job to focus on getting our work done, at home we tend to seek out this interaction. We love to laugh, chat, smile, cry and goof around. Although these may be considered ‘distractions’ or ‘waste’ on the job, they are the very things which keep our hearts at home.
Greeley isn’t the only one who is unable to completely apply efficiency principles to household chores. Even, Bonini who is the expert encounters similar issues at home. His wife wouldn’t let him use the flow process in doing dishes (wash each dish after use), she insists on the batch process ( load the dishwasher and run it at the end of the day).
We all are usually frustrated at not being as efficient with our household chores as we are at work. Let’s not be so hard on ourselves. At home, we shouldn’t measure ourselves by the same standards by which we measure efficiency at work. We will always fall short. Perfect efficiency should be left for those machines at Toyota, or for business systems like we find at our places of work.
When we come home, let’s not feel guilty for laughing with those who make us laugh or smile or cry or for being distracted from our tasks. It’s OK not to be as efficient at home as at work. Our work places were designed for just that and our homes were designed, well …, for families. Incremental improvement is what we should aim for in our families, not perfection. As Bonini points out ‘There is no perfect way to apply these [efficiency] principles to humans and families are just not efficient (read-machines)’.
Thanks for reading. How efficient are you? Are you more efficient at work than at home? Do you find yourself wishing you were just as efficient at home as at work? Leave your comments below. I really do appreciate them and enjoy hearing from you.
Reference : Bloomberg Business Week , “Does This Man Look Efficient?”, September 26, 2013