Efficiency: There is Only One Best Way

It occurs to me that many people are bound by habit to repeat inefficient behaviours. Inefficient behaviours are those that require us to use more time and more steps to accomplish tasks. Sometimes we don’t even realize how inefficient we are until a faster way is demonstrated to us. Let me give you an example by talking about storing and retrieving a two-liter milk carton from the refrigerator.

In our house, we store our milk on the inside door of the fridge. Our fridge opens to the right. When I place the milk in the fridge, I place it so that the spout is facing the left side of the door when the door is open. This way, when I open the fridge, retrieving the milk carton is a simple process. Here’s how I retrieve the milk carton:

  • Using my right hand, I pick up the carton on its right side.
  • Holding the carton in my right hand, I use my left hand to open the spout.
  • Using my right hand, I pour the milk.
  • Using my left hand, I close the spout.
  • With the milk still in my right hand, I replace the carton to its position on the door with the spout once again facing the left side of the open door.

As you can see, this is a five-step process: pick up, open, pour, close, replace; and both hands are utilized efficiently. But here’s what some members of my family (who shall remain nameless) do instead.

They place the milk on the refrigerator door with the spout facing right, front or to the back of the fridge. Now here’s why this is inefficient. When I now use my right hand to pick up the milk container (remember that I’m right-handed, and for the record, so is every other individual in my family), I have to turn the carton to position the spout to pour. Not only that, I have to use two hands to maneuver the carton into the correct position. The maneuvering takes an extra two turns of the carton.

While this example may seem miniscule and the problem proportionally insignificant, you can see that there really is only one way to place the milk carton for most efficient retrieval and use by right-handed people in this particular refrigerator. So it is with anything we do at work or at home. Next time you reach for that stapler on your desk, consider how many turns of your chair or placements from hand-to-hand you have to do to retrieve and then replace the stapler. Now compound this one task with every task that you do at work or at home and you’ll see how inefficiencies, no matter how
insignificant, eat at our time. It all comes down to habit.

Commit now to change your inefficient habits. Start with only one task – determine how you can make the task more efficient and then practice with the new method for three months before moving on to another task. In the end, not only will you be more efficient, but you will gain time and decrease your stress. And in the words of Pablo Picasso, “action is the foundational key to all success.” Become successful by becoming efficient.


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