Yes, I was that Dad today. I forced the entire family out into the giant storage closet that some people call a garage and made them clean it up with me. As the archaeological dig progressed we slowly made our way through the layers of our lives that had piled on top of each other until we could not longer safely traverse the floor-space without threat of avalanche. As we slowly peeled each layer back, we relived the events since the last garage cleaning. The robotics tournament, the birthday party, a couple of school projects, Halloween, Christmas, Easter, and about 10 projects that I started but never finished.
An interesting concept occurred to me while I was once again reminding one of my daughters that this was clean up time and not play with long lost toy time. During the last year of our lives, as we rushed from one things to the next, we took small little shortcuts here and there. Instead of cleaning up, we tossed it into the garage. Instead of organizing something and putting it back into the proper place, we just drop kicked the whole pinata into the garage. Slowly, each little accumulated shortcut, piled up until what was presented before us was an overwhelming monstrosity. All those little 1 to 5 minutes saving of time we thought we were getting over the last year had accumulated and now we had to atone. We were required to make each of those pack up throughout the course of the day. We started around 8am and finished about 5pm. Around 9 hours of work, 5 people, so a total of about 45 hours. That is approximately 2,700 minutes we had to make back up. One day my wife asked me to find some red ribbon to use on a project for one of the girls. I went into the “craft box” in the garage, took it down from the cabinet that it was in, and put it on the garage floor. I then took some contents out, and found the red ribbon and gave it to my wife. I never picked up the box, never cleaned up the discarded contents. My wife eventually had one of my daughters return the red ribbon, but they put it on one of the work benches. This morning when I woke up to clean the garage, I saw the red ribbon sitting their among a bunch of other clutter. I then looked at the craft box still on the floor, still with contents strewn on the floor. It would have taken me a minute to pack that box, put it back in the cabinet. It would have taken my daughter less than that to put the ribbon back where it belonged. There you have it, we are now forced during our garage cleaning to make up for that “shortcut”. Incidentally, the red ribbon was the first thing that I picked up this morning.
As I played the part of both drill instructor and cadet today, I thought about this accumulation of shortcuts concept. Every time I picked up something off the floor, I thought that was just one more situation where I could have just put it away and saved myself this inevitable day. How many more areas in my life am I taking what I think is a shortcut, but in reality I am just going to pay for it later? Thinking back on my week, I thought of a few times where I over committed to things, just to get past the situation. You see, by committing to something, I avoid the immediate discussion and delay action until later. This does not help me out much, because at some point those commitments come back to roost! Rather than accumulating commitments, should I not be striving to accomplish as many as I can, as quickly as I can? If you spend most of your time making commitments, and not actually achieving commitments, you will not be very effective at all. You will rather be a person that people like dishing commitments off to, but leading a life where you are constantly disappointing yourself and others.
Instead of taking shortcuts all the time, we should work on the situation so that the next time we are presented with the same scenario we will have made it easier for ourselves. In terms of sheer time suck, think about this. How many times do you repeatedly have to remind yourself how to do something, and thereby repeating the steps you did the last time you tried? This happens to me all the time, because I am taking the shortcut by not putting what I learned into a format that I can consume again when it repeats. Just think of how much time I waste, repeating the same effort, because when I did it last time I took a shortcut to get out of doing the task. It might have taken just a few moments to create a way for me to never do a task again, but instead, I kicked the can down the road forever doomed to repeat, repeat, repeat.
Where is our desire to be efficient, instead of just lazy? Would it be that much of a stretch to create a way that would make the process easier so that you would not keep repeating the same thing over again? Take my ribbon for example. I put all these crafts into a box, which is convenient to shove it into the cabinet. The process of getting something out of the box and putting everything back is cumbersome at best, no wonder my daughter just gives up. I was thinking today, what if I just fixed this right now? I can get a shelving unit that opens up on the side and that way, no one needs to take it down. They can just look in the opening, select the ribbon they want and they will be on their way. Clean up is easy to, just put it right in the side opening. No taking the box down and back up is required. I do not do this because it takes time, that is my excuse.
However, I calculated the number of times my family goes into that box per year to collect already purchased craft items. At least 9 times, and this does not include the times that we go to a craft store to buy ribbon because we were not sure of what was in the craft box. So if I add up all that time, I think going and getting a box with a side opening, and purchasing ribbons and cleaning what I have and putting into an easy reach part of the cabinet. That would solve this permanently. Instead of me taking shortcuts and borrowing from the future time, I can instead invest now by making a more efficient system and gain more time in the future!
So in essence, taking shortcuts is a bad idea because it will catch up to you and will be required to pay that time debt off. However, investing in efficiency, will really put you ahead of time and gain you exponentially more time in the future.