Sunday, February 21, 2016

What socks taught me about multitasking and productivity

Laura and I have 5 kids.  When you have 5 kids, you have a lot of socks to match.  A. LOT.  If I were smart, I would match these socks after every load of laundry and the kids would put them away and all would be right with the world.  Obviously this doesn’t happen, and on occasion our sock situation gets to the point where there is a laundry basket full of socks sitting there waiting to be dealt with.  Right next to that basket there are 5 kids complaining that they don’t have socks to wear.  Most of the time this chore gets passed to the kids to take care of, and the pile goes nowhere.  

When the sock situation gets sufficiently out of control, I’ll suck it up and sit down in attempts to get my laundry basket back and get matched socks back in the kids drawers.  This entails me taking over the living room floor and starting my grand scheme to match.  I’ll have my socks to my left, in two piles, athletic, and work.  In front of me I’ll have 3 or 4 different piles for the kids, and to the right I’ll have a pile for Laura.  It’s quite the elaborate system.  Most of the time I’ll be ready to burn them all by the time I just get them sorted into these piles.  Also most of the time Laura will come and sit next to me.  Then something amazing happens, she just starts matching socks!  No separating into piles, no athletic vs work, no kids vs adult.   She just matches them.  Typically Laura will match 7 or 8 pair to my one.  How is this possible?  How can she be so productive at matching socks without a system?  How does my system and plan fail so miserably?  I believe the answer here is that she sees one problem.  She has one sock that needs a match, she finds a match for that sock, i.e. solves that problem and moves on to the next “problem”.  I on the other hand have 30 socks that need matches, and I’m trying to solve 30 problems at once.  In hindsight it’s easy to see why Laura is so much more efficient at matching socks.  Solving one problem and then moving on to the next is way more efficient than trying to solve 30 at once.  Now take this scenario into other areas of life.  How productive are you when you’ve got 100 things on your to do list and a significant other or kids or pets wanting your time and attention as well, and the list keeps piling up?  Do you drown yourself in issues, and feel overwhelmed by everything that needs to be done?  If you’re like me sometimes that answer is yes.  Productivity goes way down and frustration goes way up.  So next time  you’re faced with a to do list that is a mile long and feeling overwhelmed, ask yourself, “How would Laura match these socks?”  Then take one item from that list and do it well and move on to the next.  You’ll be much happier and productive for it.

1 comment:

  1. Your kid sounds like one smart cookie, a veritable sorting genius. Sometimes preparation definitely wastes too much time, I normally just spend my preparation time procrastinating.