Life’s Spreadsheet!

Toyota started using a set of principles and behaviours in a certain way that would help make the company better, efficient, profitable, productive and successful in general. Obviously, they put in terrific efforts to make it happen. Our lives are equally complex, but we handle things more in ad hoc way than doing them systematically. When we get married, there are two of us involved in almost everything. But we treat life like a game of tennis, that too, singles and not doubles. If husband and wife can work in tandem life quality will be superior to the “singles” way of life. At least switch over to the game of doubles! I am going to say something that you may find a little too theoretical.  

We can apply the famous Japanese principles of Kaizen and 5S principles to our lives. Kaizen is about continuous improvement. 5S is part of Kaizen and is a way of organising a shared workplace. Sounds good? Now, do you think these two principles can be easily applied in our day to day life? Yes and No. Knowing the principles is okay, using them in the workplace is fine, but how do you apply them at home? Well, it needs to be done the same way it is done at the office. 

For this, we need to collect data! Oh, I am so drab! What am I writing? We just got married, it is not even a month since we came back from the honeymoon and Pramod is telling us to collect the data! So unromantic! But friends, the honeymoon period tends to end as it is a finite timeline. Then starts is grocery, laundry, office pressures, missing of periods and children being born! The real life starts now and not during the honeymoon.  

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I have mentioned very few things from the unending list, and life is already looking complex. Add the children’s schooling, business travel, guests at home, illnesses, parents getting older and yes deaths! All these things are going to start happening, and we do not have much control over their timings. Does your home environment feel like a factory atmosphere? Too many things to do, timelines are tight, and on top of that, we are playing a singles match and not the doubles!  

Improvement in the factory working looks for profits and market share but improving in the working at home is to look for happiness. Achieving happiness is not tangible; hence, it is difficult to achieve and define. But like in factories, we will need data to start changing things. What better way than collecting data using excel sheet? I had written a blog regarding who is the primary worker at home. You may read it if you want. 

https://panvalkarpramod.wordpress.com/2019/03/12/primary-help-really/ 

We have been brought up in a patriarchal society, and the “home” workload is expected to be taken up mainly by the lady of the house. So why not start with the list of chores that are required to run a household. The tasks could be daily, weekly and monthly. Unless you put them down in an excel sheet, you may not even remember them. It is possible that you may forget to do infrequent tasks. So, the to-do list is equally essential for all. We have reached a stage where we now agree to create a to-do list.  

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How will the ultimate goal of happiness be achieved? First and the foremost step to me is equal distribution of chores between the two. This redistribution will give both additional times, which can be used as “me time.” When we start noting down tasks, we realise that commute time can be converted into exercise time by going to work using cycle. It is changing the method to achieve two goals. It can happen by rescheduling and evolving practices; we may be able to spend more time with family and friends, resulting in happiness. There is a possibility that you have a home from where both are required to travel long distances for work. I know of a couple who jointly travel almost six hours every day for work. Over a period one of them changed a job, and they changed home. Their travel time is now one and a half hours. One of them needed to exercise for health reasons; now it is possible to do it.  

Before this exercise, there were fights, resentment, unpleasantness because time was at a premium. It is possible that some of the tasks you may never have done before marriage. You are learning to do them “on the job”. If you note down the tasks in details, you can find ways of doing things more efficiently. Maybe you were using the dishwasher and washing machine on alternate days. If you could change this frequency to twice a week, you will gain additional time. You had to rush regularly to buy groceries at the last moment, track its usage, and you will find that there is no emergency rush to buy things. Happiness?  

Still, do not believe in spreadsheets; let us understand things further. From singles, you have started playing the doubles game. A glance here and a signal there would tell your partner what to do or what you will do. In the initial phase, this looks efficient. You are playing a doubles game with home and office. These are your two formidable opponents. Then you have an addition to the opposition team as children arrive on the scene. One of you starts travelling outstation for work; the complexity goes on increasing. The glance and signal do not work as you have to go for PTA and on the same day, you have a critical presentation! Oh, on the same day the wife’s car was to be given for service. Complexity goes up geometrically.  

So, now listen to the expert Pramod! I am just kidding! We also learnt to do things the hard way. Why not try Kaizen? It is a continuous improvement of whatever you are doing. It may be household stuff, office job, handling kids patiently! “Hey, dad, what happens if I write on the walls with my Crayons?” Losing your temper is not going to help you; find out improved methods to convince them to change their mind. Maybe take wife’s help; she may be better than you in this aspect. Keep your ego aside. But are you going to change things as you face them? Why not gather data in that elusive excel sheet? You can start by analysing major chores and the way you are doing them. Give marks, say 7/10 or 2/10. According to importance and scores see how things can be changed. Decide what score will reduce your stress, open up avenues to get free time, reduce the temperature of the system. Home is the reverse of IC engines. IC engines run more efficiently as their temperature goes up and stabilises. Home engine runs efficiently at room temperatures.  

5S is a method that is easy and complex both. It deals with house-keeping methodology on the shop floor. House and homes are the same, are they not? So why not try 5S at home. I will not go into details of 5S, but it will suffice to say that if used correctly, our homes will become clutter free! Try with some of your cupboards. You will see many handkerchiefs, pairs of socks, innerware. How many of these were not used for the last three months? I have taken three as a random number; you need to select the number that will suit you. You may find that 50% of this stuff was never touched in those three months. Why not give these to charity? There are many such nooks and corners in our home which can be declogged. Your mind is clogged by the physical clutter in the surroundings. 5S will help you declogg your mind too! Serenity is one word that comes to mind that you will achieve by removing clutter.  

Friends, I have too much in my mind about what I want to say so maybe I should stop at this stage. I have chosen the Japanese methods for their simplicity, and these are really useful in real life. So open that Laptop and start creating an excel sheet!

The first item, “Don’t waste time on reading Pramod’ blogs”! Or maybe you should read them!  

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