An Excerpt from Someday Is Today by Matthew Dicks
Years ago, my wife and I were watching the film The Founder. The Founder is the story of Ray Kroc, the man who purchased the first McDonald’s restaurant from Richard and Maurice McDonald and created the global brand that we know today. There is a scene in The Founder where the McDonald brothers design a kitchen that maximizes productivity by establishing routines for all their employees based upon experimentation, design, and practice. It was a symphony of efficiency, repetition, and cooperation.
In the middle of that scene, Elysha paused the movie, turned to me, and asked, “Is this why you are the way you are?”
It had never occurred to me before. “Maybe,” I said.
As I’ve talked about, I managed McDonald’s restaurants from the age of sixteen to twenty-eight, eventually putting myself through college while working for a McDonald’s a couple of miles from my school. I learned that same ballet of routines first established by the McDonald brothers years before and internalized the value of establishing routines, avoiding needless steps, and maintaining consistency on a day-to-day basis.
In my heyday, I was the fastest person on the grill, producing more burgers per minute than anyone in the restaurant and competing against employees at other restaurants in company-organized Olympic-style head-to-head competitions. I was the fastest on the grill in my region for two straight years. I’m surprisingly proud of this achievement even though no other person has ever cared at all.
I also developed systems in my restaurant for breakfast that allowed me to double the number of Egg McMuffins I could make in an hour. So yes, perhaps I learned about task maximation at McDonald’s.
Elysha sees this process in action every day. For example, I empty the dishwasher about 90 percent of the time in my home. Considering how often I complete this task, I decided years ago to determine the fastest way to empty our dishwater, given its location and the location of cabinets, shelves, hooks, and other areas of storage. The goal was to minimize the amount of time needed to do so.
In this particular case, the minutes saved were instantly tangible. I almost always empty the dishwasher in the morning, just before making my children’s breakfast. Prior to this, I’m almost always sitting at my dining-room table, working on a book, a blog post, a musical, a comic book, a letter, or something similarly creative. I only stop working when it’s time to empty the dishwasher, feed the kids, and head off to work.
If I could shorten the time required to empty that dishwasher, I could continue writing during those minutes saved. So like the McDonald brothers, I experimented. I emptied the machine from top to bottom. I emptied it from bottom to top. I transferred glasses, cups, and mugs directly to the cabinet, and I transferred them to the countertop first before transferring them all into the cabinet. I experimented with the order of plates, bowls, cooking implements, and more.
Each time I tried something new, I timed myself, searching for the most efficient means of emptying the machine and storing its contents.
I know. This sounds crazy. But I empty that dishwasher about five times per week. That’s 260 times per year and 3,120 times in the twelve years we’ve lived in our home. If I could shave even one minute off the process, I could save more than four hours per year. Two full days over the span of twelve years.
Ultimately I found a way that is about two minutes faster than my original method, saving me almost nine hours per year. Almost five full days since we moved into our home. Those are days that I have spent working at my dining-room table instead of fussing with silverware.
I’ve worked to maximize other frequently completed chores, including folding the laundry, putting away groceries, preparing breakfast, cooking dinner, mopping, sweeping, and more. I invested time up front to determine the fastest way to complete each of these tasks, thus saving myself precious minutes that quickly add up.
I know. This all makes me sound like a crazy person. Elysha loves me, but she, too, finds all this a bit much. But the one-hundred-year-old version of me — who will have spent fewer hours of his life engaged in mundane chores so that he could spend more time making things, playing with his kids, exercising, playing golf, and reading — won’t think it’s crazy at all. He’ll be thankful that I was the lunatic who used a stopwatch to maximize dishwasher-emptying procedures. He’ll be grateful that I reduced the number of steps required to prepare my children’s breakfast.
And there is always room for improvement.
I took my children to the beach today for the first time this year. Our family belongs to a lake club called Winding Trails, and we spend many of our summer days on that beach. We swim, boat, read, hike, and more. It is our happy place.
I also spend a lot of time playing with my kids in the water. As my children urged me into the water today, pleading with me to hurry, I instead eased myself in slowly, tentatively. Ten minutes later, I was standing in the water up to my waist, marshaling the courage to take the final plunge, when it occurred to me that I had just wasted ten precious minutes that could’ve been spent playing with my kids.
If I’m eventually going to dive into the water anyway, why not just dive in right away? Why lose ten minutes of playing with my kids while I allow myself to become accustomed to water?
Never again, I declared. From now on, I will run into the water with the same reckless abandon that my children do. They seem to understand the value of time when it comes to swimming.
Matthew Dicks is the author of Someday Is Today and nine other books. A bestselling novelist, nationally recognized storyteller, and award-winning elementary schoolteacher, he teaches storytelling and communications at universities, corporate workplaces, and community organizations. Dicks has won multiple Moth GrandSLAM story competitions and, together with his wife, created the organization Speak Up to help others share their stories. Visit him online at http://www.MatthewDicks.com.
Excerpted from the book from Someday Is Today: 22 Simple, Actionable Ways to Propel Your Creative Life. Copyright ©2022 by Matthew Dicks. Printed with permission from New World Library — www.newworldlibrary.com.