Shaving Efficiently (Part 2)

In our podcast last week efficiency expert Matt Leblanc told us he sometimes has a bit of a problem separating work and home life. One example: he strategically organizes his toiletries so he can get through his morning routine with maximal efficiency.

I realize I'd forgotten what must be the most popular account of the profession; the book "Cheaper By the Dozen" written by two (of the twelve) children of Frank and Lillian Gilbreth, industrial engineers who pioneered the fields of "motion study" and "scientific management."

Here's an excerpt for you amusement:

Dad always practiced what he preached, and it was just about impossible to tell where his scientific management company ended and his family life began...

Dad took moving pictures of us children washing dishes, so that he could figure out how we could reduce our motions and thus hurry through the task. Irregular jobs, such as painting the back porch or removing a stump from the front lawn, were awarded on a low-bid basis. Each child who wanted extra pocket money submitted a sealed bid saying what he would do the job for. The lowest bidder got the contract.

Dad installed process and work charts in the bathrooms. Every child old enough to write—and Dad expected his offspring to start writing at a tender age—was required to initial the charts in the morning after he had brushed his teeth, taken a bath, combed his hair, and made his bed. At night each child had to weigh himself, plot the figure on a graph, and initial the process charts again after he had done his homework, washed his hands and face, and brushed his teeth. Mother wanted to have a place on the charts for saying prayers, but Dad said as far as he was concerned prayers were voluntary....

Yes, at home or on the job, Dad was always the efficiency expert. He buttoned his vest from the bottom up, instead of from the top down, because the bottom-to-top process took him only three seconds, while the top-to-bottom toom seven. He even used two shaving brushes to lather his face, because he found that by so doing he could cut seventeen seconds off his shaving time. For a while he tried shaving with two razors, but he finally gave that up.

"I can save forty-four seconds," he grumbled, "but I wasted two minutes this morning putting this bandage on my throat."

It wasn't the slashed throat that really bothered him. It was the two minutes.

I'm putting together a radio version of the podcast for All Things Considered. If you have any personal anecdotes of unsual ways you try to save time, we'd love to hear them.

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