Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Ms. Efficient

Has a book ever changed your life?

First, let me just say that the Bible has been THE ultimate life changing book for me. So, what I'm talking about here is the title in second place:

Pictured here on the left. Cheaper by the Dozen.

Have you ever read this one? No, not the movie, the BOOK. Have you ever cracked this one open?


Oh, well let me just tell ya about it.

Other than Scripture, this book has been THE book that has completely altered my life. No kidding. I can't quite remember when I read it.....hmmmm, maybe 6th grade? I don't remember. And I don't even think I read it more than once. Well, maybe twice, but that's about it. But, amazingly, I remember quite a bit about the stories in it.

From the picture you can tell that the main focus of the book is on a family with A LOT of kids. 12 to be exact (hence the title). And I already know what you're thinking.....

No. I don't have a big family because of "Cheaper by the Dozen". We're not having 12 kids! Yikes!

Actually, what I got out of the book is how the father manages life. And I dare say that this is the main focus of the entire story:

He LIVED for efficiency.

Everything he did, he tried to do it quickly and with the least amount of work possible. No, he was no slouch, or a lazy guy trying to get out of hard work (how can anyone do that with 12 kids??). But he knew that there must be a faster way to get the job done, and he worked at it until he got it right. He was positively fanatical about efficiency. It changed the way everything was done in his house: from brushing teeth, to eating dinner, there had to be a quicker, better way of getting it done.

And now, this is how my brain works.

I am constantly thinking, "Does anything else have to go in that room before I walk in there?", "If I start this project first, then that one in the middle, I'll get them both done at the same time.", "There's got to be a faster way to do this!" All because of that one book.

One story I remember from it is how the Dad figured out how everyone should take a shower (bath?). You take the soap in one hand and make a pass on the opposite side, switch hands, make one more pass one the remaining side, and voila! you're done in 3 minutes. Now, don't quote me, it's been a long time, but that's the gist of it. Amazing. High efficiency. I LOVE IT.

My poor husband doesn't know what to do with me sometimes. I just live to be efficient, and he.....well, it's not a top priority for him. I'll be like, "OK, if you do that, then turn around and put that there, and hold the baby while you scrub this, then it'll all get done in the next five minutes." All the while, he's going "Huh? Put what where and scrub what kid? I only got two hands!"

Sigh. Why can't everyone just want to do things quickly?

Not to mention, it's sometimes very hard for me to live down here in the "Land of Take Your Time". I hear stories of friends building a house and the contractors just come whenever they want, just whenever they feel like it. What?!?! No way, Jose. I just couldn't deal with that. For me it's GO GO GO. I'd be like, "You need to paint? Fine. Here you go. No sheetrock you say? Fine. Paint this sheetrock on the floor--you can do it before they hang it. Let's just get it done!"

Silly, I know. But I can't help it anymore. It's just a part of who I am. I actually have to TELL myself to slow down and not fuss over making 2 trips. Crazy, huh?

All because of a book I read when I was a kid. Go figure!


Mom said...

I can't say that the book itself changed my life, although I certainly did read it. But I must admit that I LOVED the efficiency in that book and did research the Frank & Lillian because I was so taken by their efficiency. Frank and Lillian Gilbreth were "efficiency experts," literally. Companies hired Frank to improve their efficiency. After Franks death, Liliian filled his shoes. I used to think that was what I might want to become someday. I couldn't believe that this desire to do things that had to be done couldn't be done more efficiently and that everyone else didn't see it this way. I STILL think that way.

Lillian Evelyn Gilbreth
(Lillian Evelyn Moller)
consulting engineer, household efficiency expert
Born: 5/24/1878
Birthplace: Oakland, Calif.

Trained as a psychologist, she collaborated with her husband, Frank Gilbreth, to study the movements required to accomplish particular tasks. They applied these studies to industrial settings, becoming pioneers in ergonomics and consultants to corporations across the nation and around the world. She later taught at several universities, and wrote books on applying ergonomics in the home. Besides this, she and Frank raised 12 children. The family was the subject of the book and subsequent movies, Cheaper by the Dozen.
Died: 1/2/1972

Frank & Lillian Gilbreth 12 children, Cheaper by the Dozen:

"Dad would walk into a factory like the Pierce Arrow auto plant and announce that he could speed up production by one-fourth - and then he'd do it, too. Dad always practiced what he preached, and it was impossible to tell where his scientific management company ended and his family life began. Our house was a sort of school for scientific management & elimination of wasted motions. Dad took moving pictures of us children washing dishes, so he could figure out how we could reduce our motions & hurry through the task. Dad installed work charts in the bathrooms. Every child was required to initial the charts in the morning after he had brushed his teeth, taken a bath & made his bed. At night, each child had to weigh himself, plot the figure on a graph, and initial the work charts again after he had done his homework and brushed his teeth. It was regimentation, all right - but bear in mind the trouble most parents have in getting just one child off to school, and multiply it by twelve - some regimentation was necessary to prevent bedlam. Dad even showed us the most efficient way to take a bath - run the soap up one side of your body, down the other, then a few strokes on the front and back, and you're done. Yes, at home or on the job, Dad was always the efficiency expert. He buttoned his vest from the bottom up, instead of top down, because bottom up took only three seconds and top down took seven. For a while, Dad even tried shaving with two razors, but he finally gave that up - he grumbled, ‘I can save 44 seconds, 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."

Kelly said...

Ahhhhh, can always count on my Mother-In-Law to be a plethora of useful information! Thanks for the book quote! I don't even have my own copy!

(I remembered it pretty well after almost 20 years, eh?)


Bro Ty said...

Oouch. I stubbed my toe yesterday and thought about your pic below. I've stubbed my toe terribly many times but never had it do that Ouch. Well I'm glad it's better already thank God. Say hello to your Husband and the saints.