“I’m always spending time with a bucket and hose in the driveway, trying to keep this doggone car clean,” my wife Francie commented. Her commute to UCLA, where she worked at as a nurse in the NICU, left her vehicle spattered with bugs, bird poop, and smears all over the windshield. I got a great idea. I’d surprise her by washing the car myself and earn bonus points in her eyes.

I was busy myself, working long hours, so I wanted to approach the project as efficiently as possible. My reasoning was that washing a car is predominantly an aesthetic exercise. The dirt doesn’t really hurt the car, at least not in Southern California. You wash a car to make you feel good. Sure, when you ’re walking up to the car, you might glimpse the entire car, or at least hood and the driver’s side before sliding into the seat. But once you’re inside the car, which is 98 percent of the time you spend with the car, you only see the windows you’re looking out of, and the front hood. And since those elements represent maybe 15 per cent of the entire surface area of the car, I could do 15 percent of the work for 98 percent of the impact. That seemed a very reasonable choice to me.

I followed through with my plan, then proudly showed Francie the result. Alas, she had a different opinion about what a “clean car” entailed and the bonus points I’d been racking up fell to zero. This was one of the first times I recognized that I tended to look at life with the brain of an engineer, but that also, my longstanding desire to be as efficient as possible could sometimes backfire. There would be, sadly, other times I got to ‘learn’ this lesson in life. While I still tend to look for efficiencies and systems, I realize there are times when there are more important considerations. 

Is there an area in life where you could be MORE efficient? What about an area where LESS efficiency would be an enhancement?

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