Being productive and efficient at work and at home. Are they related?

Have you ever had one of those days where it feels like you can’t be efficient and productive, no matter what you try?

As a Six Sigma black belt and Lean expert, people often assume that my house is perfectly neat and tidy, everything is in the right place, and all activity runs like clockwork.

I wish!

The biggest obstacle that keeps businesses from being highly successful is the same thing that I see in my home on a daily basis.   It stops your business from being as efficient and productive as it can be, and I’m betting that it exists in your home too.

It’s called “being human.”

Let me explain.

I am a man of habit.   I love my routines.   I feel comfortable doing things the way I’ve been doing them for years.

Sound familiar?  Is that maybe like everyone working for your company?

3 examples in my home

Here are 3 examples of me “doing things my own way” around the house.   Each of these slows me down, makes things harder, and doesn’t give me optimal results.   But yet, I still do them.

  • My desk in my home office is covered with sticky notes and files.

I like to tell my wife that I have my own “system” (and in fact, I do, as only I know which sticky note goes to which project.  It’s just a very bad system, if I’m being honest).

Do I really have a foolproof process for organizing that only I can figure out?  Of course not, but it feels better than figuring one out and changing how I’ve been doing things.

  • My socks are haphazardly thrown into a messy pile in a pullout drawer.

I justify it by telling myself that it’s much easier to throw them together once they are clean instead of sorting through 20 socks one by one, when I’ll just have to sort when I’m ready to wear them anyway.

  • My wife and I are always battling over the temperature of the house.

I’m always cold.   I prefer to be warm, yet it seems that it’s always a struggle to stay warm, especially in the winter in Michigan.    My wife, though, is often too warm.   At home, we play this game of turning the temperature up and down, depending on which one of us is feeling the climate change.   And each time, the change negatively affects the other person.

Now here’s the difference between my home and your business.

At home, I know that I spend too much time searching for that lost sticky note.   I sometimes go to work with different colored socks on.    And I know I pay too much on our heating/cooling bills, along with suffering though unnecessary arguments between my wife and myself.

But I’m comfortable with the way that I do things.  So as long as I don’t have a big reason to change, I don’t.

I’ll be content with wasting time searching around my house for stuff.  I’ll laugh off my silly-looking socks.  And my wife and I will chalk it up as one of the issues a couple lives in a marriage.

It’s acceptable at home.

But a business is more than just you.   Your business is a team of people with goals, deadlines, and owners and shareholders.   Five minutes wasted here and there adds up to a significant amount of time every day.    Quality issues that don’t get worked out can’t be laughed off.   And communication issues lower employee engagement and the bottom line.   In businesses, these things are TANGIBLE and directly affect your bottom line.

But yet, the same type of excuses that we brush off at home are used often in the workplace as well.   We often defend “how we have always done it” instead of working on “how it should be.”  Productivity and efficiency suffers when we allow these issues to thrive.

Begin by leading creatures of efficiency.   Not creatures of habit.

So as a leader, your job is to fight the urge to be okay with “human nature”.

Where there is waste, eliminate it.    Don’t be complacent.   Do the hard work and help you and your staff CHANGE for the better.

Make a new “normal” that works better than the old “normal”.   Help your staff be comfortable with a standard of work that is efficient, clear, and focused.

Then, come help me with my socks.

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