How do you fold a t-shirt? It seems really straightforward and routine, but most likely, you’re folding it inefficiently and there’s a more efficient way of doing it.
How do you chop an onion? Most people don’t really think about it too much, but there’s a pretty straightforward and quick way to do it.
Think about your money management techniques, for example. I’m willing to bet that, for most of you, you’re either doing the same thing your parents taught you how to do (or you learned as a young adult) or you’re only using something different because the system you were using was part of some sort of failure.
Over and over again in life, we find one way of doing something that works and don’t bother seeking a better solution. We assume the way we’re doing it must be “good enough” and we keep repeating it until we’re either slapped in the face with a better solution or we discover that the way we were doing things is causing other problems.
When I was younger, still single and without a family, I learned a set of techniques for living that were often inefficient. They got the job done, but they often took a long time, got poor results, and sometimes had other hidden problems. I had atrocious ways of filing papers. I barely knew how to do laundry. I would make a mangled mess out of the simplest dishes. Eventually, I reached a minimal level of doing these things that worked in a very basic way.
As my family grew and the demands on my time and money grew along with it, I came to realize that many of those “good enough” tactics simply weren’t good enough. I had to learn new techniques.
At first, it was the big things. The Simple Dollar chronicles the new approaches I took to money management, for example.
Eventually, though, I came to find that there was almost as much money and time to be saved in the little techniques.
Here’s an example of what I mean. When I was single, a really slow and rudimentary technique for folding shirts was good enough. I’d do my laundry, pop in a movie, and fold clothes in the living room while it was on. Now, I’m often folding two baskets full of clothes for two adults and three children. With that old technique, I’d be folding clothes all day. By simply halving the time it takes to fold a t-shirt (say, ten seconds down to five), I can save myself quite a bit of time. When I was single, such efficiency didn’t matter. Today, it really does make a big difference, not just because of the amount to be folded, but because I have many other demands on my time.
Another example comes from making a spaghetti dinner for my family. When I first learned how to cook, I would often take up three or four pans to turn out some suboptimal pasta. Today, because I know how useful it is to make a good meal quickly and how much time I can save by minimizing dishes, I can use a single pot to make some fantastic spaghetti using a number of little tricks I learned along the way. I don’t use a colander to strain off the water – instead, I pour out as much water as I can and leave some of that pasta water right in there. I make the sauce right on top of the pasta. I trust my own sample tasting instead of the time on the package. In the end, I have a great pasta dinner for everyone with far fewer dishes and far more happy bellies.
It’s those little techniques that make the difference – and our lives are chock full of those little techniques. How we brush our teeth. How we take a shower. How we do our laundry. How we commute. How we prepare supper. Almost all of these things – and countless others – can be improved upon with a little focus.
Let’s look at that shirt folding thing again. Folding laundry was something that used to take me an hour or so a week when I was single. As my family grew, the time this took also grew (for myself and Sarah together, of course). Spending an extra couple of hours one week to learn some new techniques from the internet and practice them until they felt natural paid dividends in that it halved the laundry folding time in future weeks.
The pasta dinner? I often read cooking technique books for fun and I’m almost always pulling ideas out of the text. Sure, it might not be the most purely fun reading in the world, but it’s enjoyable, and it translates directly into time saved in the kitchen with almost every meal through better cooking and fewer dishes.
Money management? The techniques I learned from just a few books have made a gigantic difference in my money.
The point I’m trying to make here is that almost anything in your life can produce extra money, time, or quality if you invest a bit of time and energy learning how to do it better. Read a cooking technique book. Look for laundry folding tips on YouTube. Don’t be afraid to Google for hygiene tips. Read the owner’s manual in your car.
Things like this are little time investments, yes. However, they pay dividends every single day when they add a few miles per gallon to your car’s efficiency, save you from washing two extra pans each night, keep you from getting a cold, or reduce the time you spend in the laundry room. These kinds of changes save us money. They save us time. They save us energy. All of those things can instead be used by the things we value most in life, whatever they happen to be.
What sort of techniques are we going to learn today?