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My So-Called First-World Problems: "Smarter Faster Better"

Posted By Rebecca Zipp, Monday, August 22, 2016
 Smarter Faster Better

Charles Duhigg’s 2012 book, “The Power of Habit,” set the corporate world afire by explaining how personal and institutional habits develop, and how they can change. His new book, Smarter Faster Better: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business, highlights a method of problem-solving popularized by Toyota, and described by Duhigg as “the Five Whys.” You identify a problem, and determine on the most surface level why the problem exists. Duhigg’s much-discussed example of a problem he solved, (courtesy of Toyota), was that he and his wife never got home in time to have dinner with their children. 

It turned out that in Duhigg’s case, hectic mornings at home bred hectic evenings. A couple of easy changes to the morning routine and voila, the four Duhiggs routinely sit down to dinner together. Heck, they are probably enjoying free-range chicken carbonara at their upcycled dining room table together right now . . . as they discuss Muffy Duhigg’s upcoming lacrosse tournament and Badger Duhigg’s design ideas for whimsical organic cotton oven mitts, the profits of which will be donated to the Celiac Foundation. 

Not the Zipps. We are washing down leftover Little Caesar’s with red wine and non-organic milk. Then, serving highly-processed desserts–think Teddy Grahams–before bedtime, when we like to impart a misogynistic fairy tale or two. But, I digress.


If you are a working mom (why, oh why, is "working dad" not a thing?) you know that something's gotta give. You are probably pretty committed to being a mom, and to your job, but those other minutiae of life–marriage, friends, fitness, and a house that doesn't attract the attention of CPS–feel more . . . discretionary. And
maybe, just maybe, you judge yourself for not scoring a perfect 10 in every area of life. 

I do. And so I decided to test the Toyota method in my own life, with my so-called first-world problems. Maybe implementing the Toyota method could help me become a perfect 10 mom and perfect 10 homemaker. Here is what happened:

Problem #1:  My five-year-old is crying on the floor.

Why? I told him he must use a pencil, not his foot-long Ninja Turtle pen, to do his homework.

Why? Because I believe that kindergarteners (mine in particular) ought to use pencils, not foot-long Ninja Turtle pens, to do homework.

Why? Because they make frequent mistakes on their homework. 

Why? Kindergarten homework is their first experience with producing a written work product.

Why? Because they are five years old.

Lesson: My five-year-old is crying on the floor precisely because he is a five-year-old!

Problem #2:  My laundry is clean, but is neither folded nor put away.

Why? I do not immediately fold my laundry when the dryer cycle ends.

Why? I become engaged in another activity.

Why? Just as the dryer cycle finishes, my three-year-old asks me to help him make a rattlesnake puppet out of an old sock.

Why? He lacks the motor skills necessary to complete this task by himself.

Why? He is three years old.

Lesson: My laundry is not put away because I have a three-year-old.

The takeaway for me is that I have about fifteen years before I can expect to be faster, smarter, or better. The same expanse of time stands between me and a tidy house. Better luck to the rest of you, as you strive to implement this super helpful method in your personal and professional lives.

This blog post was authored by Rebecca Zipp. 
Rebecca Zipp currently has a sink full of dirty dishes.

Tags:  book review  My So-Called First-World Problems  self-help  self-improvement  working mom 

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