Time and motion study - out with the Ark, or relevant today?

Put things away as you go and sort out your office systems so every item is in the most convenient location for the amount of use it typically has
Put things away as you go and sort out your office systems so every item is in the most convenient location for the amount of use it typically has

LAST week I talked about measuring the cost of interruptions.

You might be thinking, 'Surely this is a bit like time and motion study. I thought that had gone out with the Ark!'

Although it might not be fashionable to use the term any more, the number of actions involved in an activity is just as relevant as when the science of motion study began. It helps us not waste time by majoring in minor things. (Of course it's not the only matter to consider, and my first book, Getting a Grip on Time, discusses many other aspects of modern time management.)

The field of time and motion study movement was first recognised as a science back in 1910. Industrial engineers Frank Gilbreth and his wife Lillian were among the first in the scientific management field. They were also two of the earliest to develop the science of motion study and quickly earned the title of efficiency experts.

Although their achievements were very relevant and useful in the business world of the day, two of their twelve children took their accomplishments to a far wider audience. If you can find a copy of Cheaper by the dozen by Frank B Gilbreth Jr and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey your efforts will be rewarded. It's a very humourous look at how Father Frank tried his theories on his family. (And no, I won't loan my tatty old copy - it's precious!)

Here are a couple of snippets:

'Dad took moving pictures of us children washing dishes, so that he could figure out how we could reduce our motions and thus hurry through the task. Irregular jobs, such as painting the back porch or removing a stump from the front lawn, were awarded on a low-bid basis. Each child who wanted extra pocket money submitted a sealed bid saying what he would do the job for. The lowest bidder got the contract.'

'At home or on the job, Dad was always the efficiency expert. He buttoned his vest from the bottom up, instead of from the top down, because the bottom-to-top process took him only three seconds, while the top-to-bottom took seven. He even used two shaving brushes to lather his face, because he found that by so doing he could cut seventeen seconds off his shaving time. For a while he tried shaving with two razors, but he finally gave that up.

"I can save forty-four seconds,' he grumbled, "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.'

You think such a philosophy is restrictive? In fact it creates freedom by freeing up valuable time from mundane and repetitive tasks whilst still achieving your desired results.

Here is a little challenge for you. Think of one or two regular tasks you do and consider how you could do them faster. Basically, we are talking about process improvement.

Here are a few examples to get your creative juices going:

• Dragon NaturallySpeaking - voice recognition software. I use it every day. It saves a huge amount of time hunched over a keyboard (and I'm a fast typist).

• ShortKeys is a simple little plug-in or macro that inserts constantly-used phrases into your text.

• Putting things away as you go.

• Chunking activities so you're doing small blocks of like with like tasks instead of dashing from one activity to another all day long.

• Sorting out your office systems so every item is in the most convenient location for the amount of use it typically has.

- NZ Herald

Topics:  business productivity time management

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