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How to Automate and Optimize Your Home Life

Part of moving forward on your journey will be to identify and clear away the obstacles in your path. Obstacles could be big things like your income, finding a new job, your health, or support from others, but one of the biggest obstacles could be your own home.

Think about it, you spend at least half your life within the walls of your house with the people you call family. If you live alone, the good thing is, you make the rules, you're the CEO, president, vice president, and all the things. But this also means you get 100% of the responsibility and no help unless you hire it. If you have kids or a spouse, think of these people as part of your "company". Are these employees pulling their weight? Do they know their roles in the family? What would they have to say about the overall culture?

If my kids were part of my company, I would've fired them this weekend on the drive back from their grandma's. They were bickering non-stop, mouthing off, and unwilling to help get the car unloaded and laundry washed.

Just as I was thinking self-defeating thoughts like how my kids were spoiled and it was all my fault and they were "ruined" and would never be self-sufficient, the words of child psychologist John Rosemond came back to me. I remembered he would say to put the monkey on the kids' back. In other words, never work harder than the person you're trying to train or teach.

Here's an abbreviated version of Dr. Rosemond's advice when a parent wrote in about her son: Q: Our 9-year-old son, Bobby, is very intelligent and capable of doing good work in school when he wants to, but he is generally just downright lazy. As a result, he makes mediocre grades and we have to monitor his homework to make sure he does it. Even then, 30 minutes of homework takes him a couple of hours, during which time he finds every possible way of dawdling. Believe it or not, despite his lazy ways, Bobby’s in the gifted program. He’s about to enter fourth grade and we’d like to nip his lack of motivation in the bud, if possible. By the way, a psychologist who tested him last year said Bobby’s only problem is laziness.

What can we or his teacher do to get him to step up to his school responsibilities? A: As things stand, your son has no reason to change his ways. The emotional burden of the problem is being borne by you. In effect, this is your problem, not his. For him to solve the problem — and he is the only person who can solve it — it has to belong to him. It has to upset him, not you. You, therefore, need to take the monkey off your back and put it on his. If the monkey causes him enough discomfort and distress, he will figure out a way to tame the monkey.

Dr. Rosemond went on to give some examples of sending little Johnny to school with a checklist his teachers had to sign off on daily and the consequences if he didn't try his best. He went on to say: This is an example of what I call the Agony Principle: Adults should not agonize over anything a child does or fails to do if the child is perfectly capable of agonizing over it himself. In other words, the person who experiences the emotional consequences of a problem will be motivated to solve the problem.

I was thinking about what John Rosemond wrote about the monkey and trying to think about which monkeys I could get off my own back when I logged in to zoom with my mastermind group today. Amy is one of the ladies in the group and a genius at efficiency and optimization. I interviewed her in Episode #2. Amy helps businesses with their processes in order to help bring efficiency and optimization to their organizations. I had no idea what this meant until I watched her presentation. I immediately thought, "Dang! I need this in my life" and I don't even have a company. I need this in my home. Let me explain:

Amy said the first thing she does for a company or business is to look at their core processes. If Jane or Sue doesn't show up for their job, would the job get done? Moms, you know if you're on your deathbed with a stomach bug or out of town, 90% of the "things" don't get done. How cool would it be if there were processes in place to ensure nothing skipped a beat? I'm getting ready to go to a silent retreat for two nights mid-week next week. I normally make Ollie's lunch, make sure she has her EpiPen, make sure laundry is done, make sure the cat is fed, the litter scooped, the groceries ordered and picked up. What'll happen when I'm out?

Amy also talked about time management. What takes too much of your time? Is there a way to automate it? I automated the constant reminder to brush teeth by telling Alexa to remind my kids to brush their teeth at a certain time every day. Think about what takes a lot of your time and mental energy. Is it recipe planning? Do the same meals in rotation every week, changing out the source of protein or the grain. We do taco bowls one night, fish and veggies one night, a crockpot meal like chili once a week, sushi once a week, etc.

When I interviewed Dorothy Andreas a couple of weeks ago, she talked about identifying bottlenecks in her spas. Bottlenecks are setbacks or obstacles that slow or delay a process. In the same way that the neck of a physical bottle will limit how quickly water can pass through it, process bottlenecks can restrict the flow of time and energy in your home or business.

For Dorothy, back in the '90s, she noticed a huge bottleneck in the two weeks before Christmas when all the men stopped by to buy gift certificates for their wives or girlfriends. Business in the spa would grind to a halt as her employees handled all the gift certificate transactions. She ended up hiring a couple of tech guys to create a way to buy gift certificates online and print them with a bar code. Bottleneck solved.

We also chatted about bottlenecks in our homes. Think about your home. Where do you lose the most time or patience? Where is the majority of the chaos? Dorothy said her bottleneck at home when her sons were little was around laundry. If the kids didn't have clean clothes, a lot of time and energy was wasted. As a single mom, and business owner, she didn't have time to do laundry every day. She taught her sons to do laundry and bought more socks and underwear and freed up the bottleneck.

We have evening chaos I'm attempting to remedy. I've started telling the kids they have one hour to bathe and get ready for bed. Any remaining time can be spent reading or chatting. At this age they still like to spend time with us, I know this is short-lived, but for now, they still crave this time. If there are chores left to do like unpacking lunch boxes, gathering up laundry, or doing math homework, they can't have the reading time until they're finished.

Another thing Amy talked about was planning and ownership. In a company, this would basically be a layout of who is in charge of what. in your home, which tasks belong to which people? Is it clearly defined? Mom does the groceries, Dad does the yard? What about the kids? Do they know what's expected of them or do you assume they'll look at the crumbs under their chair and think, "Boy am I messy, better grab the broom!" I tried this with my daughter. She eats with her knees up, a habit I'm determined to help her break. She spills food everywhere, gets syrup in her hair, and has stains on her clothes by the time she goes to camp. No, she's not two, she's 9. So now I hand her the broom after she eats or I point to the broom location. She rolls her eyes and sighs and complains, but I no longer care if crumbs are everywhere because it's her job to clean it up.

One chore I'd like to automate is unloading the dishwasher. My husband is the only one who doesn't ignore the clean dishes. The rest of us will use the same dish for three meals before we'll unload the clean dishes. If we had a rotating schedule maybe this would help.

What about user experience? Amy asks, "If I were a secret shopper in your business, what would my experience be like?" Likewise, if I were a foreign exchange student living with your family for 6 months, what would be my experience? It's easy to start thinking it's normal to yell or to leave messes all over the house. What about during meals? Are some members of the family absent physically or emotionally? What's the overall experience of being a member of your family?

I had an ah-ha a couple of years ago when I was cooking three different meals. I think my mom was visiting and she was like, "What are you doing?" I had fallen into the habit of feeding my kids different things than us and hadn't even realized it. I also didn't realize how I was stressing my kids out by stacking chores until my husband pointed it out. I'd bark, "Pick up your socks and wash your hands and set the table and grab a glass". Now, I throw out one command at a time. I also try to put the monkey on their back, they obviously have to have a fork to eat, so they go get their own fork. If they're thirsty, they'll grab a glass.

What's the user experience or culture like in your home? If you had to pick one word to describe your home, what would it be? What do you wish it was? Here are the takeaways:

  1. Identify the monkey on your back. How can you get it off and get someone else to train the monkey?

  2. Where are the bottlenecks in your home?

  3. Does everyone know their job/chores/responsibilities? Is it clearly defined?

  4. What can you do to make it so your spouse or sitter could reproduce your daily tasks if you're sick/out of town?

  5. What's the overall culture in your home?

  6. Can you automate any part of your routine at home? Which parts of the day have the most chaos/consume the most time?

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