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I am a big fan of efficiency.
There are not many waking moments of my life that go by without me questioning what I have accomplished during a certain period of time whether it’s 5 minutes, 30 minutes, or an hour.
I don’t like the idea of seeing a minute pass by without not knowing what I’m doing.
That said, I have gone through phases where I seriously questioned my life purposes and felt frustrated when I didn’t know what I was doing with my life.
It was before I dropped out of a PhD program when I was totally lost about my long-term vision or before I started my blog when I felt like I spent too much time watching YouTube videos and window shopping.
I felt like a lost soul searching for a purpose in life.
Despite my obsession with productivity and a sense of restlessness, there are certain things that take me too much time to do and thus cost me a lot of money in the long run.
They might seem to be mundane routines that can go unnoticed.
But when I add up the time I spend on them, it can translate into a serious loss of efficiency and money.
Both my parents and Mr. FAF have been telling urging me to speed up in the three areas below.
And I’ve tried to do it with little to no success.
Ever since I can remember, my shower time has ranged from 30-45 minutes. I don’t know why it takes me so long to my get myself cleaned. But every step of the process makes perfect sense to me.
When I was in middle school, it used to take me 45 minutes to shower and do other shower-related activities (i.e. blow-drying my hair). I showered every day whether it was hot or freezing cold outside.
My parents were really upset about this time sink and wanted me to hurry up (i.e. 15 minutes) so that I would have more time to study.
My aunt once asked me if I washed every strand of my hair and if that was the reason why it took me so long. I had no idea how to respond, but the question of “Why is that?” also bothered me.
I even took a clock to the bathroom and timed myself. It wasn’t a successful attempt, and I gave up after a while. My parents also gave up on imploring me after a couple of years.
At least I tried.
Fast forward 20 years later, I have made great progress through years of practice. My shower time is now shortened to 30 minutes, and I just can’t seem to make it any shorter.
It feels so nice and refreshing to jump into a hot shower after a long day and wash off all the dirt, stress, and worries. My relaxing evening won’t start until I’m done with my evening shower and change into my comfortable pajamas. I can then hang out with Mr. FAF and Baby FAF and smell the freshness of their shampoo and new clothes as well.
Let’s assume my shower over the past 20 years is 30 minutes. During this time, I spent:
20 years * 365 days * 0.5 hour/day = 3,650 hours in a shower.
If I had reduced my shower time to 15 minutes, I could have saved:
3,650 hours/2 = 1,825 hours.
That’s not to mention all the water I could have saved with shorter showers.
I’ve come to terms with the fact that it takes me a long time to clean myself. I don’t really think about it too much unless I notice’s Mr. FAF’s 2-minute shower, which makes me really jealous sometimes.
He’s usually done with his shower before I finish blow-drying my hair. I blame it on my longer hair, but deep down I know it’s not the main problem.
The key issue is that I create so many steps in the process and want to follow all of them to feel good about myself and my life. Is it ok to think of long showers as “me time”? It would make me feel less guilty if it is.
I am a slow eater. When I was on a diet, I was thrilled to finish my meals in less than 15 minutes because I ate so little. However, now it usually takes me 30 minutes to finish lunch or dinner.
When I was living with my parents, they gave me a hard time about this as well. It used to take me 40 minutes to finish eating. They wanted me to cut it by half (20 minutes) and spend time doing something more useful with my life rather than just sitting there and chewing/swallowing food.
I also got frustrated with how slowly I ate and timed myself on multiple occasions. What I soon realized was that I would soon get hungry because I didn’t eat enough in order to reduce my meal time.
Needless to say, I had to spend more time filling up my stomach, which took longer because I had to heat up the food and do the dishes. That operation didn’t go so well either.
With practice, I’ve reduced my meal time to 20-30 minutes. But I have to admit that when we have lots of dishes at dinner, I can spend 40 minutes to an hour chowing down on the food without even looking at the clock.
Mr. FAF, on the other hand, takes 5 minutes to finish his meal. I don’t know if it’s because he chews faster or has a faster digestive system or both. But I just can’t keep up with him.
Let’s assume that it takes me an hour to eat 3 meals a day. On average, I spend 365 hours a year eating. If I can cut that time by half (15 minutes per meal instead of 30 minutes), I will have 182.5 hours to do something else.
If I get $30/hour, 182.5 hours will translate into $5,475/year. As I make more per year, the amount of money I could make with such extra time will also increase.
Related: Why We Eat Out While In Debt
3. Doing the dishes
I’ve heard about and seen one of the greatest intentions of mankind: a dishwasher. However, at the FAF household, we wash the dishes by hand, and I am usually the one in charge of that task.
It can take me anywhere from 20 to 30 minutes each time, including the time I spend cleaning up the kitchen and dining table. I don’t use the dishwasher for three reasons.
First, I know some studies point out that using the dishwasher can save more water and thus money than doing the dishes by hand. However, research has also pointed to the opposite: doing dishes by hand saves more water, doesn’t use electricity, and is more environmentally friendly than using a dishwasher.
As for us, our parents have never owned or used a dishwasher in their lives and are not keen on using technology for something they can easily manage.
The idea of having a machine running constantly for two hours on electricity and using an unknown amount of water doesn’t appeal to me. It might not make financial sense, but our whole family does dishes by hand out of habit.
Second, we usually have more dishes than what we can fit into the dishwasher. That means that I would need to do about half of the dishes (i.e. hug pots, woks, plates) by hand. I think it’ll just be easier if I do everything by hand and reserve the dishwasher as our drying racks for small items like plates, bowls, chopsticks, and spoons.
Third, even if I use the dishwasher, I still have to rinse the leftover food from the dishes before putting them in the dishwasher, which can take 5-10 minutes. Instead of just rinsing them with clean water, I can use that time to wash the plates with soup instead. They will then just need to quick rinse.
Maybe one day, I will just get tired of doing dishes by hand and want to catch up with the modern life eased by technology. Sometimes I feel so conflicted about my decision. I don’t want to spend so much time doing the dishes. But at the same time, I want to save money and do what I’m comfortable with: washing the dishes by hand.
Any minute that I spend doing housework is a minute I can’t spend with my family or on my blog. However, I have to admit that after I do the dishes, I do feel relieved that I have completed one of the most boring and time-consuming chores of the day.
Taking a shower, eating, and doing the dishes seem to be such mundane activities that all of us need to do every day. Some of us can be efficient and finish them in a couple of minutes.
Some, like me, can take forever to finish such routines. And some might allocate just the right amount of time that helps them feel relaxed showering, enjoying a meal with family and friends, and getting their rest that they need.
Such activities can be fun and enjoyable. But when we spend too much time on something, whether it’s household chores, personal care, or our jobs, it might lead to inefficiency and dissatisfaction.
The three activities above are what I enjoy doing but also struggle with every day to do faster.