Muda #4 - Over Processing

photo by Trebz

photo by Trebz

In a business sense the waste of over processing is producing more, faster or sooner than a customer needs or wants. Over processing can also be equated to using the wrong tool for the job; “using a sledgehammer to crack a nut.” How could this same concept be applied to a person’s life to reduce expense or increase efficiency?

For those of us with a little or a lot of OCD this just might hit home. Have you ever found yourself obsessing about something? How much time do you take away from your day and potential productivity by over doing it, whatever it is? And how much more does it cost you?

If you take the time to watch people and their actions you will begin to see this is actually a common trait. Just the other day in the office a co-worker was having difficulties signing into his computer. He retyped his password over and over. Since it didn’t work the first 4 times it will certainly work the 5th… ha! Over processing!

Yesterday I watched a store clerk cleaning a counter. She must have sprayed 3 ounces of cleaner; she covered every square inch with a layer of the stuff. It then took her twice as long as it should and required way more paper towels to clean off the counter because they became drenched. Over processing!

A few weeks ago I watch group of high school kids doing a fundraiser car wash. One student would start scrubbing at the left rear quarter of the car while another would start on the hood. As they both continued to move around the car without a pre-planned strategy one student would end up washing sections of the car the other student had already completed. Over processing!

When I first learned to do laundry I left the washer on the heavy load setting regardless of how little was in the machine. Over processing!

The most common form of over processing I see and do? Paperwork that gets handled too much! Often due to disorganization a document gets reviewed and placed in a pile to be processed later, only to be touched againg and maybe then again in the future.

People also tend to invest in tools and equipment that are way more than they need. Do you have a neighbor with a small lawn but a great big riding lawn mower? Over processing!

A friend recently boasted about his new 2.6 GHz, 6 GB SDRAM memory, 300 GB hard drive computer that he uses to check email, surf the web and write an occasional work document. He spent over $1,800 on a computer when he could have spent less than $500 to accomplish the same thing. Over processing!

A 50″ flat screen is cool but will a 32″ do?

American companies and consumers have grown accustomed to over processing. We use too much packaging, serve too much food, and use more chemicals and products than we really need to get the job done.

Challenge yourself to use less and find ways to do less and you will better off for the effort. You can reduce your expense, save time and energy by working smarter.

How to you reduce your tendency to over produce? Open your eyes, observe and think. How much food gets thrown out each week because it has gone bad or stale? Can you get away with a little less detergent? Must you print every document and if so must you use the highest setting on the printer?

Follow the “touch it once” rule, with every document and with every task try to just touch it once. File it, finish it, delegate it or discard it the first time you address it.

Some bloggers think that counting pennies is a fools game. In the near term they are probably correct. But living a lean life for decades means that small savings today add up to big savings over time. Some lament about paying $10-$15 for an ink cartridge while others think it’s not worth worrying about. When you consider that the ink itself can cost you $4,000 per gallon and then consider how many cartridges you will buy over your lifetime suddenly it seems reasonable to count your pennies before you count your dollars.

What do you do too much of? When have you spend more than necessary? I would appreciate stories of how you have “over processed” in your life. Please leave a comment below.

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