DIY Tip – Get More Productive By Being Less Efficient

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This fall I’m tackling a lengthy project of replacing seven double-hung windows on our house. Doesn’t sound too bad until you actually look at what’s involved: Cleaning and sanding new restoration sashes, conditioning the interior wood, staining the interior wood, applying four coats of Fuhr 260 finish, prepping and painting the exterior of the sashes, stripping existing window trim (interior and exterior), staining, finishing, prepping and painting the exterior and interior trim, replacing vintage sash springs with new restoration copies, and installing the sashes. Oh my god! I just realized how epic this project is going to be. Sometimes as homeowners, we face projects that involve a level of tedium that can actually suck the soul right out of your body. I had an epiphany when planning this project and thought I’d pass along a more philosophical DIY tip, “targeted inefficiency.”

Conventional efficiency wisdom would suggest I do each stage in one fell swoop. For example, stain all 14 sashes at the same time. Then apply the first coat of finish all at the same time. The problem is, each step, when applied to 14 sashes equals a ridiculous amount of time. Since I am rumored to have a life outside of home improvement, it’s much harder to set aside a block of time just to complete one step. Projects then get mired in quicksand before they’re even underway. So instead, I’m employing a new DIY tip that will in fact help me get the project done faster than if I were following conventional efficiency strategy.

First, I prioritized which window sashes should be replaced asap. I then picked two of them (four sashes total) to tackle first. The plan is to do all the stain, finish and paint on those two, strip the openings for just those two windows, and install just those two first. This means I’ll have to wash a few more paintbrushes, and haul out and put away tools a few more times, but there are several advantages to operating this way:

1) As mentioned, since each step takes less time, I’m able to schedule progress around my busy work and family life. Since phases are shorter, I can complete some during the week instead of only relying on longer blocks of time on the weekends.
2) Because I’m completing steps much faster (although I have to do them again), my limited sanity is preserved. Sensing and seeing progress are a huge morale boost, especially on the more tedious phases.
3) Since each phase is so much more bite-size, I’m not locked into inaction due to being overwhelmed by the project’s long stages.
4) My marriage is preserved (hopefully) since I can say, “Look honey, progress!” And she will actually see the progress I’m referring to, rather than me trying to explain it. (Secondary DIY TIp, take steps to preserve the marriage)!
5) I invariably learn things to improve my quality and efficiency (typically after a project is done). By repeating the same processes, I’m actually able to apply learned skills to the same project. In other words, I only screw up two of the windows instead of all seven!
6) I’m able to get a couple rooms buttoned up with new windows before our severe San Diego winter hits. If we had a room without windows in the winter, it’s possible hypothermia could set in. OK, really, really, really mild hypothermia. . . . like the kind that just requires a sweatshirt to remedy.
7) Reduced burn-out risk. Since my morale is kept up, I’m less likely to totally fry out part way in and then retreat to the local beach for the rest of the fall. I guess there’s a downside to this one too (less beach time).

Is this DIY tip/strategy right for every type of project or for every handy-person? Definitely not. However, for some lengthy projects with long, tedious phases, implementing targeted inefficiency can actually make you much more productive and effective with your DIY. So, get out there and be less efficient on select tasks so you can be more productive overall!

Do you have any of your own efficiency or productivity DIY tips? If so, please share them in the comments below.

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About Marc Lyman

Marc grew up under a brave single mom who "encouraged" home improvement on the family home. Early toddler gifts included a tool set, and even a cordless Bosch drill when cordless drills first came out. In grade school (give or take a few years), Marc's mom said, "We need to cut down some trees. . . . here's a chainsaw." A father figure also involved Marc in many home improvement projects, including a summer of home remodeling in Palo Alto, CA. Toss in some Obsessive Compulsive personality traits researching everything home improvement related. The end result: a genetically pre-disposed, socially sculpted home improvement machine! For his complete profile, please visit our About page. Really, it's worth it.

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3 thoughts on “DIY Tip – Get More Productive By Being Less Efficient”

  1. Try to set up a dedicated workspace so that setup and takedown time can be minimized. I’m currently working on a window and siding job on my house and it takes a lot of time to put everything away at the end of the day. Also in terms of quality, do not learn a new skill on the front of the house, start at the back or side so that you get the process perfect. That way the front face is perfect.


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