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The Mother of Invention

After you have changed something in your life, whether a longtime habit, an ugly couch or a way of doing things, have you ever said ‘why on earth didn’t I do this sooner?’  When I worked in the corporate world, one of my duties was efficiency studies, where I would examine a process in an effort to find a way to improve it.  Often, I could evaluate an old process and find ways to cut the time necessary to perform it in half, and sometimes even eliminate it or fold it into something personnel were already doing.  I find myself a little red-faced, because while I regularly did that for my former company, it has taken me a long time to do it for my own.  Not only that, when I started prepping for this post (pardon the pun), I noticed that many areas of life, whether business related, personal, or among social groups (including Survival Club, our prep group), could use a good going-over to figure out where the inefficiencies are.

It used to be the most painful part of my job, though one of absolute necessity, was printing labels for our outgoing shipments.  We used Paypal for many of our labels, and the process was downright frustrating.  It would take over two minutes to process each.  Only 8 weeks ago, I spent over 3 hours a day to process labels, reprint labels I did wrong, or print labels for re-shipments.  I never stopped to think, until recently, what a huge burden that was…mainly because all the work was still getting done.  As we looked at moving to our warehouse and possibly hiring a full-time employee, it finally dawned that I needed to fix it.  What flipped the switch for me was the thought of an employee wasting as much time as I was doing essentially nothing (because the label printing process was more waiting for Paypal screens to load than actually doing anything).  After only a few hours of research, I was testing a couple of new pieces of software that would replace our entire label process.  We are using one of those today, and the process that once took hours now takes 20 minutes or less per day.  It does cost $100 per month, but with an estimated 90 hours of time saved, I would only have to be worth $1.10 an hour for us to break even, not even minimum wage, a feat I hope I can manage!  To be honest, most of those 90 hours are being spent with my wife, who had been living with me working 12-14 hours a day, 6-7 days a week for the past year or so.  My only regret, as I mentioned in the first paragraph, was not doing it sooner.  I can’t begin to explain what this one change has meant for my family life, my anxiety level, and my enjoyment of the business we have created.

A similar situation arose with our prep group recently.  We have been working (sort of) hard trying to finish up the water project I’ve mentioned a few times on the blog.  Until it is done, every monthly meeting is being spent on completing it.  One of our members pointed out that often, almost every meeting, we didn’t have all the fittings, tools, or parts we needed to do the day’s work, and we would have to send a member to the store.  Meanwhile, the rest of the group would sit around waiting at the bottom of the valley we are working in, often freezing our tails off.  Finally, recognizing this, we decided that the week prior to our meeting, we would have a brief email exchange regarding the goal for the weekend, and one person would be assigned to pick up whatever was needed.  For about 15 minutes of effort emailing, and another hour for someone to go to the store, we saved the entire group 10 man-hours worth of sitting around, for a savings of over 7 hours…not to mention the decreased frustration level.

While my wife and I haven’t decided yet if we’ll change anything, we have decided to expand this theme and examine our food, water, medical and other family preps, and I think for everyone it is a good idea to do the same every so often.  What worked for us 5 years ago when we started prepping might not work today, but we will never know it if we assume all is well and don’t take stock of our situation.  Those who have prepped for a modest period of time (2-4 years) probably have the most to gain from a prep-audit.  The knowledge base one has in that range is likely to have improved enormously with even a decent amount of planning and reading.  One big example for us was finding out my wife was gluten-intolerant…with us having stored 400 pounds of wheat!  Another was determining we didn’t really like the pinto beans we had stored.  For the first problem, we laid in a couple hundred pounds of gluten-free flour (which we use and rotate every 12 months or so), and for the other we switched the types of beans we had stored to ones we enjoyed more.  I’ve heard many people say that if a true long-term emergency did happen, ‘we’ll use it if we have to’.  While true, why set yourself up for a miserable dining experience on top of what would already be a stressful situation?  If we are spending all day clearing brush, pounding fence posts, or chopping wood, the last thing I want is to come in to a meal I won’t enjoy!

So if you find yourself thinking there is something in your life that just doesn’t work well, you’re probably right.  For me, preparedness has always been about making some modest changes to my life to put myself in a position to better handle any challenges that come my way, whether they are personal, business-related, financial or social.

 

 

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04 2012

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