My Life Is A PERT Diagram

stairwaytoheaventoilet6

com·pul·sion noun \kəm-ˈpəl-shən\
2:  an irresistible persistent impulse to perform an act (as excessive hand washing)

I have a little behavioral quirk that I call Hyper-Efficiency Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.  You might call it Weirdness.

Here’s a recent example.

A television show I particularly wanted to watch started at 9 so I headed out of the living room at 8:55 for a quick trip to the bathroom.   Our first floor powder room is closest, but I had to consider the upstairs bathroom option as well.

There were several compelling arguments in favor of the second floor.

  1. A pair of jeans I had mended was on the banister waiting to be carted upstairs and put away.
  2. I could see that the humidifier on the stairs landing was almost empty.
  3. The book of short stories I was reading was upstairs on my bedside table.  The  powder-room reading material was the same old, dog-eared Calvin & Hobbes anthology.
  4. I had peed in the upstairs toilet earlier and had not flushed.

If I went upstairs I could grab the humidifier reservoir on the way, put my jeans in the bedroom closet and get the book, then read at least 1 page while taking care of business in the bathroom.  Maybe more than 1 page, depending on how things shook out.  When done I could dispose of 2 operations with one flush.(*see Note)   I could then wash my hands while refilling the humidifier and put the reservoir back in place on the way down the stairs.   I would wait until the first commercial break to get my sewing supplies and a drink of water.

All this pottying cogitation took place in the 1-1/2 seconds needed to cover 20 feet of territory between the living room and the powder room.   I made the obvious choice and detoured upstairs.

These mental gymnastics were not deliberate.   I wasn’t even aware of my own thought processes until I was back in my Barcalounger and found I had missed the opening of the show.   “Self” I asked myself, “how could you have been late for a program you were looking forward to so eagerly?”

Applying the bright light of conscious inquiry to the convoluted operations of my own brain was a bit terrifying, I admit, but I wasn’t surprised by the results.  I’ve mentioned my squirrel-in-a-cage thought processes before.  In fact, those who have been hanging around this blog for a while may think I have a particular fetish for deep thinking in and about the bathroom.

I’ve been obsessed with killing a whole flock of birds with one stone for most of my life.  It’s a game to me.

I always have a book on CD going so I can “read” when my hands are busy. I reconcile my checkbook while waiting in the drive-through. I plan my errands by calibrating right vs. left turns, probable traffic patterns for the time of day, placement of various destinations in relation to one another, all factored against weather conditions.   Columbus’ journey to the New World was  a toy boat floating in the tub compared to the convoluted planning I put into a routine trip to the grocery store.

The downside of trying to accomplish as much as possible in the shortest amount of time is that I’m late for everything.  It’s multitasking run amok.

The first time I remember thinking about this topic was when I saw the (original) movie Cheaper By The Dozen on TV as a little kid.  Clifton Webb and Myrna Loy were efficiency experts with 12 children.  One scene showed the father instructing a child on the most efficient way to take a bath while listening to foreign language lessons on a record player.  This struck me as a very elegant use of time.

This conviction was shored up by a class I took in college that introduced me to the principles of project management.  I’ve been living life as a series of boxes in a PERT diagram ever since.

Despite these “nurture” influences, I think such quirks have more to do with “nature”.   Scientific study (defined as observing my own kids) confirms that we are born with these tendencies.

One daughter used to hold her breath between the telephone poles on a particular stretch of road on the ride to school.  The other counted steps on regularly traveled stairways so she would always end up with her right foot on the last step. Maybe this proves nothing more than that the OCD apple doesn’t fall far from the uber-multitasking tree, but I don’t think my family is alone in this.

Humans are hard-wired to try to make sense of a complex world by creating patterns and developing rituals.  Our quirks reach the level of true OCD only when they interfere with our ability to function effectively in life.   Up to that point, I figure whatever makes you feel good  is OK…unless it keeps you from getting to the bathroom in time.

What compulsions or rituals do you practice?

(*Note) Re: our home flushing policy. Don’t judge.  We have a well and it has run dry several times.  Unless you have experienced the gut-wrenching feeling of turning a faucet and getting gurgles instead of water, you are not allowed to feel superior or disgusted about our 2-pees-to-each-flush-when-there-are-no-strangers-in-the-house rule.

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About pegoleg

R-A-M-B-L-I-N-G-S, Ram...Blin!
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71 Responses to My Life Is A PERT Diagram

  1. Mary K. says:

    Wow, I’m the first to reply ever on your blogs. I do the same thing with all the complex routing and the desire to get as much done as I possible can. Have a great day-I’m off to celebrate the big 50 with another sib!

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  2. Mary K. says:

    Sorry-left off a y for possibly

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  3. Mary K. says:

    OK, in all my excitement to post first, the comments I sent really are not too clear as I read them back. It’s TOO much excitement for one day!

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    • pegoleg says:

      As the first commenter you win a host of fabulous and exciting prizes! Not.

      I was thinking about you with the Pert diagram reference – you had whole classes on that topic, didn’t you?

      Happy significant birthday to Miss Carolyn! Are you taking off the whole day to go celebrate? You’re a good sister – I don’t care WHAT the other sibs say.

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  4. I am a card carrying member of the OCD club. Totally understand your mental machinations. They wear me out before I even begin. Try to rest that brain of yours, sister!

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    • pegoleg says:

      Hey, does all of Michigan have a snow day or something? Two sibs heard from in the space of a few minutes. Mar said she’s going home to help Carolyn celebrate the big day – are you in, too? I’ll have to wait for the party to toast the birthday girl.

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  5. Mary K. says:

    SNOW DAY-love them. I’ll be in BC for a few days and we are planning to go back to BC for the “official” celebration. My whole family is coming and we are going to stay at the Bay Valley Resort Sat night. See you then. MK

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  6. susielindau says:

    “When it’s brown flush it down.”
    You speak to my heart Peg. We are cut from the same cloth! I get into trouble when I’m moving too fast, have several balls in the air and drop one which always seems to roll out the door to the street and down the storm sewer. I’ve tried to slow down, make lists and force myself to be inefficient if only for the sake of a little more exercise. 🙂

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  7. Oh Peg, I was totally getting ready to judge you for the not flushing before you explained. It’s like making the bed though, right? YOu’re just gonna mess it again anyway so why not wait…or something.

    I believe that most people are a lost job or painful death or whatever major life catastrophy away from snapping. Anyway, I’ll not bore you with all of my idiosyncrasies, but two that come to mind are these:

    1. I eat all the food on my plate from my least favorite thing to my most favorite thing. For example, a simple dish of green beans, rice and steak would be eaten in the order I listed there. People who eat dessert before dinner are communists.

    2. The radio station dials have to go from left to right in ascending order. My wife has some system she uses where her favorite is the closest to her or some such craziness. NO! Lowest to highest as you go left to right!!!

    Okay, have a nice day.

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  8. I’ve done that “while-I’m here” stuff, and usually end up forgetting what the original destination was. 😦

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  9. MELewis says:

    Funny post, I can very much relate. But I try to take a 3-Fs approach to calming this tendency: Focus on what you’re doing. Finish what you start. Forget what you can’t do. Oh, and maybe one more: F** the to-do list!

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  10. Carrie Rubin says:

    If it’s yellow, let it mellow. If it’s brown, flush it down…

    I think this is a common trait among women (maybe men, too, but I can’t speak for those outside of my own household, and for them it is definitely not). I don’t like multi-tasking but the necessities of life force it upon us. But at least I don’t miss my shows. I just set the DVR. 😉

    Like

    • pegoleg says:

      It IS a common trait among women. I saw a program some years ago about this. They set men and women in the middle of a circle of machinery and gave them a list of tasks to accomplish, like make coffee, make 20 copies of a letter, etc, etc. The women figured out what they could get started while they worked on something else and got everything going in a logical order. The men did one task until complete.

      The researchers theorized that women developed the ability to multitask because they needed to be able to beat the bugs out of their wooly mammoth hide beds at the same time they were turning the brontosaurus on the spit at the same time they had to make sure Cro Magnon Jr. didn’t fall into the fire.

      Men needed to concentrate intently on the task of bringing down the saber tooth tiger before it got them.

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  11. The Cutter says:

    Everything we do is a quirk. Some are just more socially accepted than others.

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  12. mistyslaws says:

    You’re just super efficient, is all. Nothing wrong with that! As opposed to my children that walk past EVERYTHING that needs to go upstairs. Can you adopt them and teach them some of your crazy ways?

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  13. lisaspiral says:

    isn’t there always “just one more thing”?

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  14. bigsheepcommunications says:

    You are more than welcome to come unleash your hyper-efficient OCD all over my house!

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  15. I always try and maximise the use of my time too, I hate the thought of wasting time, so I’ll always look to efficiencies of things I can do along the way. Like Don, I was going to judge you a little on the non-flushing until I saw your explanation. I have a thing about doing things in threes, like say if I had a bag of candies or something, the number I ate in one sitting would have to be a multiple of three. Or I stroke my cat three times. Things like that. Also I don’t like things on desks or table to be hanging over the edge, or touching each other, and they need to be parallel to the edge. But all these things quirks are just minor background things I do as I go along without really thinking about it, they’re not routines that rule my life.

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    • pegoleg says:

      That’s interesting, that you really don’t think about this ritual. Would it make you uncomfortable to pet the cat only 2 times?

      Like

      • I don’t think I always have to do these things in threes, or always have to have the things on the desk/table just so, but if I have thought about it and realised that I haven’t done that then it’s a general feeling that it will be bad luck if I don’t sort it. I think I used to be worse with this, the more I think about it now (like right now), the more I’m realising that I probably don’t do it so much anymore! I’m cured! It’s a miracle!

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  16. We have a well too, so I totally get the flushing thing. No judging here, Pegolicious. Also, the OCD thing. I don’t like my food touching on my plate. I tend to eat only one thing at a time. Like I’ll eat all the potatoes, THEN all the green beans. I don’t mix them up. It’s just what I do, I know it’s bizarre but that’s okay. Wish to GOD I was more OCD about cleaning.

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  17. Al says:

    I’ve read many articles about OCD which lead me to believe you are indeed affected by this strange disorder, which takes many forms, such as repeating the same thing many times. I hope you find help soon.

    I’ve read many articles about OCD which lead me to believe you are indeed affected by this strange disorder which takes many forms, such as repeating the same thing many times. I hope you find help soon.

    I’ve read many articles about OCD which lead me to believe you are indeed affected by this strange disorder which takes many forms, such as repeating the same thing many times. I hope you find help soon.

    I’ve read many articles about OCD which lead me to believe you are indeed affected by this strange disorder which takes many forms, such as repeating the same thing many times. I hope you find help soon.

    Like

  18. On islands with limited water supply, it’s “In this land of island fun, we do not flush for #1” – life adapts to environment or else.
    I love that original movie…I think my mom took it all seriously, though.
    Now if I didn’t do bits and pieces along the way to doing the main task, I’d never get stuff done. Mutli tasking does lead to overload sometimes….and it helps to have that TV feature that lets you instantly rewind back to the start so you can see what you missed.

    Like

    • pegoleg says:

      I like that motto – maybe I’ll stitch a sampler and hang it over the toilets!

      Your mom had good taste. Clifton Webb was great in that movie.

      I wish I had a rewind feature in my life. Wouldn’t that be great?

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  19. I totally forgive you on the no flushing thing. Do you shower, though? 🙂 I don’t suffer from too many obsessions (yet) but I have to always be doing something. I cannot just be idle. I take my little crossword puzzle book everywhere with me and the minute I have to wait for whatever, I pop the sucker out and crossword away! Today in fact while at Best Buy waiting for the geeks to help me, I just whipped it out (right in front of everyone) and began doing it. I’ve got no shame.

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  20. Elyse says:

    You had me going until you mentioned the fact that you balance your checkbook. That’s why I got married!

    Like

  21. I occasionally get patients with chronic diagnoses which sap their endurance. The ones who have suffered the longest are often models of efficiency. When operating with a very limited amount of gas in their tanks, they had no choice but to make every trip count. To see one of them operate in their home environment is a thing of beauty.

    As for the toilet issues, if my wife waits until she’s peed two or three times before flushing, she’s a conservationist who should get some sort of award. When I do the same thing, I’m a lazy slob with the manners of livestock.

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  22. I have more of an OCD about obsessing but not enough to carry it through to the compulsing. I wish I did. My house might be clean. .

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  23. List of X says:

    I totally get the multitasking. I fact, I can’t JUST eat, I have to read something while I’m eating. A book, a newspaper, a tablet with blogs – anything. And it’s a family thing: I remember family dinners where everyone at the table has a plate and a book or newspaper in front of them. (we do talk to each other, but if no one has anything to say, why force yourself?)
    Also, I watch TV while I do the dishes, write posts while I drive or shower – and yet I still need at least 10 more hours in each day to do what I want.

    Like

    • pegoleg says:

      Me too! Except I listen to books on CD while doing the dishes, and never did the book thing while eating until the kids were out of the house. Now that it’s just us two, we don’t even set the table any more. Straight to the TV or book with a plate. It’s the breakdown of civilization!

      Like

  24. Snoring Dog Studio says:

    I do the same thing, peg, as I wander from room to room. Except that I’m not as efficient as you are. I tend to have to return to get the thing I told myself I’d get. I lay down a lot of mileage in my home trying to multitask. And then something burns on the stove and I realize that I shouldn’t be multitasking.

    Like

    • pegoleg says:

      You are so right. I’m ALways burning stuff because I walked away to do something else, Jean. I figure I shouldn’t waste the 2 minutes it will take to heat-up without working on something else. Yet I’ll waste 5 hours straight in front of the boob-tube, as long as I’m also sewing or reading at the same time. Madness, madness I say!

      Like

  25. lexiemom says:

    I have a friend who has the same flush policy in her house, and even has a rhyme to help her children remember: “If it’s yellow, just let it mellow, but if it’s brown, flush it down.” I can do that, besides my germophobic tendencies, I have a toddler who would love nothing more than to stick his hands in the yellow water, and the older boys never seem to remember to close the lid or the bathroom door so he can’t get into it.
    As for the multitasking, I do that too. Maybe that’s why I’m always late as well…. Um…no, I’m just always late.

    Like

  26. Blogdramedy says:

    I’m easily distracted so I never get anything done.
    For example, “pert.” I don’t envision a project management chart.
    For some reason I associate “pert” with bums.
    Maybe because I don’t have one.

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  27. I think of how much brain power I use so that I can multitask and be more efficient… it’s exhausting.
    Calvin & Hobbes is a great read — in the bathroom or anywhere else. 🙂

    Like

  28. Being a project manager by trade, this makes perfect sense to me. I don’t have many tendencies toward OCD, though I do multitask, all the time. You are welcome to come run my home anytime though. I suspect it might be in better shape quickly.

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  29. That original “Cheaper by the Dozen” movie was one of my favourites when I was a kid. I loved trying to figure out ways I could do more in less time. Like you, I like to map out exactly what I can accomplish in “quick” trip. On the other hand He-Who will go upstairs nine times and pass the jeans, and the humidifier every time and not think to address either one. “I didn’t notice them”, is his best defence. Makes me crazy.

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  30. Hmmmm, no. There is no way my guy could handle both of us.

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  31. Mike says:

    You’re really NSA aren’t you? Get that camera outta my house right after you pay me the royalties.

    Like

  32. Pleun says:

    haha, I do the same thing while planning errands. And after a while I just hear myself tell myself: ‘just do it, really!’ And that’s when I go and then all the planning goes out the window anyway, cause somehow things change while I drive out of our street… sigh.

    Like

  33. Jackie says:

    Catching up on some of my reading and dropping a line to say that I giggled several times throughout this post, most notably after #4 in your reasons to go to the other toilet.

    I often do some mental gymnastics to figure out how to be the most productive possible. If I’m going to do work, I’m going to do it quickly and well. I’ll map out what to do first, second, simultaneously, and so forth until I’ve got the master plan and then will attack until I’m fat with success. I’m all or nothing. I have two switches: this crazed foaming-at-the-mouth Jackie and the couch potato Jackie. No healthy middle ground yet but I’m working on it.

    As for obsession, I do think back to this weird tick I had when I was little. I had an electric blanket with a circular dial for the heat setting and would set it, check it, set it, check it – until I was so tired I couldn’t stay up anymore. It was a full circle dial and didn’t click into place on the numbers so I would obsess about whether it was right on the number or not and would have deep anxiety about it being bumped, or my having mistaken where I left it at, or if it could get more accurate. I struggled with that one for a long time and I honestly don’t remember if I ever got over it or if I just no longer had the blanket to vex me. Now, of course, I see that this was a clear symptom of OCD and I wonder what else I struggled with at the time that I’ve since forgotten..

    Like

    • pegoleg says:

      Hey there, Jackie! Nice to see your smiling face. It’s nice to know I’m not the only one who does this. I’m not a compulsive cleaner by any stretch of the imagination, unfortunately. I need to get a roommate with that issue so I can take shameless advantage.

      Like

  34. Dana says:

    I am full of oddities and OCD-like quirks, Peg. I am the worst (or possibly the BEST) when it comes to sorting, filing, and organizing things. Everything is either in alpha-order (my favorite system), numerical order, or is color coded. I also have a system for distinguishing which of two identical objects belongs to me and which belongs to Marty (mine is always the one on the left. ALWAYS.)

    Like

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