2 minute read

I want to share this article because it provides a fun and surprising insight that I found personally very relevant.

Before you ask, yes I did let ChatGPT generate this clickbait title and I think it did a great job. Did you also notice the thumbnail? Yes I also let it generate that, insane, right?

Anyway, the article analyses the flow of dirty dishes in a household using systems theory. If you ever lived in a household where dishes seem to endlessly pile up, you should definitely read this article.

Most people don’t really mind putting their dishes in the dishwasher, given that it’s clean and empty.

However, if the dishwasher is full then it makes total sense to put your dishes on the counter, because we have no time and need to carry on with our lives. I’m completely guilty of this too.

The problem is that if everyone does this, you enter this kind of stalemate: Everyone wants to have a clean counter but no one wants to clean other people’s stuff the whole time (sometimes is OK).

The surprising insight is that emptying the dishwasher is a high leverage activity. That is, putting the clean dishes back in the cabinet.

The reason that this is a high leverage activity is because it changes the relation of time with respect to the system:

  • Before emptying the dishwasher, time was working against you. If you would do nothing, people would just put their dirty dishes on the counter.
  • After emptying the dishwasher, time is working for you. People now put their dirty dishes in the now clean dishwasher. Remember that most people are not evil, just lazy and busy.

If you don’t have a lot of time (because you are lazy and busy) invest time intervening in the system at this high leverage point. This will give the best bang for your buck.

This quote from the article captures the essence really well:

“On a limited budget, it pays to quickly get to a point where flows are rearranged so that time is on your side. After that, you can work as slowly as whatever remaining budget allows.”

Or if you want a shorter snappy version of this:

Remember Focus on emptying the dishwasher

[1] Emptying the Dishwasher With Systems Theory