My 1998 Tacoma pickup has about 145,000 miles and has been running a little rough lately. Due to our decreased income, I decided to attempt to fix the problem myself. Even though I am pretty handy with home projects, I am not a “gearhead.” (What gearhead would allow his truck to go 145,000 miles before performing its first tune-up?) I have always taken my cars to local shops for service, so this was bound to be a learning experience!

Last weekend, I started by replacing the air and gas filters. These projects were relatively easy and resulted in a marked improvement in the vehicle’s performance, but the problem was not entirely eliminated. So, I decided to attempt to change the spark plugs and wires.

This afternoon I rolled up my sleeves and dove in.

Actually changing the plugs and wires is not very difficult. I imagine the project could be completed in under an hour. However, it took me considerably longer. First, I spent about ten minutes locating the spark plugs which are located under a number of hoses, wires, and brackets. Then I discovered that the spark plug socket that was in my ratchet box was the wrong size, so that meant a trip to Ace Hardware. Third, I dropped a bolt and it lodged itself between a metal shield and an exhaust pipe. It took ten minutes to find where the bolt landed, another fifteen minutes for to push it beyond where my fat fingers could reach, then another 30 minutes to run to Ace Hardware a second time to buy a 61 cent bolt and washer. The knowledge gap, wrong tool, and dropped bolt more than doubled the amount of time it took to complete the project.

As I was “wasting time” trying to find the bolt, I was thinking how this experience reflects organizational inefficiencies and life in general. If we can eliminate distractions and remain focused on our primary objectives, we can complete an amazing amount of work. Unfortunately, inadequate information, improper tools, and mistakes significantly add to the time it takes to complete priority tasks. Our challenge is to minimize the resource wasters and efficiently pursue our high priority tasks.

The good news is that with the new plugs and wires, the truck runs as smoothly as it did when I bought it several years ago. Maybe I am on my way to becoming gearhead! Like other areas in life, to be effective I will have to increase my knowledge, obtain proper tools, and minimize mistakes.