Cube Farm

Marc Friedlander

I want to talk about an concept that I think is extremely important in accomplishing almost any task.  I call the concept targeting. You would not shoot a bullet from a gun, nor an arrow from a bow, and only then decide on your target. You do it the other way around. Targeting involves deciding on, and then aiming at - the target, before shooting. You can practice this in other ways.

When someone goes about accomplishing a task, like cooking a meal or building a shed, they do things in a certain order. Let's take an office worker at a common office activity - throwing a ball of paper at a wastebasket or the back of a coworker's head. They balled up a piece of paper, sighted their target, aimed at it, and then tossed the ball of paper the best they could. They don’t do it in the reverse order – in other words, toss the paper and while it’s in the air, decide on the target.  That would be absolutely ineffective, if not idiotic.

Strange as it may seem to you, that is exactly the way we conduct most of our activities.  We don’t actively TARGET before we shoot, and here’s what I mean:  you take a heavy, hot pot off the stove, then look for a place to put it down.

Practice what I call good “targeting”. If you’re going to pick something up to move it, decide where you’re going to put it before you pick it up. Don’t pick it up first, and then look for a place to put it. This goes double, if the object is heavy, awkward, spillable, or volatile (as in a pot of boiling soup or a beaker of acid or pandemic virus germs).

You would be surprised how you will increase your efficiency in daily life. Cleaning, organizing, and general activity involves this idea quite often.

When I realize I’m holding a heavy object, and can't find a good place to put it down, and I have to bring it back to its original location, or worse yet, I drop it - I call that a “targeting error”.

If I spill a cup of coffee because I set it down on an uneven surface - targeting error.

If I’m working on computer files, and I want to move a file from one folder to another, and I cut the file before realizing I need to create a folder to paste it into - targeting error.

Practicing good targeting will encourage you to think ahead an extra step or two, and plan more carefully - never a bad thing. You will account for potential obstacles between you and your goal much better if you're aware of them before you start, and before committing the dreaded targeting error. Ex. I'm holding an inredibly heavy air conditioner, and I want to move it into another room. Problem is, I can't walk through the door because my knucles are up against the door frame, and I'll lose them if I go any further. So then I have to put it down somewhere - but where? All while holding this megaton air conditioner.

It also prevents you from absolutely forgetting where you've laid something - because you actively decided on where to lay it.

I’m not talking about major steps of important projects. Of course you give a lot of thought to those. I’m just talking about the smaller steps you don't preplan in detail. Like picking up a hammer, walking over to your workbench, and realizing you’re holding a cup of coffee and you need to put that down before you can hammer any nails. So you walk to a table to put the cup down but the table has a book you would have to move before you could put the cup down. But you’re still holding the hammer in your other hand so you can't pick up the book. So you go back to your workbench to put down the hammer, still holding both the hammer and the cup. Like that.