Random Acts of Architecture

Tales of an architect trying to bring order to the chaos that is modern information technology.

Who moved my toast?

My glorious, slightly dirty toaster

A few weeks ago, my wife was cleaning the kitchen. She unplugged the toaster that I use every morning, cleaned the bench then plugged it back in. Unfortunately, she plugged it into the left power socket not the right.

I turn off my toaster when I am not using it. When I made my breakfast the next morning, I placed the bread in the toaster then instinctively turned on the right power socket. A few minutes later, I wondered where my toast was. I discovered I had turned on the wrong socket, as you can see in the image above.

Amused at my mistake, I switched on the correct socket and soon after was enjoying my toast. However, I made the mistake the next day and the day after that and the day after that.

Many people, including Mark Zuckerberg’s famous comments around his dull wardrobe, emphasize focusing on important decisions and automating or standarizing others. Productivity is often determined by attention or energy management, more so than time management or attention to detail.

Without realizing it, I had done a Zuckerberg with my toaster. It got me wondering what other assumptions had I made throughout my day.

Specifically, are there small things I do that have a big impact on me or others? Are there “broken windows” I need to fix?

What further improvements can I make to streamline my day and focus my energy on things that have a greater personal or professional impact?

What if the underlying optimizations or assumptions I use change? What if someone “moves my cheese”?

Similarly, sometimes the small things with systems are actually the big things. As architects, we often prefer cost and features over things like user experience. However, user experience has a bigger and more lasting impression on the people part of the systems we engineer.

Ironically, the image above was taken a some time after cleaning. The toaster and bench need another clean. I wonder what I will discover about myself next time?

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