While in graduate school, I took an Operations Management course to fulfill my program requirements. On the first night of class, my professor taught us an important lesson in the realm of OM: increasing variability in any process will inevitably deteriorate overall quality.
For example, let’s assume there is a company who produces an item in a serial process. Each starting unit must pass through a series of stages in order for a finished product to come out of the process. What happens if the company wants to add a new feature to the product? Based on the current process, the company would create an additional stage in the serial process.
Increasing the number of stages only creates more opportunities for failure at any point in the process. For the remainder of my three-hour class, my mind was stuck on this principle. Could it be applied to life in general?
Life is, in essence, one big process. In a given day, we pass through various stages – work, class, recreational activities, performances, etc. We juggle various pieces and try not to drop any balls. From experience, however, we know that we can’t give 100 percent to every activity we engage in. First of all, it is impossible. Second, overcommitting ourselves has certain consequences. Someone has to suffer and, in the end, we usually carry a bulk of the burden.
By suffer, I don’t mean physical pain. Although, excess levels of stress can cause bodily harm. I’m talking about living in a constant state of chaos. Sleep deprivation, unhealthy eating habits, breaking off commitments, and diminished performance. Sound familiar?
While in school, I stretched myself more than I have at any other point in my life. Don't get me wrong, I actually enjoy having a full plate. I just don't care for a heaping plate where everything is touching. I can best describe the ideal scenario for me as organized chaos.
How can one have variability without their quality of life suffering? The answer is simple - cut out the variables that don't add value. These variables can include people, things, or commitments. No matter how stressful life or work gets, never forget the bigger picture. Only do what only you can do. Most important of all, enjoy life. Get involved in things that make you happy (and don’t take away from the happiness of others).