The other day I was joking with my wife that I should write a book of life lessons that I learned from my first job: Flipping hamburgers at McDonalds. Today one of those lessons played out in real life.
McDonalds was known back in the 70′s for its fast service. As long as you didn’t want your burger with no pickles or your fries with no salt, we usually had your order cooked before you arrived. We counted heads in the lobby and had a formula for how much meat to put on the grill. It usually worked out pretty well.
Sometimes, though, we ended up throwing away food that sat under the heat lamps too long. At the end of the day, the manager had to dig through a big garbage can full of that day’s waste and count how many of each type of sandwich was in there so he could do inventory. This was especially nasty if there were milkshakes mixed in with the Quarter Pounders and Big Macs.
One night, one of the girls who worked the cash registers asked the boss, “Why don’t you just write down each thing as you throw it away so you don’t have to count it at the end of the day?” He looked at her for a second then looked at his garbage can full of Shamrock-shake-soaked McMuffins, muttered something unsuitable for inclusion here, and the next day there was a clipboard by the heat lamps and no more counting waste.
Today one of our publishers asked if we could send them their royalties on an annual rather than a quarterly basis. They said they’re trying to reduce their processing costs and they’d rather handle one giant report at the end of the year than four smaller ones sent four times throughout the year. That’s kind of a pain in the neck for us, because we’re set up to do everything quarterly.
So I suggested that they cash our checks every quarter (that just requires a rubber stamp endorsement) but file away the detailed report until the end of the year, at which time they can pull four quarterly reports out of the file and do whatever it is they have to do with them that is so complicated. My guess is they won’t be very receptive to that idea, so I’ll just do the same here: When I get their check from our accountant I’ll shred it and file away the report. At the end of the year when they email me to ask “Where are our royalties?” I’ll get out the reports, add up the total, get a check issued, and send it to them.
Maybe this is the opposite of what I learned at McDonalds (“Sometimes it’s easier to keep track as you go than to do it all at one time.”). But it’s close. What are you doing that would be easier if you either put it off until you could do the sum of a few smaller tasks all at one time, or if you kept track as you went along instead of doing it all at once later?