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Make Your Time Count

Last Saturday morning was my father’s birthday and we’d planned a bike ride along the Cape Cod Canal. But with the weather questionable, we switched gears to Plan B. Weeds. Focusing on a stone walkway on one side of the house, we tackled it but good.

“What’s next?” I asked, following him to the porch. As he went all “Edward Scissorhands” to a tall rhododendron, trimming away the dead leaves, I swept up the debris.

“This has a medium TA index,” he said.

“A what?” I said.

“Task Attractiveness,” he explained, “is rated by the amount of time you put into something that reflects the proportion of its payback.”

I was puzzled.

“When mom and I were married it was the first time either of us had a place of our own. We couldn’t decide what to do first. We made lists of silly decisions, like what color brass bell should we put on the door of Navy housing? We labeled drawers, organized them. They were a way of learning to make bigger decisions.”

Now he was speaking my language. How had he never told me about this “TA Index” before?

“But what the TA Index really was,” he said, scratching his chin, “is my way of deciding what effort to put into almost any task. Like Michelangelo said, ‘wherever your hand and eye touched, it wanted to be perfect. That’s why he said he completed the back of statues that the public would never see. God sees it.’”

I’ve been implementing my own type of “TA Index” for years, though the tasks were based more on getting them done as opposed to their final uses. My lists always include both easy (post office, laundry) and difficult (write another chapter, finalize speaker contract) tasks, because finishing the easy ones builds momentum to tackle the more difficult ones. I’d never considered the amount of time it took – or in this case assessing the “TA Index” – in relation to how important it was when completed. Or had I.

I thought of how much my clients loved gazing at a neat closet or a well-organized garage when I was done. Maybe all this time I’d been striving to correctly evaluate the “TA Index” of a given job without even knowing it.

“A high TA Index is measured in aesthetic enjoyment rather than money,” my dad explained. “You can spend five hours of your labor painting a room or writing a blog and in the end you have something that is as perfect as you want it to be. A high TA index is worth the labor.”

Here it was my dad’s birthday, but it was I who was given a gift.

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