Top 5 roles I played washing dishes during the COVID-19 lockdown

Dishwashing

Author: Kannan Sundararajan, a.k.a Coach Kay

If I ask you to wash the dirty dishes in the sink, what hat (role) will you wear (play) to wash them? Do you know which role worked the best for me?

When the COVID-19 lockdown was announced, a mini shockwave ran through us when we realized that our maids and cook would not be supporting us through the lockdown.

On the same day, Meera, my wife, and I called our family to the dinner table. We closed the meeting having all key tasks identified and responsibilities assigned to each family member. This too shall pass! we said, together as a family, without having the slightest clue of how.

  • Meera would cook and wash clothes
  • Aditya, my son, took the job of sweeping and mopping the floors
  • Being the big man, I decided to do the dirty dishes and bring groceries
  • and Anjali, my daughter, would keep all things in their respective places, and treat us with her amazing culinary creations.

With a new job at home, I turned on the planning mode. I wanted to put my years of experience and skills into practice. But I was facing a dilemma too… Which hat (role) would I wear to wash the dishes? As a responsible husband or dad, an engineer, an agile practitioner, a project manager, a race director, a coach… or an ultramarathoner?

Without much internal deliberation, I decided to try all the roles.

  1. The responsible dish-washing husband & dad: For the initial few days, I decided to be a nice husband and dad.
    • I encouraged my family members to call me whenever they finish eating and I would pick up their plates and other cutleries, and wash them. After Meera cooked, I would instantly take the dishes and wash them.
    • I would never let the sink fill up with dirty dishes. Suddenly I was getting more kisses and hugs from everyone. This went on for a few days.
    • My wife, being a caring person she is, would often take the initiative to wash her own dishes. My children suddenly started enjoying the extra dose of love and started throwing the dishes here and there. For the initial few days, I would patiently go, pick and clean then, but it turned into too much of a hassle.
    • I found that I didn’t quite like this role of being the nicest dad. I justified it by telling myself that I wasn’t teaching them how to take care of their own things.
  2. As a dishwashing coach. As a coach, the first thing I did was to set a realistic goal of washing a certain amount of dishes by a given time. I had a 7-day plan to improve my PB [1]Personal Best: the fastest time.
    • I started to build rapport with the dishes. I carefully experimented with the science behind washing them and decided the best time of the day to engage with this newfound responsibility.
    • I came up with a pace calculator, measured the size of the dishes, the stubbornness of the stain, control the tap for the right amount of water flow, etc.
    • I also measured the composition of Vim vs. Pril – the electrolyte in the world of dishwashing – and used them at the right intervals. I wore the right gear, a non-sweating shirt, and dri-fit socks and comfortable shoes.
    • I defined a goal for the day, time, speed, and did the ABC warmups needed for my arms and shoulders prior to the cleaning.
    • I introduced wash breaks, some pre-wash stretch routines, stretched in between, had a hydration plan (always started off with coffee and a post-dishwashing healthy breakfast), and also compiled a playlist of motivational music to stay sharp till the finish line.
    • I coached myself to have 7-8 hrs of quality sleep and would get up at 5.30 am to prepare myself for the arduous tasks to come
    • I studied a range of books including “Born to wash”, “Washing with the Kenyans”, “Lore of washing”,Wash Slow Wash More, “Dishwashing Anatomy“, “80/20 washing”, “Chi Washing”.
    • I also learned a lot about dishwashing injuries and took preventive care. Hey, the last thing I would’ve wanted is an overuse injury, right? I came up with the right way to stand while washing dishes, and also carefully calculated the precise pressure for every single washing stroke.
    • I concentrated on reconstructing my foundation [2]Reconstruct the running foundation: prevent injuries, create a path to become a strong runner, is a one-month foundation program for all kinds of runners offered by Coach Kay, the author of this blog and founder, KaysFIT Academy and focused on my nutrition. Lastly, even though this was working very well, I still found that something was missing.
  3. The dish engineer, project manager, and a race director [3]www.ootyultra.com an annual ultramarathon held in OOTY with 90k, 60k, 30k & 15k distances; www.bisonultra.com is an annual trail ultramarathon held in Yercaud with 45k and 20k distances: Wearing a new hat I went to the kitchen. The engineer in me woke up and decided to do a time study first. I had a stop-watch and I measured the time I took to wash every single vessel.
    • I did a lot of brainstorming, came up with a mind map of ideas, and did some quick math estimate the job.
    • There were roughly 65 individual pieces of vessels, spoons, ladles, tumblers, glass bowls, plastic cups, forks, knives, cutting board, broth pot, three different sizes pots for making sambar, rasam and curd, milk pan, iron pan for dosas, iron pan for making rotis, cheese graters, lemon squeezer, serving tray, silver wears. I followed Kaizen[4]KAIZEN™ means improvement. Moreover, it means continuing improvement in personal life, home life, social life, and working life to get better every single day.
    • After a few days, I moved to become more agile and strict. I was forcing everyone at home to wash the dishes after they were done using them. Needless to say, it turned out to be pretty effective!
    • With fewer dishes to wash, I found that I did not have a reason for getting up that early in the morning. Unfortunately, I was missing my personal time of standing in one place and listening to my favorite podcast. I was losing an opportunity to learn something new.
    • After a few days, I actually decided not to chase my children to wash their dishes meal after meal, and the sink naturally came back to its original form. I also decided to do a retrospective workshop [5]My first love with retrospectives was when I read the book Retrospectives, A handbook of team reviews; there are plenty of other books available to find what went right, what went wrong, what I could have done better, etc. I also received 360º feedback from the family to better understand how I performed.
  4. The dish knowledge manager and a business process consultant: I thought of reusing my learnings from the past, so I decided to draw a swimlane diagram [6]A visual flowchart diagram which depicts who does what and created process documentation on the procedures and care to be taken to wash dishes. I did root cause analysis [7]A beautiful and effective technique to identify the real root cause and fixing it, instead of finding a band-aid type solution to find out how in the world a dish gets dirtied 5 times a day. I negotiated with my wife to put away 50% of the dishes that we were using in the kitchen. I wanted to educate my entire family on 5s principles [8]5s principles: The process involves cleaning away clutter and unused items, and putting everything that is important in the right place especially focusing on kitchen cleanliness too since. But these were too process-oriented, and I was practically useless!
  5. The ultradishmarathoner: This was my favorite role.
    • After we decided that I would take the responsibility of washing the dishes every single day, I quickly realized that I seriously underestimated the magnitude of the responsibility I take on. This reminded me of how I signed up for my first 100-mile race with just 53 days of preparation left.
    • The day I assumed the role of an ultradishmarathoner, the first thing that I did was to count all the vessels. Quite interestingly, there 60 pieces of them. When I looked at the dishes in the sink, each one looked like a tiny monster mountain to cross.
    • Interestingly, my experience started on the 5th of April (the scheduled date of Ooty Ultra). This responsibility was a fitting replacement, I think. I was excited like a small child and an enthusiastic marathoner at the start line, supercharged and I decided to attack the dishes one at a time.
    • As an ultramarathoner my intuition immediately said, I must attack the easy ones first. The experience looked very similar to how the initial miles in ultramarathons are easy to tackle. The first thing that I did was to sort the dishes by size. The smallest things like spoons and cutleries went to my left and the mid-sized vessels to the middle and the largest vessels to the right. I decided to keep the most stubborn ones, like stained frying pans and the milk pot to the right extreme. Even though they were small in size, they looked like a 15% gradient uphill section to me. I decided to apply wash-stop-wash [9]Run-Walk-Run is a strategy adopted by runners to introduce regular walk backs while running a marathon to recover physically/mentally strategy.
    • I decided to keep all the tough ones to the later part of my run (and a few easy ones for the finish line), to simulate exactly how I would move from depending on my physical strength to run the first 25% of the run, then move on to mental strength, then the psychological and finally spiritual strength to clear the most stubborn ones, while thinking about the bliss of reaching the finish line with loads of pride.
    • When I stopped my Garmin 935 I was super excited to see my AWSPM (Average Wash Strokes Per Minute) touching a max of 180, faster than what I thought.

However, I’m surprised that I’m disappointed that the new life I assumed during the lockdown has died. The end came suddenly and drastically in the form of a housemaid.

I’m quite sure that most people would consider the job of cleaning dishes as pretty trivial and mundane – I would’ve told you that too if you asked me three weeks ago. In truth, it quite unexpectedly opened me up to a world of philosophical learnings and self-introspection.

Washing dishes every single day helped me so much and now it is no longer an option, I’ve to find other ways to clear my mind. My tryst with the dishes was short, but I sure do think I’ll miss it.

What to share what role you played during the lockdown? Want to share something else about UltraTop5 with Coach Kay? Contact me.

P.S. Today when our maid came I thought to myself, hey can I become her coach? Hmm… considering my infinite experience in the field, I think it would be a great idea to coach her or maybe even other husbands!

Reconstruct the running foundation, Coach Kay, KaysFIT Academy

References   [ + ]

1. Personal Best: the fastest time
2. Reconstruct the running foundation: prevent injuries, create a path to become a strong runner, is a one-month foundation program for all kinds of runners offered by Coach Kay, the author of this blog and founder, KaysFIT Academy
3. www.ootyultra.com an annual ultramarathon held in OOTY with 90k, 60k, 30k & 15k distances; www.bisonultra.com is an annual trail ultramarathon held in Yercaud with 45k and 20k distances
4. KAIZEN™ means improvement. Moreover, it means continuing improvement in personal life, home life, social life, and working life
5. My first love with retrospectives was when I read the book Retrospectives, A handbook of team reviews; there are plenty of other books available
6. A visual flowchart diagram which depicts who does what
7. A beautiful and effective technique to identify the real root cause and fixing it, instead of finding a band-aid type solution
8. 5s principles: The process involves cleaning away clutter and unused items, and putting everything that is important in the right place
9. Run-Walk-Run is a strategy adopted by runners to introduce regular walk backs while running a marathon to recover physically/mentally

19 Replies to “Top 5 roles I played washing dishes during the COVID-19 lockdown”

  1. Kay – it was very nice reading. A tip to wash dishes I learnt from one of my colleagues who did this part time when studying abroad. Just immerse all vessels in the sink in hot water and pour pril or vim liquid. Leave it for 15 to 30 minutes. Scrubbing and cleaning will be far easier.

  2. Though did not study so methodically, I took up the same job at my house during the lockdown period. Almost agree with your observations. we eventually think alike, is my experience too. Unknowingly I was thinking alike. You did a good documenation and methodical approach. Certainly enjoyed the read.

  3. Dear Kay, you have completed a totally different course to perfection and hereafter it will be routine for you and you will put in your own ideas to improve further.
    The duties for each one had been well regulated by you and being very studiously trained by you, all the other members have picked up very well. I have been cleaning my plates ever since I went to High school.,Even today, it is so not only me but all in my family, even on normal days. That will be a very good habit for your son and daughter for a disciplined future and when others notice the exercise, they will all be mentally forced to acquire similar habits and thus it will run into the future. That is totally my experience and I advocate out of conviction.
    Well done, KAY, Well done, MEERA. Keep it up and don’t give up this healthy, hygienic habit to be observed by all the four in your dear family.

  4. Wow! Superb content Kay.. not just this article.. but throughout the website.. I like how you have maintained 5 throughout all your articles, connecting everything with UltraTop5! And backlinks reference structures are really helpful! The website is simple and elegant!

  5. That was hilarious! Looks like ultramarathon training approach worked better than the fancy 6 sigma methodologies! i believe that delegation is the best approach. Although you may need to have some good QA in place! Also, before coaching the made, i suggest finding out her special trade secrets.

    Although the challenges of living without a made is not something most Americans or Europeans would relate, washing dishes is where most of my thinking and creative work happens. I still miss my dishwasher though 🙂

    1. Hey Olesja, thank you very much for the insights. Yeah, in India we are generally pampered with many different avatars of domestic helpers which is nearly impossible elsewhere. Thanks to Coronovirus, all of us are now “pandemic certified”

  6. i am a pathetic reader! so be it… but you engaged me pretty well on this one! nicely written… 🙂 i enjoyed read it! you inspire me to start reading!…

    happy blogging and off-course AWSPM 😛

    1. Thank you very much, Chetan, happy to know you will read more. Please read the rest of the articles, one day at a time, and leave your feedback. I love to know your opinions.

  7. Wow…Kay, I am always fan of your writing and describing it so nicely that it looks like a movie is going in and I am able to visualize each n every role of your. I laughed n enjoyed the read.Infact after your read when I was washing today as Hr person, washing utensils with soap n spong ,there comes efficiency of resourse. Recruited new spong,looking at dishes understood behaviour management. Finally few new dishes video made me realise training require to get performance rating excellent ….hahahaha… It’s always fun to read you Kay. Looking forward for more….hungry now:-) for new read

    1. Hey Puja,

      It has been a long time… thank you very much for the feedback.. you have always been a source of encouragement for my writing… By the way as a HR, did you fire someone? someone in PIP?? 🙂

  8. A nice fun read, well written amd can relate to it….did your maid take you up on the coaching offer. Maybe you can also offer her a free entry to washing dishes on a Sunday to incentivise..

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