Did you ever hear the story about UPS? They programmed their GPS (their google maps) to optimize right turns as much as possible when driving around and making deliveries. They found that when you optimize for right turns, you get a number of benefits: you reduce the wait time at the traffic light (if you think about it, a right turn is usually faster than a left turn at most intersections), which reduces the gas and emissions that the delivery trucks use, and another added benefit is that it is much safer — they found that their UPS trucks got into less accidents as a result for optimizing for right turns.

Since UPS delivers a lot of packages (a lot!) every single day, that means a whole lot of reduced gas, emissions and accidents which in turn increases their bottom line.

I found this small change in their driving really quite interesting — a simple change that gave UPS a lot of benefits and minimal downsides (sure, they may have to drive further in some cases to get to the delivery address and it isn’t like they don’t do left turns at all, just that they try to do more right turns) and I started thinking about different ways that I could incorporate that strategy into my life. Here are some of the things that I thought about:

Two paths to the same goal but one path is much better even if I don’t see the benefits all the time

At my work, I have two paths to get out of the secure area and to the elevators. One path takes me through a door that I have to swipe through, and then another door that is not locked. The other path has two doors that only need to be opened — you do not need to swipe to get out of the building. I normally take the path that takes me through the door that I have to swipe through — can you think of why I would do that (you would presume that going through two doors that you do not have to swipe through would be quicker)? And assume that there are no additional benefits to taking either path that would impact my decision (for example, one goes through the kitchen where I might be able to fill up my water bottle while the other goes through the mail room where I don’t have access to water)

The reason is that by going through the door that I have to swipe through, I help block myself from getting out if I have forgotten my work pass. Everybody has a work ID that they need to use to swipe into the floor and into the bathrooms and if I’m leaving the workplace, it’s usually to either go to the bathroom, go grab a coffee or leave work — in all cases, I will need my pass and if I leave through the other path where I do not need to swipe out, I could easily leave the secure area and then lock myself out. Rather than having to try to remember my work pass every single time I go out, I use a small barrier that jogs me out of my ‘routine’ of leaving the workplace and forces me to have my work pass with me when I leave.

Always forgetting dishes or other items at a friend’s house?

Here’s another trick that I read about that works in a similar way. Say that you tend to bring lots of food over to your friend’s house and when everyone is full and the dishes are cleaned, you walk out but forget to take back your dish that you brought with you. Or your friend lends you a copy of a book from his library and you seem to leave it on the counter all the time before leaving and then forget about it until you are halfway home.

The next time you want to remember to bring something with you — leave your keys right next to it or on it. If it’s a dish that you know you have to take home, leave your keys in the refrigerator next to the dish. If it’s a book that you want to borrow from your friend, leave your keys on the book on the counter.

Leaving your keys means that when you cannot help but have to grab your keys (otherwise you can’t go home) and when you go to grab your keys, you will certainly remember that you need to take back that dish or take that book with you.

Essentially, I think the lesson here is that when deciding on the small actions to take — sometimes taking the path that has a bit of a challenge can be good for you. It’s one less thing to worry about or remember and by putting up a ‘blocker’, you’re able to remember something useful if you need it (and you certainly won’t need it all the time).