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Does This Man Look Efficient?

Two days with Toyota’s productivity guru changed my life
Does This Man Look Efficient?
Photograph by Harry Gould Harvey IV for Bloomberg Businessweek

Jamie Bonini is sitting at my breakfast table, keeping a log of everything I’m doing wrong. 6:18, read Bloomberg e-mail. 6:22, read personal e-mail. 6:33, read article on bank capital controls. I respond to e-mails slowly, he says, and should tweet faster. He wants me to set goals and suggests I start the day by walking my dog. “What would constitute an amazing dog walk?” Bonini asks. I tell him it would involve heading to a creek and seeing a blue heron. “Blue heron … bull’s-eye,” he jots down.

Bonini runs the part of Toyota that teaches the company’s suppliers in North America how to make and do everything more efficiently. Toyota volunteers his time to help nonprofits, too, and for two days it has volunteered him to me. In the past year, my editors have raised the demand for my product: words. In my twenties, rather than increase efficiency, I could add man-hours. I stayed late, worked weekends. I have children now, and my wife also works full time. My 3-year-old daughter wanders over at 7:10 a.m. “Daughter,” Bonini writes. “Families are really not very efficient,” he says.