My goal when I wake up is to start the day with maximum efficiency, so that as I enjoy my leisurely routines I manage to compress four or five times as much leisure and serenity into the time slot marked on my schedule as “LEISURE AND SERENITY.”

I am the kind of person who likes to stop and smell the flowers, but only if I’ve previously put on my list of things to do a specific item saying “Stop and smell the flowers.” Because then you can check it off.

The very beginning of the day is the most important period, because that’s when you set the standard for what your day will be like, and you get into your efficiency zone, and people will see you have your game face on and won’t mess with you. So you have to make the coffee the right way. I have a very elaborate procedure for making the coffee, and although critics would say it’s more complicated than heart bypass surgery, it’s not as time-consuming if you pack into the process various other chores and accomplishments, employing extreme discipline and an awareness that your ability to relax depends on doing everything with excruciating precision. .

For example, the water has to boil. That takes time. You don’t want to stare at the kettle. So this is when you run out to get the paper — but only if you’re sure that you’ll be back before the thing starts whistling. Because if it whistles you’ve let it boil too long — you want it be about 200 degrees, not 212, obviously. If the kettle whistles that’s a shrill announcement to anyone within earshot that you have not been efficient.

If you’re sure you have plenty of time before the kettle boils, you can take out the garbage AND get the paper. At some point you have to feed the cat; ideally that will be before you take out the garbage since you have to dispose of the little cat food can. See it’s immensely complicated and challenging, but the rewards are huge, since if you do it right you will be able to say to the world, “I have a system,” and then you can sit down with the coffee and the newspaper and scan the headlines of stories you won’t actually read.

Except...except ... You know what happens next. Just when you’re in the groove and relaxing with alacrity and vim, you realize it’s recycling day, and you forgot to put out the recycling, and this will not go over big in your family of compulsive and militant recyclers. So you have a sudden spasm of inefficient motion as you drag the bin to the curb (which you could have done while heating the milk for the coffee!), at which point you encounter the dreaded Social Wild Card: a neighbor. You like all your neighbors but sometimes even a quick greeting on the sidewalk can blow up your entire morning.

Then you’re back in the house and discover a new presence in the kitchen, The Teenager.

“Dad can you give me a ride to school?”

You gotta be kidding.

Much explanation ensues — the full speech about having too much work to do — a lecture, really, about efficiency, and what it means to be a busy person who needs to have his relaxation time, and by the time the speech is over you discover the coffee lacks that hot peppy wake-ya-up temperature you were hoping for, so you have to zap it in the microwave — wasted motion! — and then the phone rings and you answer it even though the phone hasn’t been for you since the 90s, and there’s more inefficient verbiage flying around, and then the Teenager, schooled in diabolical arts, starts using unfair techniques of persuasion, including the assertion that during the ride to school there will be “bonding” between parent and child. Which destroys your resolve to be efficient.

But there’s always tomorrow.