Did you know you could stack tasks to be more productive? And less busy?
Busy is a badge of honor that doesn’t pay your bills. Being productive pays your bills. But being productive doesn’t accidentally happen; it happens when you’re intentional with your time.
One of my favorite ways to improve productivity is to stack tasks. Whether they’re work tasks or personal tasks, when you “stack” your tasks you’ll find that you have less wasted time in your day, and less wasted time in your day. Every time you transition from one tasks to another, you have downtime. Start looking for ways to reduce or better yet eliminate the downtime caused by transitions.
What Does Task Stacking Mean?
“Task Stacking” is combining and ordering tasks in an intentional way of batching the things you need to accomplish so that you don’t have to repeat your efforts. For example, when I get home from the grocery store and know we’ll be eating meals with recipes that include white onion, I chop those onions as soon as I get home from the store. “Stacking” the grocery store run with the onion chopping saves time later in the week when my husband or I go to prepare a meal.
In my small business task stacking looks like doing my monthly client invoicing on the first Monday of the month followed by reviewing my time reports for the month to see where I spent my time. By stacking those two tasks together I am acutely aware of how I spent my time the previous month and how valuable that time was in terms of making a profit. These two tasks could be accomplished separately, but by stacking them one right after the other I get the benefit of having my brain focused the topic of time. Not all activities in your business will be directly profitable, but they should all be productive.
Create a Task Stacking Plan
They say practice makes perfect, but planning makes stuff get done. If you don’t “plan to practice” even the best ideas will never come to fruition. Sit down and take some time to plan out your “to-do” list for the week. I like to do this with paper and pen (studies have shown that the action of writing something down by hand commits the content to memory in a way that typing doesn’t).
To make your own start by dividing a sheet of paper in half with a vertical line. On the left side write “home” and on the right side right “away.” Now add a horizontal line across the middle of the page creating four quadrants. Label the top two quadrants as “repetitive” and the bottom two as “one-time.” (If your to-do list is really long it might be a good idea to do two separate pieces of paper. One for repetitive and one for one-time.)
Want to skip making your own and use my template? Just click on the button below to download my simple one-sheet task stacking worksheet.
Now do a brain dump of the tasks that need to be done at home followed by a brain dump of tasks that need to be done away from home. When you start to mentally divide what tasks need to be done at home and which ones need to be done away you’ll start to recognize patterns and naturally start to group and stack tasks together.
Look for Inefficiencies and Start Eliminating Them
I don’t live far from town, only about a ten minute drive. But I like to stack my town tasks so that I don’t have to take more than one trip to town in a day. While it’s not that far of a drive, it is at least 20 minutes round trip that isn’t “productive” time. Naturally, not all of my time can be productive. And I don’t schedule my time down to the minute – so don’t get overwhelmed thinking you have to live and die by your clock. We all need downtime and sometimes that 20 minute drive is the perfect rest for my brain if I’m alone and cherished talk time with my daughter when she’s riding along. Making the drive to town more than once a day, if not absolutely necessary, is inefficient and at the end of the day can make you feel like you’ve wasted more time than you’d like to.
But driving isn’t the only place you might be wasting time that could be better used. Take a few minutes to think about where else your time isn’t well spent. As easy way to identify inefficiencies is to think about the most challenging task transitions you frequently encounter. Is there a task that always makes a big mess and then you find yourself fighting against the mess until you take the time to completely clean it up? Sometimes it’s helpful to make small messes that are easy to clean up, but other times it’s actually better to make a really big mess (even one that compounds and grows with different tasks) so that you only have to do one big clean up.
An Extended Stacking Schedule Will Help You Be Most Effective
You’ll find that stacking your tasks is more effective when you look at multiple days, like a week, or even a month. A single day isn’t really enough for planning because you’ll have inefficiencies you’ll discover later in the week or month when you find tasks that could have been stacked together.
Sometimes You Just Need to Outsource It (Whatever “It” is)
Finally, don’t be afraid (or ashamed) to outsource things in your business and your life that can help you to be more productive. Over the past year (and thanks to COVID), I’ve learned that doing my grocery shopping online through an eCart system and picking them up every ten days is way more efficient than me doing my own grocery shopping. Initially when the grocery store in our small town started offering eCart shopping the idea of having someone else do my grocery shopping seemed silly. Later it became a necessity because of COVID. But only recently did I realize that outsourcing my grocery shopping was a much better use of resources. I can use that time for things only I can do in my business (like blogging) and give up control over which bananas I choose to someone else.
Stacking your tasks can take awhile to get the hang of, but once you start you might find you actually enjoy the “game” factor of figuring out the best way to stack your tasks. Friend, it’s a game you can win! Now go stack some tasks!