This is the third install on my series on How to Accomplish Anything, especially when you have no time.

In my first post, I shared my mantra for focusing on the task at hand. In my second post, I shared a strategy for prioritizing only the three most important tasks.

Today I’ll talk about stacking functions.

Stacking Functions: The Permaculture Principle

Purpose: Task efficiency

There’s a permaculture principle known as stacking functions, the notion that everything you plant in a garden should serve at least three functions. For example, an apple tree might provide fruit to eat, shade for another plant, and beautify your landscape. 

The higher level idea is that you want to get the maximum usefulness you can out of anything you dedicate resources to (time, money, garden space, etc.)

This principle can also be employed towards work. 

As a blogger, I’m always looking for good content. If I need to write a report or research something for my job, I’ll leverage that and turn it into a blog post. If I write a forum response to a question, I’ll turn my answer into a blog post. With just a little extra effort, I’m getting two functions out of my original effort. Many of my blog posts will, in turn, get repurposed into books, adding the third function.

The blog itself serves multiple functions: it’s a place for me to capture knowledge or refine ideas I want for myself, to share that knowledge with others, and ultimately to drive traffic that helps sell books.

I surf the web to read about the latest developments in robotics and artificial intelligence. That’s fodder for my science ficiton novels, but it’s also of interest to readers, so I use bufferapp to schedule out tweets to articles of interest. I’m researching at the same time I’m engaging with readers.

In my day job, I’ll take on challenges like A/B testing and social web features, skills that I can then apply to refining my own website.

Anything can be stacked, even purely personal desires: With three kids and a full work and writing schedule, I don’t get much time for social outings. So when my writing critique group meets, I bring a flask of bourbon. :)

In the next post, I’ll talk about avoiding time sinks.