Posted: January 4, 2017, 11:25am
I wrote previously about one habit that leads to a more efficient and productive life: time blocking. Today’s topic is another productivity hack. It may appear on first glance that this hack is almost the opposite advice as time blocking. It’s called time stitching: the regular stitching together of small chunks of time in a random yet cumulative manner to accomplish a long term goal.
The easiest example of the need for time stitching is reading. Did you know that in the past 3 years I’ve read 49 books? That’s one book every 3.2 weeks! (And one of those books was over 1300 pages!) How did I do that? Well, I certainly didn’t do it in a single day. I did it using a time stitching technique.
You’ll hardly ever see me travel anywhere without a book. Any spare time I have (5 minutes, or a whole hour) I’ll be sticking my nose in whatever book happens to be in my backpack. Think about it this way: most books average around 14 chapters, which would mean a chapter a day leads to one book every 2 weeks. A chapter may take 10 minutes to read.
Where can you find that ten minutes each day? That’s the first question of time stitching. Once you answer that, just keep ‘stitching’ ten minutes a day for a few months and you’ll be amazed at the results.
So how do we reconcile this advice with the time blocking advice? In the previous article I suggested that it’s often easiest to lump similar activities into a single time frame and go gangbusters until you’re finished.
First of all, each piece of advice has its own suitable tasks. Reading is the kind of thing that requires reflection and pause over a period of time. It’s actually preferable to read a book slowly and carefully digest it. You might not get the desired effect if you read a book in a single sitting. Other activities are similar: brushing your teeth, learning a new language, training for a marathon. None of these things would benefit very much from a single, intense day. But all of them benefit from the slow, repeated, methodical, cumulative addition over many days or years.
Second, these two pieces of advice aren’t necessarily opposed. My habit of reading was accomplished by combining time blocking with time stitching. I always read for an hour in the morning, right after I wake up. I’ve blocked that time and hardly anything will convince me to give it up on any given day. Combining that time block with the repetitive nature of a daily habit and I’ve stitched together 49 books so far!