Nature is a good teacher, and I have learned quite a bit about efficiency from observing it. In nature, functions aren’t plotted side by side, each holding their own personal space in time. Nature accomplishes many tasks at the same time.
With this in mind, I changed the way I thought about and scheduled my own life. Instead of breaking up my obligations and allotting time to each fractured component (i.e., twenty minutes to get food, forty-five minutes for some exercise, an hour to spend with my kids, four hours to produce something work-related), I organized my life essentials so that the same portion of time fulfills multiple obligations.
I call this way of relating time to essential tasks “stacking your life.”
Like multitasking, stacking your life means using the same period of time to fulfill different functions. There are big differences between the two concepts, however, and they’re not semantic; stacking your life and multitasking differ in how you approach meeting your various needs.
Multitasking involves trying to accomplish many discrete tasks at once.
Stacking your life involves the search for fewer tasks that meet multiple needs, which often requires that you’re clear on what your needs actually are.
(Katy Bowman, Movement Matters)
Fragments from imaginary dialogues
“I love Katy Bowman’s concept of life-stacking from her book Movement Matters [<link], and I’m constantly thinking of ways to implement it in my life. I’ve come to think of it as an Art and a Game: The Art/Game of Life-Stacking.
As I like to think of it, life-stacking is a subcomponent of another Art, what Frank Forenchich called in his book Beautiful Practice [<link] ‘temporal artistry‘. We all have the same amount of hours in a day. Temporal-artistry means managing time in such a way as to create a sense of time abundance.
Let’s take two activities, A and B. By default, we tend to think of managing time sequentially.
I’m going to do A, THEN I’m going to do B.
Life-stacking means thinking of time selectively. That is, instead of thinking in terms of A and B, it means asking yourself ‘what VALUES do A and B meet?’, and finding another activity C that meets the values of BOTH.
Sometimes C means actually ‘stacking’ A and B together, as long as this does not interfere with the quality of any of them. This means making one activity primary, giving it your full attention, and the other secondary.”
“Can you give an example?”
“Let’s take reading and movement. (Both are essential values for me.) And, in terms of movement, let’s take squatting. Let’s say I want to do both in a certain time-frame. When we think of reading, we tend to (habitually) think of doing it by sitting down. So, with this mindset, if I want to do both,
I’m going to (sit down and) read, THEN I’m going to squat.
With the life-stacking mindset, I’m thinking:
I’m going to read WHILE squatting.
And this is not the only way you can stack reading and movement.”
“What are your favorite ones?”
“Reading while squatting is one, reading while walking another, and, a more recent one, reading while standing on one leg.
As concerns the last one, I like to do it in 10-20 minute blocks, 5-10 on one leg, 5-10 on the other.”