Task Clustering – Get More Out of Your Day

Most people go through their day jumping from task to task, doing many things but often accomplishing little. My last post described a simple technique to double your productivity. In this post, I am going to discuss a simple technique that you can use to get more out of your day.

It’s called “task clustering.” Basically, it involves grouping similar tasks and doing them at the same time.

For example, most people answer their emails as they come in. This approach is inefficient because you have to stop what you were doing, read the email, answer it (or postpone it), and then go back to what you were doing. If you were working on something, you lose your train of thought. Ditto for answering the phone.

Most people tend to waste a lot of time – without realizing it – jumping out of a task and then back into it.

How does task clustering work?

In the above example, you could choose four times a day when you read and respond to emails. Then, at those prearranged times, spend 15 minutes reading and handling emails. Likewise, you could choose two times a day to check voice mails and return calls – handling calls only at those times.

Task clustering takes some getting used to. But when you do it, it works like a charm. Before long, you stop being a slave to your phone, email, or repetitive tasks. And you start becoming the master of your time. Your productivity increases dramatically.

Tasks suitable for clustering

Clustering works well for repetitive daily tasks, including:

  • Handling emails
  • Handling phone calls
  • Building reports
  • Processing orders

An improvement

While task clustering works quite well for me, there is one exception. Some urgent emails need to be handled immediately – it’s just the nature of my business. I solved this problem by creating a text message alert tied to the arrival of those emails. Now, those emails trigger my phone and I know it’s important. Otherwise, I answer my emails at prearranged times.

Hat tip to Timothy Ferris