Zoning embraces the concept of maximizing efficiency by minimizing time and distance when completing assignments of value. People who get a lot done tend to zone their lives and work very well. People who stay busy but don’t get much done tend to mistake random activity for smart, orchestrated movement. Busy and productive are two different things.
Minimizing time. I teach a time management approach that categorizes the actions we take during our waking hours as falling into one of four buckets. We either waste time, spend time, invest time, or cherish time. Efficient high performance comes from maximizing investment and cherish time while consciously minimizing the time we simply spend or waste.
These smarter time choices help explain why some people accomplish more than others. Highly productive people make better time decisions, and they act upon those decisions with discipline. Day after day, smarter choices yield better results.
When it comes to time minimization, zoning helps immensely. Whether it comes from the smart sequencing of events or plotting a tight geographic loop — and factoring in little things like confirming appointments, knowing that right turns are almost always quicker than making a series of lefts, or what time school traffic begins and ends — saving minutes matters. Twenty minutes saved each day adds up to one full week of found bonus time over the course of a year. You free up an entire week’s worth of time to do other things.
Minimizing distance. People tend to travel on a reflexive loop, which means they repeat habitual routes rather than seek new ones. The reliance on one route, for example, leaves you vulnerable to time wasting rush hour or school zone delays and/or accidents. Knowing how back roads and multiple routes connect enables you to zone smartly — regardless of rush hour.
Explore your community and frequent commutes. Know where side roads lead and connect. Aerials images help — Mapquest can lend a helping hand. I you are more of a kinesthetic learner who learns by doing than you are a visual learner who learns by studying a map, drive around and experience how the traffic patterns in the area connect.
While alternate routes help in transit, distance minimization logic also applies to parking lots. If you have zoned your route to the mall — and zone your travel flow when you shop inside the mall — where will you exit? At what time of day? What about the season of the year?
Evaluate that before deciding on the smartest place to park. Where you habitually park may not necessarily be the smartest. The midpoint between where you start and finish might be best. Or perhaps it’s better to finish closer to your completion point. Think this through before you park the car. Don’t just park “where you always park.” Exiting and a quick getaway help save time also.
Minimizing effort. “Job overlap” is a concept that endorses doing more than one thing simultaneously. Rather than execute in a baton hand-off series of steps, we make choices that enable multiple things to occur at the same time.
For example, after we wake each morning and need to get ready to go to work, we begin a ritualistic process that requires a series of steps that usually involve the bathroom, the bedroom, the kitchen, and perhaps the driveway.
If we did each step in a serial mode — one after the next and then the next — it would take much longer than getting ready via job overlap. We would visit the toilet, wash our hands, brush our teeth, turn on the shower, wait for the water to warm, take a shower, shampoo and rinse our hair, dry off, dry and deal with our hair, possibly shave, etc.
Then we’d make decisions on what we’d wear, retrieve the items, get dressed and re-comb or brush our hair a second time.
Then we’d head to the kitchen to brew some coffee. Once the coffee is made we’d fix and eat breakfast. Then I’d deal with the dishes. After that I would refill my coffee. Then I’d then go outside and retrieve the morning newspaper from the driveway. I’d read what’s happening. Then I’d make one last pit stop before heading out to the car.
Executed in succession — doing just one thing at a time — all of these steps would add up to twice as much time as if we used job overlap.
As we all know from personal experience, job overlap opportunities each morning abound. As the shower warms we visit the loo, lay out our clothes, or brush our teeth. As the coffee brews we can get dressed, retrieve and read the newspaper, fix and eat breakfast, etc.
Effective time managers maximizes job overlap, not just in the morning but in everything they do. Note that job overlap is different than today’s ever popular “multitasking.” Job overlap is true multitasking in that several things occur simultaneously within the same ticks of the clock. “Multitasking” is a myth in that it’s really a serious of quick-connection starts and stops — not job overlap.
Zoning helps us save time, maximize efficiency, and produce greater output. Challenge yourself to become really good at its execution and you’ll experience exactly what we’ve talked about — you’ll zip through your “to do” list more efficiently and produce tangibly better results and derive consistently stronger feelings of earned accomplishment.
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