I love productivity methods.

When I worked for Starbucks, I got to see firsthand how a global company infused efficiency into everything they did at the store level. They had many methods and workflows, however, one of their methods that can apply to every person, regardless of their work and home situation, is to utilize machine time.

Utilizing machine time is basically sequencing tasks that require waiting time so that you can accomplish the most in the time you have.

Some examples of things I do that have “machine time” are:

  • Podcast editing/uploading
  • Doing laundry
  • Washing dishes

Podcast editing/uploading

Every week, our church has a podcast that goes out every Sunday afternoon/night. As I edit the audio and setup the podcast, I have about 8 minutes where the audio is being exported from Garageband before I can upload it. Some people would simply go on Facebook or other social media sites while they wait, but I use this time to setup the rest of the podcast and prepare the social media posts so by the time the audio is ready to be uploaded, everything else related to it is ready too.

I’m sure you can think of many times you sit and wait for technology to boot up, buffer, or sync, so that’s why I’m giving two very different and less obvious examples of how to find and utilize machine time below.

Doing laundry

Laundry can easily become an overwhelming task, but so often, we could fit throwing a load into the washer or dryer in between other things because we have another 30ish minutes of waiting/machine time before we can do anything else with it. A perfect example of this was when my wife and I had to go get more quarters before starting laundry (we have a coin machine where we rent) because we only had enough money for washing, but not drying. Rather than getting quarters and then waiting until we had enough for both washing and drying before we stared, we threw the clothes in the wash, got quarters, and then the load was almost ready to be put in the dryer when we got back. We just saved half an hour by thinking of this! How much time and stress could we save if we put a load of laundry in the washer or dryer every time we left the house rather than waiting for it to become a four hour ordeal?

Washing dishes

This example may not apply to many, but I hope it shows you that “machine time” doesn’t have to incorporate an actual “machine.” We don’t have a dishwasher where we rent and so we have a small drying rack on the counter. We could wash all the dishes after every meal, but then we’d have to dry 2 racks worth by hand instead of letting the drying rack and air actually dry them for us. Instead, we wash dishes throughout the day, every couple hours so we never have to dry the dishes. Additionally, it helps me to get up from the computer, stand, and take a break for my eyes (otherwise I’ll work all day without a single break, and yes I consider washing dishes a break). By washing them every couple hours, they’re always dry and we save ourselves the time of drying them (and I get a great reminder to take a break to wash some dishes every couple of hours).

Everyone’s life situation is a little different, but I hope these ideas can help you find your own workflows in your life that could use some reorganization in order to utilize the downtime each task presents. I’d love to hear any ways you utilize machine time in the comments below!

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Book review: The work of the pastor by Williams Still

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