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Do more with less - function stacking

Chicken tractor - a great example of saving time by function stacking. Little eco footprints

Time is precious. It’s a limited resource and I'm guessing most of us feel like we don’t have enough of it. One of the techniques I use to save time is function stacking – a permaculture concept that can save time and resources in the garden and beyond.

What is function stacking? 

At its simplest, function stacking suggests that anything you plant in the garden should serve multiple functions. For example, if you want to plant a tree for shade, select one that will also give you fruit.

The idea is to increase efficiency by maximising outputs.

Chicken tractor - a great example of saving time by function stacking. Little eco footprints 2

My chicken tractor is another example of function stacking.

A mobile chicken pen enables me to increase the number of functions my chickens perform. They not only give me eggs and manure, but also weed my garden and prepare soil for planting.

I also stack functions beyond the garden.

I try to maximise the function of car trips. If I have to drive somewhere, I consider what chores or shopping I can do along the way. I stop at roadside stalls and make the most of driving near favourite organic stores.

Time with Little Eco is also often function stacked. When cooking or gardening I’ll lower expectations about how long something will take and involve her in the process. We create a meal and have fun as well.

Function stacking is different to multi-tasking.

When juggling more than one task at a time – it’s easy to become overwhelmed and not give either task the attention it deserves.

Whereas with function stacking, you can focus mindfully on performing a single task, yet get to enjoy multiple outcomes.

You kill two (or more) birds with one stone.

Perhaps - not everything can be function stacked all the time

My blog posts are also function stacked - published first as a column in the local paper. Most weeks my republished column is the only blog post I’ll write and I have both my newspaper and blog audiences in mind when I write the piece. I save myself having to write a blog post and make the most of my efforts, giving me more time to do other things.

But a recent conversation reminded me that not everything can be function stacked all the time. A friend wrote that she was sad that I don’t blog much these days. "But I blog consistently once a week" I responded. She told me that "republishing once a week is not quite the same thing". It seems my stacking isn’t as effective as I thought. My blog audience feels neglected.

The encounter reminded me that if a function is important, we may need to focus on it fully occasionally. For example, every now and then I need to play with my daughter – on her terms. Playing her games is how I remind her that she’s important to me. Similarly, I'm thinking I need to occasionally write something just for my blog audience (patient blog readers - the plan is to eventually find time to write a second post each week just for the blog. One day....)

The opportunities to function stack seem endless.

Digging in the garden – exercise and prepared soil.

A deep dam with a pontoon – water storage and a swimming hole.

A milking sheep – milk, wool and meat.....

What I love most about function stacking is that you can do less, but achieve more.

Originally published in the Newcastle Herald Monday 15th June 2015.