If you go into a grocery store, you’ll see that items are typically placed together that are frequently purchased together. For example, you won’t find the toothpaste with the asparagus (although that actually might not be a bad idea!). You’ll find it next to the toothbrushes, because people who are looking for one item are more likely to also be looking for the other. This is a concept in store planning called “intelligent adjacency,” and it’s designed to make things more convenient for the shopper but also to increase likely impulse purchases.
There is another kind of intelligent adjacency that applies to your time and focus. It’s often the case that you spend ten minutes answer- ing an email, then a half hour in a meeting, then fifteen minutes actu- ally doing deep creative work, then another ten answering an email, etc. When you bounce between different kinds of tasks like these, you pay a task-switching penalty, and your overall effectiveness is likely to suffer. Instead, consider how you might be able to group certain kinds of similar tasks together so that you are not shifting your mindset as often between highly conceptual creative work and highly tactical administrative work. Try to block space for each kind of work today, and you will see an uptick in your engagement.
By protecting blocks of time to do similar kinds of work, you minimize the task-switching penalty that stifles creative thinking.
How can you carve out intelligent adjacency in your work today?