It’s Monday afternoon. I’m typing furiously, listening to angry dubstep. In a few minutes, all of my accounting tasks for the week will be taken care of. More time freed up for the important stuff. I’m using a special trick that allows me the increase the time I spend on the money-producing activities in my business, and less time on the trivial stuff. It’s called Batching.
According to Michael Hyatt, Batch Processing, or Batching “is the grouping of similar tasks that require similar resources in order to streamline their completion.” Grouping your similar tasks in specific blocks of time means you spend more time in the same resources and less time switching from task to task.
The benefits of batching
Batching your tasks offers many benefits :
In the Getting Things Done methodology, David Allen speaks of contexts, locations you spend time with to complete your tasks. My accounting takes place in the QuickBooks software, while email pressing takes place in Inbox. By identifying contexts in your task list, you can “batch” your tasks by software and reduce distractions by avoiding switching programs in the middle of your tasks.
Improve your productivity
By constantly switching between contexts, or worse, by multitasking, you hinder your efficiency. Multitasking, for example, can increase the duration of your tasks up to 40%. It also takes a while to enter a productive state when you start a new task. Up to 15 minutes are needed for you to get the ball rolling. By batching similar tasks, you remain in that productive state, and get more done than if you spread these tasks throughout the day or week.
Increase your focus
In productivity, there’s this concept called attention residue. When you switch tasks, by multitasking for example, your brain remains focused on your previous action for a certain period of time. That is one of the main reasons why multitasking affects your ability to focus. By batching your tasks, your brain remains in the same mindset while you process your batch. You can retain your focus much more easily.
Also, when you spend a certain amount of time on a task or project, you can enter flow state, which is a blissful state of being where you become more productive and experience a feeling of wellbeing that is unequalled. You can feel the flow state when you’re doing something that captivates you and that time slows down, or flies by and you forget everything else. Avoiding to switch tasks or contexts allows you to achieve flow state faster and more easily.
We all have experienced the stress associated with multitasking, trying to do everything at once, and not getting anything done. By batching our tasks, we can get much more accomplished and feel the momentum of getting things done. We know that we’ll get to the important stuff and that we’ll have enough time to get it done. Hence, a decrease in your levels of stress, which is probably the most important benefit of batching.
Increase your creativity
By reducing your stress levels, and taking care of all the trivial stuff in less time, you may develop more creativity for the really important stuff. Darren Rowse, founder and editor of Problogger.com put it that way : “In fact, putting boundaries in place around different activities allows me to be quite impulsive and creative in those times rather than getting stressed because of all the “urgent” things that I need to do distracting me.”
Batching different tasks
So how can I apply batching in my workday, and even in my personal life? Here are a few ideas of tasks that can be batched :
The average worker can spend up to 6 hours a day in his email inbox. That’s a lot! By batching your emails instead of replying as they come, you can free up a lot of time for higher value tasks. In my article Structure Your Days With Time Blocking, I suggest using buffer blocks to take care of email. You can schedule one to four blocks of time, from 30 minutes to an hour each, to answer emails. When I was working as an executive assistant, I planned one buffer block first thing in the morning, one after lunch, and one at the end of the workday. These buffer blocks were the only moments I would spend emailing.
Phone calls are easily batched in a buffer block. Answer voicemails and make calls a few times a day, instead of answering every phone call as the phone rings. I like to keep my phone on “do not disturb” while working on important projects to avoid being distracted.
I batch all my writing for the blog on Monday afternoons. That’s the only time I dedicate to blogging during the week, so that I protect some free time in my schedule for bigger projects. Likewise, I batch all my social media writing once a week and use a scheduling app called Buffer to post automatically on the chosen time and date I’ve planned.
Thanh Pham, CEO of Asian Efficiency, has introduced me to the concept of thinking time in one of his latest podcasts. I read about a similar concept in the excellent book Deep Work by Cal Newport. The idea is simple, dedicate a certain period of time to think of some of the challenges you face and brainstorm solutions. I find that when I am in the mood for deep thinking, I can solve many problems in a relatively short period of time.
This is not a new concept, but batching your food prep for the week reduces the amount of time you spend cooking every night. You can use your Sunday afternoon to cut up your veggies for the week, or cook a huge plate of your favorite meal and freeze it in individual portions.
On my to-do list, I have a context for errands. I do most of my shopping in my neighborhood and I’ve mentally divided it in East and West areas. I label my errands by area so that I can find everything I need when I’m out and about. You can also have a context for groceries, hardware store, pharmacy, etc.
Try batching and shave time off your work week
By batching similar tasks, you will free up a lot of time in your schedule to get working on your most important projects. You’ll feel less stressed, improve your ability to focus as well as becoming more creative in your work. Give it a try and tell me how it feels! What are the tasks you will try batching? Let me know in the comments below!
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