If you haven’t heard already, multi-tasking is a total myth. You really can’t do more than one thing properly at one time. When you attempt to do multiple things at one time, you’re really just flickering from task to task. So if you think that multi-tasking is making your more productive, you’re just lying to yourself, because it’s probably making you even less productive.
Another productivity #truth? Interruptions are unbelievable time sinks. It takes your brain at least a few minutes (even more like half an hour, according to some estimates) to re-focus and get back into the right state of mind after your workflow is interrupted. When we spend the day constantly switching from task to task, those wasted minutes can quickly add up to hours.
There is a solution to both the damaging myth of multi-tasking AND to the time-sucking effects of task-switching.
It’s a simple idea called task batching.
Task batching = grouping similar tasks into continuous sessions of work time
So instead of dispersing five 10-minute chunks of work on your English project throughout the day, you would sit down and crank it out in a continuous 30-minute chunk of work time.
Instead of writing one blog post every week, you’d dedicate one day to writing out the blog posts for the next four weeks.
By doing this, you capitalize on the focused state that your mind is in. If you’re already in the writing flow and words are practically pouring out of your fingers, why not write more blog posts?
By scheduling the time to work on these tasks, you’ll also find yourself asking “Hmm, what should I work on now?” way less often. Your plan for the day will be laid out in front of you.
So to recap, well-implemented task-batching results in less task-switching, more focus, more efficiency, and more productivity. AWESOME, right?
Task-batching can be applied to every aspect of your life. Okay, almost every aspect. Trying to task batch spending time with your family or brushing your teeth is not recommended. But ridiculous applications aside, there are plenty of ways that task-batching can make your life more efficient and free up your time.
To get the ball rolling for you, I’ve put together this list of 20 ways to apply task-batching to your life.
Reacting to e-mail as soon as it comes in is practically a productivity sin. Many of the most successful people in the world (like Tim Ferriss) have explained how they’ve reduced the number of times they check their inbox to only a few times per day, and how that has dramatically improved their productivity.
First of all, you should unsubscribe from all newsletters you don’t actually read. For the ones you do read, create a folder titled “Newsletters” and either manually sort those e-mails into the folder or set up a filter (I talk about how to do that in my Build Productive Habits in 30 Days challenge) that will automatically do that for you. Then, set aside a weekly time to read through these newsletters and save the most useful information.
Chores are the ideal task for batching. They don’t require much mental focus, so you just have to do them. Instead of doing multiple loads of laundry throughout the week, see if you can just do one big one. Instead of vacuuming the rooms in your house randomly, choose one day per week to vacuum the entire house.
I do weekly planning every Sunday, and honestly it’s probably the only reason my life hasn’t fallen apart (yet). Instead of taking things day by day and making a to-do list from scratch for the day ahead of me (this can get very overwhelming), I sit down on Sunday to get a big-picture view of the upcoming week and plan out absolutely everything that I need to get done. That means less thinking and decision-making throughout the week, and that’s always helpful.
I’m sure you’ve heard of meal prep, and if you haven’t, I bet you’ve never been on Instagram on a Sunday because I assure you, the hashtag #MealPrepSunday is ALL over the place. The idea is: instead of making your meals from scratch every day, you set aside a few hours on Sunday to either prepare some fully-cooked meals or get started on prepping the ingredients you’ll need for the week.
There are so many great recipes out there that are perfect for cooking in big batches, as well as lots of tips and guides for maximum efficiency cooking. I touched a little bit on meal prep and what 3 categories of food I recommend meal prepping in my Healthy Packed Lunch Ideas video.
6. Social media
If you use social media for business (or even if you’re just a really dedicated user), chances are that you spend a lot of time preparing content and engaging with the community. A few weeks ago, I started writing out captions (or at least the frameworks of captions) for a week of Instagram photos all in one sitting. It saved me SO much time and thinking. As for interacting with the community, instead of letting Instagram distract me throughout the day, I set aside about 45 minutes each day to dedicate to engaging with others on the platform.
Same goes for you bloggers out there. There are so many tasks of the content creation and promotion process that can be batched. Instead of filming one video at a time, film three in one sitting. Hey, if you took the time to dress up and put on makeup, you might as well take advantage of it. Instead of writing one blog post a time, find your creative flow and crank out your next five posts. Keep in mind, though, that you should still be taking breaks. Spending five consecutive hours writing will backfire if you don’t periodically give your brain a chance to rest.
You should constantly be striving for self-improvement, but it’s obviously really hard to carve out time for growing your skills when your schedule is already packed. Instead of trying to fit in short lessons here and there, try dedicating an hour every weekend, for example, to sitting down and learning as much as you can. Making this a regular habit will make it easier for your brain to absorb the information.
For you workaholics out there, batching relaxation time might be just the thing you need to unwind and finally make time for yourself. Instead of relying solely on tiny little breaks throughout the day to re-energize you (those are still super important), try scheduling an hour or two to just bliss out and forget about work for a while.
10. Communication in general
If your life is anything like mine (or the life of anyone who lives in the 21st century) you probably find yourself making many notes throughout the day to talk to someone, e-mail them, or call them. These tasks usually take only a few minutes, but if you do them sporadically, they can be big distractions. Instead, try keeping a “communications to make” list, and find a time to complete all of that e-mailing and calling in one fell swoop.
More tips for batching tasks
Pair batching with the Pomodoro technique to create true productivity MAGIC
Create the right environment for yourself. Is your desk the right height? Is your chair comfortable? Are your surroundings distracting you? Figure out these kinks before you start working.
If you need to get some serious batching done (think a thesis paper, or writing the first draft of that book idea you’ve had brewing for a while now), you might want to book yourself an Airbnb or find some sort of environment that will allow you to practice some pure focus for a few days.
Those are all of the task-batching ideas that I have for you! I’m thinking about writing a more detailed guide to task batching sometime in the next few months, so please comment what questions you might have about this productivity technique!
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And let me know - what tasks do YOU batch to save time?
Thank you so much for reading and have an amazing week,
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