Task batching is one of the stupid-simple ways to boost your productivity and get things done.
Have you ever feel like no matter how many hours you are working, the things you intuitively planned are not getting done?
Then this blog post will be a solution for you.
No matter what profession you are in, task batching helps you be super productive and as-well preserve your mental sanity.
Ever since I adopted task-batching in my workflow, things started to fall in line, and life became simple.
I was quite late to realize that batching is a great way to create order out of chaos.
Task batching refers to the grouping of similar tasks and executing them in bulk. It takes advantage of a psychological state of “flow”, eliminates context-switching involved in multitasking, and helps you be super-productive.
It works because of the way our brains are hardwired.
Our brains are not meant for multi-tasking (computers are good at it).
Human multitasking as you know is just rapid task-switching that gives an illusion of multitasking. Many pieces of research have proved it.
Frequent multitaskers have low energy throughout the day, get tired, and they may even get their brains hardwired in different ways.
In the mind-opening book by Nicholas Carr – The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brain, she explained:
“The more you multitask, the less deliberative you become; the less able to think and reason out a problem.”
The more and more you train your brain to multitask, even while doing single-tasking, you feel restless. This explains the reason why you may find it hard to read a book nowadays.
The information (required for working) is stored in your brain semantically. It means the relevant pieces of information are stored close to each other.
Think of your brain as a giant mind map.
Due to this semantic structure of your memory storage, flow is possible when you are doing similar tasks. Or else, you’ll not be able to take advantage of your brain’s natural memory structure. You end up wasting most of your time and energy in deliberate context-switching.
Let’s face it.
If you are an internet user from the last few years, mindlessly opening tabs, you find it uncomfortable to not multitask. You’re used to the repeated quick spurts of dopamine that multitasking offers you.
Now, if I suddenly ask you to let-go of your novelty-seeking tendencies, your online life feels so empty. You feel like a drunkard struggling to quit drinking.
You are not alone. Almost everyone faces this.
In order to combat this, being mindful of this is the first step.
In this section, I’ll help you set up your system, environment, and also give you some examples to enable you to easily implement batch processing.
People can’t focus enough on their work, because they are always worried about their next tasks, and afraid they’ll forget them. They can’t put an end to their mental reminders, which wreaks havoc for their ability to focus.
Having a task management system in place is crucial, no matter what business you are in. You need to dump all the todos out of your brain to help you focus.
In the GTD system, they call this brain dumping.
You don’t need to geek out on what system to use.
Here are some of my recommendations, you can’t go wrong with any of these:
- Todoist: This is the most famous task management system. If you are very new to task management, this is a good app to start with (no-frills).
- ClickUp: This is the most advanced project and task management system with lots of advanced features. If you have really complex projects to work on with a team, you can’t go wrong with this.
- Notion: This is an all-in-one workspace app. I have my entire business setup under Notion. It has quite a steep learning curve as it can do many things. But for a systems thinker like me, it’s straight out of heaven. As it’s a modular app, it’s the most powerful of the three.
Here are the 3 features that are most essential especially for implementing task batching:
- Ability to add tags in the tasks – especially for categorizing and prioritizing, etc
- Ability to add subtasks for a task (to help you focus on the depth of the tasks than the number of tasks)
- Ability to add due dates for deadlines (to beat the Parkinson’s law)
Along with these, of course, you need to have other essential features like search features, folders, reminders, etc.
Apart from organizing your tasks on a project-level, you need to consider reordering tasks inside your project so that relevant tasks are together. With this, you should be able to filter only the similar tasks.
Now, you need to set due-dates for these tasks, so that it forces you to stick to the schedule and implement batch processing.
Before doing these things, you need to have your ideal week’s work agenda in place.
If you are a content creator, it may look like:
- Monday: Draft 2 blog posts (morning) and edit them (afternoon)
- Tuesday: Record 2 YouTube videos
- Wednesday: Edit 2 videos
- Thursday: Schedule 2 blog posts and 2 videos for publishing (morning) and promote them (afternoon)
- Friday: Research blog posts and videos for the next week
- Saturday: Weekend errands, family time, and fun
- Sunday: Read a book and plan for the week ahead
Although the above schedule seems quite a no-brainer, many people still don’t do it.
Rather than researching their content well ahead of time, many people scratch their heads prior to writing a blog post. They try to figure out their video topic when lights and cameras are on. They waste their time setting up lights, mics, cameras, makeups, and create only one video.
Setting different days of the week for different types of tasks is very important.
Because over time your brain will associate a particular day of the week with a particular type of task. With this, you’ll be leveraging the natural momentum it results in.
Here are some of the tasks we execute in bulk to save a lot of time.
- Blog keyword and topic research
- Creation of blog post outlines
- Blog post writing (we tend to write similar kind of blog posts back-to-back too)
- Video topic research
- Video recording
- Video editing
- WordPress comment moderation (we don’t moderate comments until there are 100 unapproved comments)
- Outsource the articles to freelancers in bulk
- Blog post publishing in bulk (we use the scheduling feature in WordPress)
- Video publishing in bulk (scheduling)
- Social media promotion in bulk and automation
- Community management (schedule bulk content in my FB and Telegram groups)
- Inbox checking late in the evening. It’s a good energy management hack and also essential to make sure some others’ priorities won’t creep up your priorities set for the day.
When executing the tasks in batches like this, it’s very important to make use of editorial calendars or what we call content trackers. These help us to effectively keep track of content, their statuses, and get rid of the guesswork.
Batch execution can take a lot of will-power and can be frustrating at first.
So you need to adopt some principles and environmental tweaks I suggest you in this section.
Because it’ll be new to your brain if you’ve never done that before.
You need to set SMART goals first, and that is backed by a single powerful WHY (that is your purpose of why you are doing what you are doing).
Simen Sinek in his best-seller book Start with Why, explains that the power of your limbic brain (responsible for purpose-setting) is very powerful in driving actions.
Instead of making use of will-power to force you to do tasks, setting purpose should come first.
When you have a purpose in hand and have set goals, novelty-seeking with multi-tasking will be of less priority for you. You’ll automatically choose the tasks that will help you accomplish your goals as efficiently as possible.
And also, you need to have a system to easily visualize how your goals connect to projects, and projects connect to the individual tasks.
You need to also have the ability to track your progress towards the project milestones and eventually to the goals as you complete the tasks.
If you are using apps like Notion or ClickUp setting up this is possible. You can also incorporate your team in this system.
You can go easy on your brain when it comes to task batching.
If you were previously outlining only one piece of content at once, make it 2-3 at once. Don’t beat yourself up in the beginning.
Because, when you force yourself, it’ll be like quantity > quality philosophy. Your creativity and quality of work will suffer.
Neither aim perfection, nor accept the mediocrity.
Anything, just above your comfort level, where you still have control, is good enough.
Slowly, down the lane, the increased productivity should motivate you to take batch execution to the next level.
Batch task execution is not as easy as it seems.
You can’t purely depend on your limited reservoir of willpower.
The people who accomplish seemingly astonishing feats, don’t use will power. They design their environment so that will power is not all required. Environmental design is crucial if you want to manage your energy efficiently throughout the day without getting burned out.
Here are some of my tips that are working wonders for me:
- Keep your smartphone out of your office cabin or your creative space. Although you may not use it while executing tasks, every time you resist the urge to check the screen, it drains your willpower and energy.
- Always do the work in full-screen mode so that you don’t have any visual cues to drive you off course.
- Make use of one-tab policy or atleast a Tab Limiter extension to put a limit on how many tabs you can open.
- Make use of apps like StayFocusd, News Feed Eradicator, etc to put an end to mindless consumption of social media content.
- Make use of timer apps like BeFocused Pro or any other Pomodoro apps to help you focus deliberately for chunks of time. If you’ve used the Pomodoro technique before, it didn’t impress you because you were a multi-tasker.
I’m a big fan of automation. I like to automate the boring stuff.
Here are some of the things I can suggest you:
- Use text expanders like aText for Mac or PhraseExpress for Windows
- Use macro applications like Keyboard Maestro for Mac or AutoHotKey for Windows
- Use a good custom search engine like Alfred for Mac or Wox for Windows
- Use a good clipboard manager like Copy ‘em Paste for Mac or Ditto for Windows
- Learn the basics of regex for productivity. It helps you do search and replaces easily matching patterns. Even learning the basics can save yours and team members’ hours of time.
- Make use of tools like Zapier, IFTTT, or Integromat to put your apps on autopilot or do marketing automation.
- Learn some basic Spreadsheet features, especially the functions like pivot tables.
- To take your automation to the next level, you can learn the basics of Python for automation. Learn about web scraping to help you effectively curate the content for planning and research.
- Make use of Chrome extensions like Pushbullet, Video Speed Controller, Scraper, Ratings Preview for YouTube, and Extensity to tame it all.
Automation adds some novelty to your batch execution process which may be boring at times (doing the same type of work). It helps you get more stuff done faster, without getting stuck in menial work.
Execution of tasks in batches need not be boring if you have the right systems, environments, goals, progress tracker, and small rewards set in front of you.
Don’t mix tasks that require different states of mind, vibes, or contexts together.
These are some of the task batching strategies that I implement in my workflow.
What about you?
Let me know.