How Task Batching Increased My Productivity Overnight

Task batching (also known as batching, grouping, time blocking, batch processing) is literally going to change the way you get shit done and make you crazy productive. Listen up.

brainsoverblonde task batching

Me: I need to start being productive
Also me: Hey look my chair spins

WTF is task batching?

Task batching is a time management system that maximizes concentration, productivity, creativity, and mental sharpness while minimizing distraction, stress, and fatigue. Do I have your attention?

Basically, task batching is where you group a long list of similar tasks together to complete during a dedicated time period with no interruptions. This cuts down on the time it takes for your brain to switch and refocus between different tasks.

Multi-tasking kills productivity

I’m always doing a million things at once and my mind moves like a fighter jet. I used to pride myself on my multi-tasking artistry. Taking a phone meeting while answering emails while online shopping while negotiating a deal was the norm. I’m super OCD about my calendar and to-do lists get me high. Multi-tasking got me pretty far, and I thought it’d come in handy as an entrepreneur. (Lol. Wrong.)

brainsoverblonde task batching

I’m insanely passionate about my company, so every task is urgent and I want it done yesterday. Before I started task batching, I’d switch from task to task in an exhausting, neverending loop. All of this switching comes at a cost. Your brain needs time to refocus on the task at hand – about 25min to be exact, and that shit adds up (think about how many times you get distracted in one day).

If you’re anything like me, distractions are everywhere. Our workflow is regularly interrupted by emails, meetings, fires, texts, calls, coffee breaks, driving, errands… life. We end up letting these distractions take priority over what we really want to get done.

Your brain needs time to catch up every time you move to a new task

Once your brain is focused on a certain type of task, capitalize on that focus until the task is complete. It’s the effort it takes our brain to switch between tasks that makes us tired, stressed, and unproductive… not the task itself. That’s why task batching is like therapy and meditation for your workflow.

With task batching you stay focused on a certain task and can achieve flow: a mental state where we get “in the zone,” distractions dissipate, and the work becomes easier. If, on the other hand, you check Insta every 5min and have The Kardashians streaming in the background, you’re not going to achieve flow. That’s where task batching comes in (yep, you can task-batch your reality tv binging, too!)

How to start task batching right now

  1. Pull out your to-do list. (If you don’t already have one, get it together.)
  2. Group similar tasks logically by their function (e.g. email, calls, meetings, housework, errands) and location (e.g. computer, downtown, car)
  3. Split your day into segments and assign each task category a dedicated window of time

Here’s a real example of how I task batch my week:

task batching

See how I get all of my writing done in dedicated, uninterrupted periods? That’s because it takes a lot of focus and I need to spare my brain from all that switching. I’m task batching as I write this (I’ll write several articles today.)

You can batch tasks that use similar resources by day, week, monthly, quarterly, etc. For instance, I batch appointments (e.g. dentist, haircut, DMV) less frequently.

Task Batching Realness

I’m always going to be real with you. A few things you should know:

  • Life happens. Things come up, and I can’t always stick to my task batching calendar; you have to give yourself some wiggle room. If you need to adjust, just move that task to another timeslot and readjust your calendar. Don’t go back to multi-tasking!
  • Task batch planning takes time. So you’re going to need to task batch that too.
  • You might have to keep it on the DL. If you blab to everyone about your new task batching schedule, people might try to persuade you to make changes or wake up earlier to accommodate their calendar.
  • You can make it fun! I use different colors of Sharpies, highlighters, and sticky notes on this giant wall calendar.
  • You need to do everything you can to minimize distractions. I turned off email alerts, and often put my phone in another room. It’s such a relief to not check my email and socials constantly – like a burden has been lifted. I make fewer careless mistakes. I feel in control rather than disoriented.

Here’s the bottom line: since I started task batching, I get more shit done that I actually care about. It’s not a perfect system (obvi, nothing is), but I’m more in control over how I spend my time.

Remember, we all have the same number of hours in a day as Beyoncé. And I bet Beyoncé task batches.

brainsoverblonde task batching

Photography by Victoria Johansson

 

Have you tried task batching? Have any other productivity tips? Share the skinny below!

4 comments
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  • AnnaJanuary 25, 2018 - 8:01 pm

    Hey Anna, how do you know when to move from one batch to the next? Do you set a timer? Check the clock? I’ve tried the Pomodoro Technique in the past but had little luck with it (surprise) because the “batches” are only 25 minutes long! By the time I got into the groove, the timer was going off, which was super jarring. But in this case, if I don’t use a timer, then I would find myself constantly looking at the clock to make sure I wasn’t going “over” time. Also, what do you do if a batch ends up taking way longer than you had planned? ReplyCancel

    • AnnaJanuary 25, 2018 - 8:31 pm

      Hi Anna – SUCH great questions! First I’ll say that I’m not a huge fan of the pomodoro technique either – bc I find that short batches don’t give you enough time to get in the “groove” of difficult, deeper, or creative tasks. (That said – it works great for simple mindless tasks like dishes!) SO… for pomodoro, an egg timer like this http://amzn.to/2DDQV8w can be fun. Since I like to do longer batches (sometimes full DAY batches – in which case I don’t set an alarm at all) – but with longer I set an alarm on my phone. I also put EVERYTHING in my google cal – and I have it set so I get a pop up notification on my laptop when a new meeting is starting. So if you batch from 9a-1p, set a meeting for 1pm (even if you don’t have one) so you see the alert on your cal.

      As for what to do if a batch goes longer than planned – again – I think this works best if you can do REALLY LONG interrupted chunks. another idea is to batch at the end of the day (say, 3pm on) – so you don’t have a hard stop. otherwise – you’ll have to make the call – depending on what you have next!

      I found that as I batched more and more, I got the hang of how long the optimal amount of time to do different tasks is. For instance email – I only GIVE myself an hour – otherwise I could spend all day on it. For writing – I like to be creative all day so I’m in my most creative headspace – so I give myself that. For video or photoshoots – I know I burn out after a couple hours, so I only allow for that much time.

      Is this helpful? Let me know if I can help with anything else!

      xx AnnaReplyCancel

  • SFebruary 18, 2018 - 6:07 pm

    Hi! What do you find is the best way to plan/track + get the most out of using a calendar/blocking? (on a desktop and/or phone) Google Calendar, an actual agenda, Outlook? Love this batch idea!!ReplyCancel

    • AnnaFebruary 19, 2018 - 3:44 pm

      Hi S! I use Google Calendar for everything – like EVERYTHING including personal/social life, to-dos, email, getting my nails done… that’s the holy grail. For “big picture” goals I use a giant wall calendar (this one: http://bit.ly/2EO05DB) – so I can see them every day. For daily organization, I use lists (on paper – old school) that I cross out throughout the day. Hope this helps! xx AnnaReplyCancel

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