Flipping Heck! Learning To Be Productive One Day At A Time

Getting Things Done In 2017: Batch Processing

Getting Things Done In 2017: Batch Processing

Getting Things Done In 2017: Batch Processing

Do you ever get that feeling that once you’ve completed one thing you’re on a roll and can blaze through the rest of your tasks quickly and easily? Once you’ve completed one task it’s a. lot easier to carry on are you’re now focused on what you’re doing

Did you know that there’s a way to become even more productive as you’re powering through your task list? That secret weapon is known as “Batch Processing”.

Currently as you move through your task list you’re probably using a Task Switching method, working on the list in some form of order of priority, not taking into account the “context” of the tasks.

What Is Task Switching?

Simply put task switching is moving between different tasks in different contexts. Take the sample to-do list below:

  • Email John RE: Acme quote
  • Call Ray RE: Lighting
  • Email Sarah RE: Presentation Change
  • Contact Paul RE: Projector Hire Prices
  • Email Frank RE: Public Address System

On the surface nothing seems to be wrong with the above list: You have all of the information you need to accomplish each task, you know who you need to contact and what you’re contacting them about so you should be able to blast through the items on that list in order in no time at all. Simple, right? Well, not necessarily!

The Problem With Task Switching

If we take the above list as an example again you’re going to be working in the following contexts:

  1. Email
  2. Telephone
  3. Email
  4. Telephone
  5. Email

That seems pretty simple, until you realise that switching between each context is going to cost you precious time, and you’ll lose focus.

Some studies have put the cost of task switching as high as 25 minutes of lost time as you stop what you’re doing, refocus and get going again and an article in Psychology Today puts the cost of task switching as high as 40% lost productivity. Even if it’s just 5 minutes per switch the going through the tasks above in that order you’d lose 25 minutes over those 5 tasks.

So, what can you do about it? You can batch process your tasks to speed up working on them and cut down the switching costs.

What Is Batch Processing?

With batch processing you work through all of the tasks in the same context at the same time. Using our example task list above we can rework it so that the tasks are sorted by context and priority within tghat context:

  • Email Sarah RE: Presentation Change
  • Email Frank RE: Public Address System
  • Email John RE: Acme quote
  • Call Ray RE: Lighting
  • Research Projector Hire Prices

After making a minor change we’re now using the following contexts:

  1. Email
  2. Telephone

Following on from that, our 25 minutes of lost productivity has now gone down to just 5 minutes – all from a little rejigging of our list!

Is Batch Processing Just For Email?

No! I batch process all of my post, bills, cleaning – if you can think of it, you can probably batch process it!.

I do batch process my emails once a week, they’re checked as they come in to make sure that nothing requires an urgent reply and then I go through them properly and action, file or delete as ncessary.

Take my mail for example, I check it as it comes in to make sure it’s not super important and needs an immediate response, I’ll then put it in my in-tray so sort through and action or file as appropriate.

Over To You

Do you batch process or do you work through your tasks in order no matter what? Let us know if you think batch processing will increase your productivity or if it will slow you down in getting through your. Drop us a note in the comments with your thoughts.

About The Author
Katy is always trying to be more productive one day at a time! Whether it's analogue, digital, motivational or psychological who'll try any system that will help her get things done and get organised. As well as running, she also loves making music and reviewing things.
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