Productivity Tips for Peace of Mind: Part 2 – Batching
This post, is a part of my thinking and research for my new book, centred around the tensions between productivity and creativity. You can follow other related entries here.
In the first part of this series, I wrote about how automation is one solution to reduce decision fatigue: the deteriorating quality of our decision making ability over a sustained period of time. My experiments with automation were very successful, and I wanted to continue to build on these positive experiences by trying out another productivity trick: batching.
Batching is when you group similar tasks and do them all at the same time. Things like email, reading, blogging, household chores and even cooking can be combined into one chunk of time. I’ve been using my own hybrid of Dan Sullivan’s Entrepreneurial Time Keeper and David Allen’s Getting Things Done since 2008, a blend of context-based to-do lists and batching my days into focus, buffer and rest days. Batching is built in, but I’ve tried to refine my approach to other parts of my life. I already batch several things including responding to emails, calls and meetings and running errands, so I decided to see if there were other missed opportunities for batching that I wasn’t taking advantage of.
1) Content Consumption: Feedly and Pocket are your two best friends.
The biggest shift for me was batching content, both online and offline. Now, instead of checking social media sporadically, I devote two 20 minute periods during the day – I use them as rewards for completing tasks. That way, I deep dive in and get updated on all the tweets, pictures of babies, and blog posts that my network is producing. I do the same thing for my inbox – I check it three times a day. Once in the morning, once after lunch and once when I’m when I’m ready to call it a day. Anything that requires an involved answer gets flagged and then dealt with during the last email shift of the day – this ensures that I stay on track of getting my big important tasks done.
I’ve been a long time fan of RSS readers (Feedly is my favorite thing ever) and this helps me minimize my casual web-browsing. I generally go to a cafe with my iPad and spend two-three hours reading over all the blogs that I follow. I have become very strict with when I read content. If I do come across something interesting but not related to my task, I quickly send it to Pocket and then I know it’s been captured, and I can look it over during my next reading batch.
Honestly, I don’t know how people manage their content without an RSS feed, I would be completely and utterly lost.
2) Content Creation: Blogging
As I’ve started regularly blogging again, I wanted to make sure I didn’t fall off the bandwagon this time around. Normally, I blog on my buffer days, but I used to only work on one post at a time. Now, I’ve batched a few hours together in order to produce 3-5 blog posts instead just one. Since I’m already in the blogging zone, it’s much easier to generate and research other ideas for different posts at the same time, and I’ve found that it’s easier for me to draft several posts over the course of three hours than to work on one post a day.
This was one that I had missed. I used to only prep food for a day or two in advance on my buffer days, but I wondered if I could increase my time horizon to span the whole week. Turns out, you can! I discovered a great baked oatmeal recipe that it’s easy to make and nutritious – one casserole dish results in an entire week of breakfast for Jesse and I! Win!
I also found that doubling or tripling recipes when cooking has been a great way to freeze meals and have enough left overs to last for the week. Quinoa for dinner turns into having quinoa ready for a salad the following day.
VERDICT: Batching definitely increases your output and makes your life easier overall. It also helps reduce the amount of switching you do between tasks, allowing you to deep dive and achieve a state of flow. Batching also clears your calendar, leaving you with the large blocks of time you need to do your best strategic work, instead of letting emails, social media and coffee dates derail or priorities.
Other articles I found on Batching:
Michael Hyatt shows how batching and the pomodoro technique make leaders more efficient.
Darren Rose at Problogger.net talks about how he batches his online tasks.
If you’re interested in staying updated about my research, upcoming books and general cool things I find online, sign up for my monthly newsletters and get my best stuff first. Subscribe here.