Are you checking your email each time you look at your phone or each time a message notification appears on your desktop? And something that was supposed to only take a minute can end up being a back-and-forth email exchange for 30 minutes. This can be avoided with batch processing.
Process similar tasks in batches
The idea behind batching is to use a dedicated block of time to process a group of similar tasks. This way, it is less stressful to complete each task after another one as they don’t require you to change the setup of your work.
Because you have scheduled a time to process all those tasks, there is a beginning and an end for your batching that will help you get back some control of your agenda; however, this requires discipline on your part to really stop the process at the end of the allocated time.
Examples of tasks for batch processing
Here are few examples where you can apply the batch processing concept.
If you constantly check your emails without setting a time limit, you let other people influence your schedule. Instead, consider planning different blocks of time in your day for processing your emails (sorting them, reading and answering emails, etc.)
Skype or other chat systems
In former companies, I used to have my Skype application launched on a side of my desktop all the time, so that people could contact me any time. That was practical when working with remote teams in different time zones. However, you cannot concentrate on your own work if you are constantly interrupted for topics that rarely take only 5 minutes to be discussed.
Moreover, the consequence for you is that it takes time to re-adapt to where you were at on your task. Since I stopped using Skype on a regular basis, this made a big difference in my productivity. I still have an account but I only launch the application for conversations that were planned in advance.
I also work on collaborative projects where we use real-time conversation tools, but I adapt the same concept: instead of having my chat application always on, I only launch it for specific blocks of time. I have other peers who set their application as “not available,” but I did not see the value in doing that.
If you need to follow up with people who gave you their business cards, review your expense reports, or just do some cleanup at your desk, a remedy to procrastination is to set a time to have that done and you will see how relieved you will feel when this is off your to-do list.
Schedule your blocks of time
Here is how you can plan your batch processing for the coming week:
- List the different groups of tasks that need to be completed
- Allocate a block of time in your calendar for each batch processing
- Set an alarm that will notify you when the batching time is over
- At the end of the block of time, stop and switch to the other activities that you planned on your agenda
- If you need more time to complete your batch, schedule another block in your calendar
You will probably need a few cycles and discipline to enjoy the benefits of batch processing, but it helps improve your productivity and allows you to get back some quality time into your life when you are in control of your agenda.
I would be curious to hear about the tasks that you process in batches, so go ahead and let me know about yours in the comment section below.