One of the most limited and precious resources we have is time. So spending it wisely is vital, especially for those who want to optimize and make the most of every minute.
As much as we’d all love to live spontaneously and only focus on fun, we all need to find time to do our boring tasks like chores and errands. Rather than trying to multitask or procrastinate, you might want to consider task batching.
Some also call this popular productivity hack “time batching.” The purpose of this technique is to change how you work beyond just rearranging your schedule.
Here’s how and why task batching can help you avoid distractions and be more productive at home and work.
WHAT IS TASK BATCHING?
Task batching is organizing your time based on tasks or to-do’s to combine your work and knock it out speedily.
So instead of working on whatever hits your desk first or whatever new chore wiggles to your attention, set aside a specific time to complete defined, similar tasks. The keyword here is “similar” — for example, setting time to write emails, press releases, or presentation copy. Then, the next batch of tasks might be meetings, etc.
Emails are a great, universal example. Instead of jumping to respond to every new email notification, set aside a predetermined amount of time to check and answer your emails. If you’re on the 9-to-5 grind, maybe check and respond to emails for 15 minutes at 10 a.m., again at 2:30 p.m., and right before leaving for the day.
The goal is to avoid constantly jumping between tasks, which can apply to virtually anything on your plate.
Task batching benefits (and multitasking drawbacks)
Task batching helps with focus
The human brain is naturally wired to focus on one thing at a time.
Researchers in France discovered this during a study that had people complete two tasks simultaneously.1 They found that multitasking essentially forces the brain to split in half or work independently, resulting in folks forgetting details and making more mistakes.
Meanwhile, another study found that breaking projects into specific steps and sorting them similarly helps people focus while reducing the time it takes to switch perspectives or alter their focus effectively.²
Plus, other research has found that it can take about 23 minutes to refocus after being distracted.³
Multitasking exacerbates stress
In addition to costing you valuable time, the same research also found that constant interruptions or switching between tasks increases stress and frustration by boosting cortisol production in the brain. Increased cortisol, a stress hormone, could result in feeling burned out and drained.
Task batching improves efficiency and productivity
Research has found that people lose a significant amount of time when constantly switching from one task to another because it takes more time to shift mental gears every time you switch tasks.⁴ Plus, the researchers found that the more complicated the tasks, the more time people lost!
Additional reports also claim that multitasking can lead to as much as a 40% drop in productivity.⁵ Yikes!
Multitasking multiplies mistakes
If doing things right the first time is your goal, skip multitasking. Those who multitask take 50% longer to finish one task and reportedly make up to 50% more mistakes.⁶
Multitasking could hurt your IQ
One major drawback to multitasking is that it can hurt your IQ. One study looked at multitasking and found that the drop in IQ for those who multitasked was similar to that of those who stayed up all night.⁷
Some reports claim that multitasking can cause upward of a 10% drop in IQ.⁸
How To Task Batch
Task batching can apply to almost anything. It might be harder to apply in creative situations, but it’s otherwise a really helpful tool. Here are some tips to help you get started with this method.
Determine what to batch
It might seem obvious, but not all tasks require batching. Opt for tasks in the same family that often take up large parts of your day. If you find yourself constantly in many meetings, batch them for one part of the day.
But remember, if it takes less than five minutes, do it now. There’s no need to add something to your to-do or task batching list if it doesn’t take you too long.
Plan to do your most important work when you are operating at your best
Dedicate time to task batch work that’s more important during the time of day when you traditionally feel the most awake and focused. If you’re a morning person, that could mean reserving time to do projects that take up most of your brain power in the wee hours. Meanwhile, leave the less important tasks for when you can only dedicate your brain power to low-lift work.
Break it down
If you have a presentation to create, blocking out time to craft the entire presentation isn’t fully taking advantage of the time-blocking method. Big projects are easier to tackle when they are broken down into tasks that are categorized accordingly. For example, if you need to create a report in the next week, try time-blocking for each step of the process. This might include batching tasks like outlining, gathering data, drafting, and revising.
Give it time
According to research, consistency is key, particularly when forming habits.9 The research also found that self-control has little to no effect on developing good habits. If task batching is a habit you want to form, it needs to be something you do on a regular basis.
- Medina, J. (2008). Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School. Pear Press.
Life isn’t always as easy as we’d like it to be. And when your life starts to get a bit complicated, a personal life coach from Wellavi can be there to help you!