Do you always look away from your computer screen when you’re working? Perhaps, you find yourself easily distracted whenever you’re supposed to be busy with work.
Most of the time, your productivity suffers because of self-imposed mental interruptions. Well, if you haven’t tried time batching, you should try it out now.
What Is Time Batching?
Also known as the Pomodoro technique, time batching is a productivity strategy that helps a person focus on a collection of similar tasks within a period. This approach can minimize distractions, allowing better attention to detail and concentrated workflow.
Georgetown University assistant professor Cal Newport refers to the same practice as “time blocking”. He describes it as performing “deep work” by creating periods of concentrated work in your daily schedule. Newport proposes reducing mental clutter to have more mental resources for deep thinking.
Why Time Batching Works
According to the American Psychological Association, multitasking does more harm than good to productivity. When you jump between several tasks, you’re hampering your efficiency. You’ll put more strain on your mental functions, lowering the quality of your work.
On the other hand, when you’re batching tasks, you’re peeling yourself away from your natural multitasking tendencies.
Here‘s some food for thought:
Employees check their emails at least 15 times per day.
When you get interrupted, it will take you 23 minutes to regain your focus.
So, every time you leave your task to check your email and respond to every message that comes in, you’re losing concentration and wasting time.
Now, with time batching, you can use blocks of time to review your inbox and reply to emails. You can avoid switching between tasks and cut down constant distractions. As a result, you can be more productive and efficient throughout the day.
Another great thing about time batching is it lets you reduce interruptions. You can let people know that you’re handling specific tasks at set times. So, if they’ll likely turn to you within those windows.
Let’s say your coworkers know that you respond to messages between 8 AM to 9 AM and 1 PM to 2 PM. It’s unlikely that they’ll come to you at 12 PM to ask if you’ve read an email they sent at 10 AM.
If you’re still not convinced, check out the statistics and studies that encourage batching tasks:
According to a journal published in the Proceedings of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society, focusing on more than one thing at a time affects your performance.
Developmental molecular biologist John Medina shares in his book Brain Rules that working on several tasks at once can take 50% longer to finish. Instead, he encourages focusing on a batch of similar tasks.
5 Steps in Effective Time Batching
Here are the steps you can take to develop an efficient time batching strategy:
Step 1: Identify Your Goals
Before defining the tasks you need to accomplish, you should define the bigger goals you want to achieve. You can list your short- and long-term goals. Having these in view will motivate you when you’re writing down your tasks.
You will understand that every step you take—no matter how small—contributes to the bigger picture. Moreover, identifying your goals allow you to evaluate every aspect of your project. You can even determine the resources you’ll need to accomplish your tasks.
Step 2: Create a To-Do List
Before you begin batching tasks, you need to create a picture of what your daily, weekly, and monthly schedules look like. Perhaps, checking emails is a critical part of your responsibilities. So, you may have to check them a few times a day. On the other hand, there may be more urgent tasks cropping up. As such, you need to update your to-do list regularly.
Step 3: Start Batching Tasks
Once you’ve completed your list of tasks, you can categorize similar activities. Here are a few different ways you can group your tasks:
- Objective – You can categorize tasks according to the goals they accomplish. For instance, if you’re a software developer, you can group tasks for one app together.
- Tools – You can also group tasks according to the tools you’ll use to complete them. For example, if you’re using CRM software for two or three activities, you can put them in a single batch.
- Function – Another way to batch tasks is by determining the function you perform to accomplish them. For instance, you can group all data entry tasks together.
Step 4: Develop a Process
If you want to be efficient in batching tasks, you should determine your peak productive hours. You need to know the blocks of time where you can concentrate deeply on work.
You can begin to batch your list of tasks according to what your day looks like. Perhaps, during the afternoons, you usually hit a slump. You can schedule simple tasks like answering emails or attending meetings during this block of time.
Now, if you’re more productive during the beginning of the day, you can schedule cognitive-heavy tasks around that time. Also, remember to factor in breaks in your schedule. You can also improve your focus when you deliberately interrupt your work to rest.
Pro Tip: Track Your Time
It can be challenging to determine the times of the day when you are most productive. Thankfully, there is an easier and more accurate way to collect data. For instance, you can use a time tracker like Traqq.
Once you’ve downloaded and installed the app, all you need to do is click the Start button on the widget. Traqq will record your work hours while collecting data on your productivity. You can use it to generate reports on the websites you visit and the apps you use. You can also check your activity levels to see which times of the day you are most productive.
After a week of using the app and collecting data, you will get an idea of the time blocks in which your focus and energy appear highest and lowest. After all, the blocks are color-coded according to the amount of work you do in that time period.
Step 5: Assess Your Process
Once you’ve begun time batching, you can evaluate how the process is affecting your productivity. As you receive more responsibilities, you can re-categorize each batch. You can also move things around as you discover what is effective.
Best Practices for Time Batching
If you want to maximize your time batching strategy, you can follow these tips:
- Get rid of distractions – Batching tasks is supposed to help you minimize distractions. However, it will work better if you deliberately get rid of the things that prevent you from focusing on your tasks. For instance, if you always check your phone, you can keep it out of your sight.
- Use digital tools – Time batching can also be done with the help of task management programs. In most cases, all you’ll need is a pencil and a notepad. However, the process will be a lot easier if you use technology to categorize your work activities.
- Collect feedback – Let your teammates or manager know that you are planning to time batch. Doing so can encourage them to take a similar approach. They may also provide feedback on your performance.
- Take breaks – While the time batching is supposed to help you concentrate on a group of tasks, you shouldn’t forget to take breaks. Taking a rest, even in the middle of completing a batch, can help you feel refreshed and motivated.
In most cases, time batching yields positive results in productivity. However, don’t be too hard on yourself if you encounter a hitch here and there.
All you need to do is re-evaluate your categories to know where you can make certain adjustments. Remember that it takes time to become efficient at time batching.