I hope you enjoyed the title. Took me a full minute to come up with it.
I've noticed that I'm constantly context switching (changing between various tasks) more often than I should be. This leads to productivity "leaks" since it takes mental energy to switch from task to task.
This is where batching comes into play. If you dedicate longer time slots to work on a specific task, you'll get more done. "Why are you writing about such an obvious solution Amaan?"
Well, most of us don't do this because some tasks are easier or more fun to do than others, so we let ourselves get distracted. I'll give you a clear example that I dealt with yesterday.
My current goal is to write more and build up a newsletter/following, so I'm posting on Twitter and Reddit more often as those are good avenues to get exposure and provide value. To get people to actually interact with you, you need to be interacting with others. Yesterday, I posted an article I wrote and it got 2700+ upvotes (as of writing this). Along with a popular post, you also get a bunch of comments that you should respond to.
What I did incorrectly
I responded to comments every 15-20 minutes because those nice comments were Dopamine Central for me. I also did the same thing with Twitter. This wasted so much of my time because when I switched to a different task, I didn't focus for very long.
What I should've done (and what I will do in the future)
Set aside time each day to go through all the comments all at once. Rather than checking every 15-20 minutes, I will post in the morning, check back at night (1 time), and be done with it. This doesn't go for just posting though. This can be applied to so many things:
- Responding to text messages and calls. Carve out certain times to respond so that you don't get distracted while working on other tasks. Put your laptop and phone on do not disturb until you choose to respond, rather than react to respond. Trust me, most the texts you get are not urgent, and most people will understand if you don't respond right away.
- Don't check email frequently. Check it as infrequently as possible (different amounts for different people).
- Laundry & chores. Do larger loads less frequently. Dedicate one day every 1-2 weeks to specifically get all the chores out of the way.
- Cooking: meal prepping saves you time for the rest of the week. Instead of cooking daily, spend one day cooking larger quantities to eat for a few days at a time.
- Literally almost any other task. You'll be more productive if you set aside one day for one task, or at the very least separate them into big blocks in one day. Want to learn piano, read more, and learn a new language? Try either dedicating one day to each and alternating, or separating them completely from each other in one day. Read for 2-3 hours, take a break, learn piano for 2-3 hours, chill, and then learn a new language for 2-3 hours. Don't go back and forth every 30-60 min.
Steps to Start
- First go through a typical day of yours and write down everything you do. How many times did you check your phone? How often did you check your email? Write down all the tasks you do, no matter how small.
- Identify which tasks are repetitive, but can be done less. Some things, like making your bed, are small tasks that can't be batched. That's ok. Find the ones that are being done more often than they should be (you'll know).
- Once you have a list of tasks you want to batch, start with one at a time. My biggest issue is checking my notifications (all platforms) too often, so that's what I'm prioritizing first.
Create slots in your days, weeks, and months for specific tasks. Rather than going back and forth between tasks, isolate and focus entirely on one for a longer period of time. It will be much more effective. The goal should be to lengthen the duration between doing the same activity twice (aka turn down the frequency).