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How the Task Batching Method Can Improve Your Productivity

It is possible to boost focus and productivity by completing similar tasks all at once instead of tackling them individually. That’s the basis of the productivity method called task batching.

Did you know that lost productivity costs between $450 billion and $550 billion per year?

And that the average employee is productive for only two hours and 53 minutes per day?

It is possible to boost focus and productivity by completing similar tasks all at once instead of tackling them individually. That’s the basis of the productivity method called task batching.

The brilliance of task batching lies in its obvious simplicity.

A cousin of time-block planning, task batching involves grouping similar (and usually smaller) tasks in clusters and completing them all at once.

For example, it is more efficient to schedule two 25-minute blocks twice a day to organize and respond to emails than it is to check your inbox each time you get a notification.

Tasks may also be batched according to the amount of attention they require. Such tasks are of three kinds:

  1. Low concentration – emails, data entry
  2. Medium concentration – client calls, team meetings
  3. High concentration – research, writing, planning

The brain needs time to shift between each of these types of tasks, hence it is more efficient to club together tasks requiring similar skills.

Task batching is not the same as time blocking.

Task batching focuses on doing similar kinds of work during a block of time so that you can avoid using up cognitive energy switching between different types of tasks.

Time blocking involves scheduling time in advance to prioritize the most important tasks on your to-do list.

Examples of tasks suitable for batching are planning, paperwork, email, research, networking, professional development, writing, coding, and designing.

The cost of switching tasks

You may have noticed that despite being busy the whole day and feeling exhausted in the evenings, you haven’t really accomplished anything.

That’s because your focus gets interrupted by office distractions like emails or coworkers coming up for a chat. It forces you to jump between several tasks, effectively doing neither well.

Sophie Leroy, Assistant Professor at the UW Bothell School of Business, describes this as ‘attention residue’ – when you continue to worry about the previous unfinished task even though you need to pay attention to the new task at hand.

She explains what happens when you get interrupted: “As I am still thinking about Task A while trying to do Task B, I don’t have the cognitive capacity to process those two tasks at the same time and do a perfect job on both tasks.”

Task batching works because it favors the way our brain functions. We’re neurobiologically wired to pay attention to a single task at a time, a phenomenon called single-tasking.

Complex tasks that require greater alertness, creativity, and focus such as critical thinking and problem-solving benefit from single-tasking.

Research findings back up the benefits of single-tasking vs. multitasking:

A University of London study found that multitasking causes a loss of IQ similar to people who have stayed up all night.

Other research has found that even brief mental blocks created by switching tasks can cause one to lose up to 40 percent of one’s productive time.

On average, it takes 23 minutes and fifteen seconds to recover fully after an interruption.

Thus, by grouping similar tasks, we reduce the amount of lane switching or context switching required.

Performing more than one task simultaneously, especially more than one complex task, takes a toll on productivity, focus, and mental energy.

Therefore, when you think you’re multitasking, you’re really just rapidly switching from one task to the other, reducing accuracy and increasing mental strain in the process.

Benefits of task batching

Task batching curbs the impulse to multitask and check-in frequently. It organizes projects to help your brain perform efficiently while minimizing stress and overwhelm.

The advantages of task batching are:

1. Improves focus

When your brain is in single-tasking mode, it is capable of shutting out all external distractions and unrelated thoughts. You can wholeheartedly focus on the task at hand.

The more you practice batching tasks, the better you get at it.

Task batching trains your brain to resist the temptation to multitask and focus on single-tasking.

2. Reduces stress

A welcome benefit of task batching is lowering stress levels. When you have a long to-do list and you convert them into manageable buckets of work, you feel more confident.

As a consequence, you’re likely to enjoy working on those tasks and staying on schedule to completion.

On the other hand, if you feel stressed and overwhelmed, it affects you physically and mentally.

Stress can manifest as a headache, stomachache, or overall low immunity. It could also translate into greater irritability, frustration, and anger.

3. Increases productivity

Task batching allows you to achieve a higher focus, thus you’re less likely to notice any distractions around you.

The quality of your work gets better and the speed of your work increases, too, because you’re performing tasks that require similar skills together.

By doing similar tasks repeatedly, you’re honing associated skills as you work and improving your productivity.

Also, task batching enables you to enter a ‘flow state’, wherein you achieve higher levels of focus and concentration.

Switching from one task to another (of dissimilar nature) makes you inefficient because your brain needs time to readjust between the shifts.

Task batching for teams

Task batching is essentially a personal productivity technique but it can be extended to teams, too.

On a given day, your team members could be switching from attending meetings to checking emails to applying deep focus to an assignment.

Multitasking with a group of coworkers leads to a higher chance of miscommunication, poor quality of work, and missed deadlines.

To improve productivity, team members can collectively focus on a single task at a time and schedule blocks of time to complete each project bucket.

In this way, the team has a better chance of staying on track and meeting deadlines.

You can help your team members harness the power of batching by grouping similar tasks and managing them using a team task list template. It enables you to categorize and prioritize tasks, send automated reminders, and scale up to weeks or months.

Or you could apply it to your project planning and monitoring tasks, too.

Instead of constantly switching focus from one task to the other or worse, attempting to multitask, batching tasks helps bring some structure to your day.

At the end of it, you’ll have ticked off many priority items off your list.

How to create a task-batching routine

Let’s see how you can create a task-batching routine to help you organize your day-to-day work.

1. Separate tasks into project buckets

First, determine what types of tasks you perform throughout the day or week. For example, your average day could be spent on the following tasks:

  • Checking email
  • Attending meetings
  • Planning and monitoring projects
  • Analyzing and reporting project results
  • Holding workshops/webinars
  • Giving feedback to team members
  • Brainstorming and strategizing around project implementation

If you keep flitting from one task to the other throughout the day, especially if you keep circling back to the same task several times a day, you set yourself up for mental exhaustion and errors.

Instead, you can spend focused periods (30-60 minutes) on each project bucket to be more productive.

2. Track average time taken for each task

If you’re a first-time batcher, you may not have an accurate idea of the time taken for each type of task. Assess how long, on average, each task needs to be completed. This will give you an idea of the timeframes for each task batch.

3. Group similar tasks into a batch

Next, group similar types of tasks into batches to be performed together. For instance, checking email and raising invoices could be grouped into a batch.

You could also schedule meetings back-to-back to avoid having pockets of time where you cannot get meaningful work done.

4. Block time on your calendar for each task batch

Now that your task batches are ready and you’re aware of how long each batch will take, block off time on your calendar for each batch. Keep in mind your average workday, your energy levels, and your priorities.

For instance, you can schedule email and admin work for early afternoons when you’re likely to feel a bit tired. Save the mornings for deep work that requires a fresh and alert mind.

5. Use the Pomodoro Technique for batch work

Task batchers often use the Pomodoro Technique to stay on track with batch work.

  • Set your timer for 25-90 minutes and keep working until your tasks are done.
  • If you finish a task before the timer rings, see if there are other unfinished tasks in the project bucket.
  • Keep a notebook handy at your desk to jot down thoughts or to-dos that come to you when you’re working on your tasks.

A few other tips to help you perform task batching even better:

Use app blockers to block websites or apps that you find most distracting. It will reduce the temptation to take a ‘quick’ email/social media break.

Use music tools with timers like Generative.fm, Brain.fm, or GitHub Audio to time your task batches. The music stops when your allotted time is over and you know that it’s time to take a break.

Challenges to task batching in teams

In certain situations, batching tasks may cause more harm than good. Enabling a team to batch tasks effectively requires coordination and planning.
We can avoid burnout by understanding when (and for which types of work) task batching is not a good idea.

1. Batch low-attention tasks for low-energy parts of the day

Slot admin tasks for periods when the brain is not working at its best, such as late afternoons or evenings. Conversely, schedule cognitively demanding tasks for times when team members are alert and productive, usually first thing in the morning.

2. Keep track of the time

Batching tasks allows you to enter a hyper-productive state where it is easy to lose track of time. Use a timer to ensure that team members stay on schedule.

3. Realistically estimate the time taken by each task

We often underestimate how long a task will take or we assume the best-case scenario for it. Thus, we typically spend more time on a task than we actually think it will take.

A good rule of thumb is to add fifteen minutes to our time estimate to give us a buffer for unexpected situations.

How can you be more productive with Kissflow Project?

Kissflow Project is a great platform to help you save time by enabling you to plan, organize, and manage your tasks and those of your team members as projects.

You can allocate task responsibilities throughout your team as and when required.

Team members also have access to contextual information that enables them to work together effectively.

Consider giving one of our productivity-boosting templates a go.

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