Like many writers, I have a full-time job and other commitments that take up a lot of my precious time. So, I'm very concerned with using my free time wisely. Productivity has been a subject of interest for me. There are a lot of strategies out there to improve productivity. If you are interested in hearing about a mix of productivity strategies, check out The Productivity Project by Chris Bailey. It is a great crash course in different approaches to productivity and finding what works. In this blog post, however, I will be talking about batch tasking.
If you aren't familiar with the concept, you can think of batch tasking as the opposite of multitasking. We are a culture of multitaskers. Time is a limited commodity for all of us, so we try to jam together as many things as we can. We all think that if we can do more things at once, we will be more productive, but research would suggest that we are actually less productive when we try to multitask.
When it comes to intensive mental work, we can only really focus on one thing at a time. In reality, what we are doing is not multitasking, but task switching, bouncing back and forth between one task and another. Research suggests that our productivity can be reduced by up to 40% if we switch back and forth between tasks frequently and are also much more likely to make mistakes.
So, what is the solution? Working on one thing at a time. It sounds like a deceptively simple principle, but it is actually difficult to put into practice. We are so used to being interrupted by notifications from social media or by our email inboxes, that we don't realize just how often our attention strays from what we are working on. There are a lot of apps out there to help keep you off your phone, like Forest. I tend to just put my phone in airplane mode while I am working on a particular task.
There is another component to batch tasking beyond just doing one thing at a time and that is "batching" similar tasks together. For instance, you may set aside two hours to draft and schedule all of your social media posts for the week, then spend another hour just answering email. By batching tasks together and completing them, it means that you don't have to think about those tasks while you do creative work like write.
Personally, I've found it effective to batch tasks on the weekend that I struggle to do during the week. I try to take Instagram photos for the week all in one batch so I can take advantage of the morning light. I also try to schedule blog posts and the associated social media posts in another batch. When these things are scheduled, I find that I can be more consistent in my posting and also have more time and energy for my writing.
I am still working on batch tasking and am trying to find tools that will make my batch tasking easier. Ultimately, what I want is to waste less time on tasks like managing social media, so that I can spend more time writing. Have you tried batch tasking before? If so, let me know in the comments below.