June 16, 2020

How Can Time Batching Improve Your Productivity?

By Brian McHale

We all hate getting interrupted while we’re working on something important.

One or two distractions, and we completely lose focus. Getting back to work seems downright impossible.

So what can we do to stay productive despite distractions?

In this article, we’re going to show you how to use time batching to improve your efficiency and stay focused.

Let’s take a look!

 

What Is Time Batching?

Whenever you get distracted while working on something, it’ll take you around 25 minutes to regain your focus.

Now, think about all the interruptions you experience every day.

For every distraction, you’re not just losing the few minutes it takes to respond to it. You’re losing a lot more time, and in the end, that affects your productivity.

Time batching is the right solution for a distraction-driven culture.

Time batching is a time management method in which you take a few similar tasks, group them, and complete them in one go without interruptions.

Time Batching

The idea of time batching was first proposed in Cal Newport’s book, Deep Work.

Since multitasking can reduce productivity by 40%, Newport recommended committing to deep work.

The idea of deep work flow relies on sequencing and completing similar tasks in one go. Our brains handle tasks that are similar in nature easily.

It’s much easier to focus (and stay focused) if we’re completing contextually similar tasks, AKA: time batching.

 

Why Time Batching Works

Time batching is pretty intuitive.

You retain your focus, stay in the deep work flow zone, and get things done efficiently!

There’s nothing to distract you from the most important things you have to do.

 

Common Time Batching Challenges

Time batching has a lot of advantages.

However, you should be mindful of common challenges that can affect your productivity:

You need a distraction-free environment

All the time batching in the world can’t help you if you work in a place with so many distractions that it’s impossible to focus.

Distractions at work

Source: Statista

Task planning

When time batching, make sure you break down tasks into the smallest work units.

Your time-batched task shouldn’t be: “Finish marketing plans.”

Instead, you should break this overwhelming task down into: “Conduct audience research,” “Prepare a campaign,” and so on.

Energy

If you want to be productive, you need to be well rested.

Often, project managers make the mistake of completing time-batched tasks at the end of the day.

This is when your productivity and focus levels are at their lowest. No matter how well you batch your tasks in theory, you won’t be as productive as you could be.

 

Should You Use Time Batching?

Time batching is perfect if you often get distracted, or if you handle a lot of different tasks.

For example, time batching is perfect for project managers who have to plan, monitor, and execute their projects, as well as communicate with stakeholders, and complete a number of other activities.

You should also use time batching if your work requires deep focus.

If your tasks are so simple that you can complete them while doing something else (e.g. answering phones), then you don’t necessarily need time batching.

Similarly, if all your tasks are contextually different and you physically can’t batch them due to diversity, you shouldn’t try.

Instead, it’s much better to prioritize tasks and create lists with actionable items.

Working together

All in all, time batching is great for everyone who’s handling tasks that can be easily grouped into contextually-linked batches.

And with that in mind, here’s what you need to do to improve your productivity with time batching:

 

6 Tips for Time Batching Like a Pro

1. List and Batch Your Tasks

While time batching is a quick productivity hack, it requires planning.

The first thing you should do is list all of your tasks.

Write down everything you have to do.

Then, organize those tasks into batches.

What do they have in common?

For example, you could have a lot of tasks related to stakeholder communication.

You have to update your team members, call your clients, and send reports to top management.

 

2. Understand Your Task Depth

There are usually two types of tasks:

  • Shallow tasks – Tasks you can mindlessly complete, and that don’t require extensive periods of deep, uninterrupted focus (e.g. batching emails)
  • Deep tasks – Tasks that require more thought (e.g. creating reports or project plans).

If you have a lot of shallow tasks, you can group them, regardless of the context. You can reply to emails and schedule meetings in one go.

However, you should absolutely divide deep tasks according to context.

This way, you’ll be able to stay in the deep work flow zone, completely focused on the task in front of you.

Deep Shallow Work

Source: S. Gafar

 

3. Reduce Distractions When Time Batching

Successful time batching that results in productivity increases relies on distraction-free environments.

Before you get to work, identify common distractions.

For example, you might get distracted if your phone pings with a notification, or if you receive an email.

Then, create a plan for eliminating them.

Some project managers swear by tools that eliminate distractions. However, sometimes it’s as simple as putting your phone on silent as you get ready for work.

 

4. Time Batching and Time Blocking

Once you’ve identified your batches, it’s time for time blocking.

Ideally, you’ll batch your tasks so efficiently that you’ll be able to split your entire day into time-batched segments.

However, even if that’s not possible, try to aim for a few segments during the day when you can easily focus on the most meaningful work.

Time Boxed Calendar

Source: Zapier

You should also take note of your productivity levels during the day.

Time batch tasks for your most productive time, especially if you need to be in deep work flow.

Note: If things don’t always go according to plan, don’t worry.

Meetings can pop up, emergencies happen.

This is why it’s good to start off slow, with just a few time batches for the most important tasks.

 

5. Notify Your Team

If you need to intensively focus on your tasks, make sure you don’t get distracted.

In that respect, time batching is a lot like a distraction-dodging course.

Tell your team when you’ll be unavailable.

If you suddenly switch from being available during the entire work day, to being unresponsive for hours at a time, they might get worried.

But if you tell them you’re time batching and don’t want to be disturbed, they’ll be able to plan accordingly.

 

6. Evaluate Your Time-Batching Process

Finally, once you’ve gotten the hang of it, it’s important to pause and evaluate how you’re doing:

  • Are you completing tasks faster?
  • Is your productivity improving?
  • How long do you stay focused?

If the results are satisfactory, congratulations!

But even if you’re experiencing a hitch here and there, don’t worry. Simply review what you’ve been doing so far, and identify what might have gone wrong.

It takes time to become a pro at time batching.

But once you get there, you’ll be more productive than ever before!

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