Since I've been focusing on reading books that bring me closer to my goals this year, one of the books I picked up was The Four Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss. As I read, I was particularly interested to learn about what he calls batch processing. I was pleased to realize that I had already learned the principle and had implemented it in several areas of my life—but I also realized that I should be using batch processing (also know as batching) in many more areas of my life.
What is batch processing?
Batch processing is the opposite of multitasking.
As busy moms, we tend to be pretty expert at the whole multitasking thing. But did you know that multitasking is probably making you even more overwhelmed? Research shows that multitasking is both inefficient and stressful. Yes, you read that correctly. Multitasking is inefficient! When we multitask, we are actually not multitasking at all—we are instead moving rapidly from one task to the next, which makes us less focused and less able to complete each task efficiently.
Talk about changing our perception of motherhood—an occupation that is built upon multitasking! Sure, multitasking is going to have to happen sometimes. You'll inevitably have to help with homework while simultaneously making dinner, changing a diaper, and cleaning 12 messes. But the point of batch processing is to avoid the trap of multitasking as much as possible, not to eliminate it altogether.
The idea behind batch processing is to group similar tasks together and do them all at once. For instance, I pay my bills on the first day of each month—no exceptions. I sit down at my desk with my bills and my computer and schedule them all out via my bank's bill pay option or the company's website. I have always felt that this was far more efficient than paying bills weekly or even more often—in fact, when I did it that way I was more likely to miss paying a bill than I am when I do them all at once.
Why does batch processing work?
Batch processing reduces mental delay and improves focus
If multitasking is moving rapidly back and forth between tasks, batch processing is staying focused on only one task at a time.
Did you know that every time you switch to a new task it can take your brain up to 15 minutes to regain focus? Batch processing reduces the mental delay that occurs each time you begin a new task because you are staying with the same task for longer. Because you are not starting something totally new every 5 minutes your brain is finally able to focus on the specific task at hand and you will find a rhythm—you'll be in the zone for that particular task.
I've found that whatever I'm doing in batches becomes much easier after I've been working on it for a while. Whether it's being in cleaning mode, or paying bills mode, or writing mode I am simply more effective when I batch similar tasks together.
Which types of tasks can be batch processed?
Batch processing can be used for any type of task
Besides paying bills, I am working on using batch processing in all areas of my life. I have begun to use my to-do journal to group similar tasks together so it is easier for me to do them all together (you can also use your planner for this process, too—to see my favorite paper planner, click here: Mom on the Go Planner).
- Bill paying
- Phone calls
- Scheduling appointments
- Email (try to process your email inbox only once or twice per day)
- Cleaning (do all the bathrooms at once, vacuum the entire house at once, or choose a specific time during the day when you will finish all of your cleaning)
- Laundry (see how my friend Katelyn batch processes her laundry—it's pretty brilliant: How to Stop Drowning in Laundry)
- Homework help
- Grocery shopping
- Meal planning (plan a month's worth of meals at a time)
- Social media consumption (yes—batch process your Facebook—Twitter—Snapchat—Texting—Internet Surfing time)
- Goal setting (also goal attaining!)
- Household repairs
- Homework help
How can I be more successful at batch processing?
In order to batch process efficiently, you must remove distractions
I know that some distractions cannot be removed. Your kids will need you, the dog will have to go out, and the phone will probably ring (but you don't have to answer it). But there are also many distractions that you can remove completely.
The biggest distraction to remove while you are focusing on one task is your phone notifications. Something about that ding that signifies that you have just received an email or a text pulls your mind right out of the task at hand and right back into multitasking. Either turn your phone to silent (I personally like the "do not disturb" function on my iPhone), turn off all notifications, or turn your phone off completely.
If you don't need your computer for the batch you are currently processing, don't have it near you. The temptation to open it and check Facebook is simply too great. Basically, you know what is going to be distracting to you, so do your best to remove those things while you are working.
When I am really on the ball and batch processing as much as I can, I amaze myself by how much I can get done. There really is something to getting in the zone and getting all the same things finished at once.
Give it a try—and keep track of how long things take you versus how long they take you when you don't batch process. I am pretty sure you'll amaze yourself, too.
Small Habit: Batch process as much as possible.
Big Difference: Be more productive, save time, and be more efficient.
This post is part of my Small Habits That Will Make a Big Difference 30 day challenge. To see all of the posts in this series, click here. Or, join the challenge and receive a daily email with a new small habit that can affect your life in a big way.
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