The multitasking myth is pervasive. No matter how much multitasking research we see, we continue to tell ourselves that most people can’t multitask, but we can.
Time and time again, research shows that when we think we’re multitasking, we’re not actually doing more than a thing at once. We’re switching back and forth between activities, and that a phenomenon known as “ switching cost ” makes us less efficient (and may put us in danger).
There is one particular type of multitasking that could be more efficient. Maybe not as efficient as focusing on a single task. But if you just can’t stand focusing on one thing for more than a few minutes, you may be in luck.
(To be fair, there are some cases in which multitasking can be an efficient way to do things Single- vs. Multitasking: What's Best for Productivity? Single- vs. Multitasking: What's Best for Productivity? Multitasking is a common method to increase productivity. Turns out it's not necessarily the silver bullet for productivity. The key is to know when to multitask. Read More .)
Different productivity gurus have defined task batching in slightly different ways. But what it comes down to is this:
“Task batching is the practice of grouping similar tasks together.”
So you might have a list of “coding,” “debugging,” “documenting,” and “planning” tasks, for example. In my own life, I’d probably batch tasks as “writing,” “editing,” “researching,” “pitching,” and so on.
Task batching helps you become more productive by encouraging you to stick with a similar group of tasks to reduce the switching cost when you move between them. Going from editing photos to managing your email is a big switch, and could incur a large switching cost as your brain struggles to change gears.
Switching from editing photos to, say, posting photos to stock photography sites might create a smaller switching cost. Or imagine that you switch from calling potential clients with sales pitches to calling existing clients to check in. That would be easier than switching from pitch calls to creating quarterly reports.
And that lower switching cost results in increased focus.
How you put tasks into batches is up to you — the important thing is that they’re similar . If you find it hard to switch gears between two tasks, then they don’t belong in the same batch. You can have a large number of batches or a smaller one, depending on the types of things you need to get done.
Once you’ve grouped your tasks, you can dedicate time to each batch.
This is where task batching gets really useful. When you designate a specific block of time How to Block Time on Google Calendar for a Productive Workday How to Block Time on Google Calendar for a Productive Workday Do you struggle with time management? We show you how to block time on your Google Calendar to increase focus, reduce stress, and enhance productivity. Read More to a particular batch, you’re free to switch between tasks within that batch. Which is great for those of us who like to move between projects a lot.
As long as you don’t switch to a task outside of that batch, you’ll be more efficient. The cognitive switching cost will be lower, and you’ll get more done.
It’s as simple as that.
And once you start putting your task batches on your calendar, so you have a set time to work on them, you’ll start seeing your productivity skyrocket. Because your switching cost is lower, you’ll spend less time getting up to speed on each task. And having a set time for specific batches will help you reduce distractions (which have a huge switching cost).
Using a time management system like thePomodoro technique How a Simple Pomodoro Timer Made My Life Better How a Simple Pomodoro Timer Made My Life Better The Pomodoro Technique is one of the simpler time management life hacks. Break through distractions with the help of 25-minute chunks and a timer. It could be a life-changing routine change if it suits you. Read More or something similar will boost your productivity even further.
If you’re ready to try task batching, here’s what you need to do:
The first thing you’ll need to do is create task batches. As everyone will have different sets of tasks and different methods of batching, how you go through this process is totally up to you. As I mentioned, it might be good to start with three or four categories. For the purposes of our example, we’ll use “planning,” “building,” “reviewing,” and “reporting.”
We’ll combine these batches with the concept oftime blocking Time Blocking -- The Secret Weapon For Better Focus Time Blocking -- The Secret Weapon For Better Focus Are you looking for a more efficient way to organise your work-days? Try Time Blocking. This time management tactic can help keep you on track while keeping distractions, procrastination, and unproductive multitasking at bay. Read More . Simply set aside blocks of time in Google Calendar for specific batches.
Here I’ve added events that tell me when I should be working on specific batches:
I’ve also added a reminder to make sure that I know when my reporting block starts:
Now I’ll get a reminder when it’s time to work on my reporting tasks. During that time, I might use thePomodoro technique The Best Pomodoro Timer Apps to Rocket Your Productivity The Best Pomodoro Timer Apps to Rocket Your Productivity If you often hit a productivity wall after a few hours of work, a Pomodoro timer could help you keep your focus. This selection of timers has an option for every platform. Read More to manage my time on various tasks. Or I might let it happen more naturally, where I move between tasks whenever I want. This part is up to you.
You get the idea. Now just insert more batches into your calendar! But keep in mind that you still need unblocked time. You’ll need a few minutes here and there to manage email, catch up on calls, chat with people in the office, or just let your mind rest for a bit.
One question you might be asking right now: how do I choose when to schedule each batch? There’s no right answer to this. If you have a specific type of task you do best in the morning, schedule it early. If you like less cognitively intense tasks in the afternoon, schedule them there. Prefer switching to something completely different when you change tasks? You can do that too.
You know how andwhen you work best How To Stay Productive Whether You're A Morning Person Or A Night Owl How To Stay Productive Whether You're A Morning Person Or A Night Owl Don't strive to wake up early or stay late. Instead, optimise systems so that you can tackle the phase where your productivity is low. Here are some smart strategies. Read More , and you can put that knowledge to work in your batch schedule.
Once you have your batches in the calendar, you’re set to go! Now all you need to do is get to work.
Scheduling your task batches in Google Calendar might be enough to completely revolutionize your productivity. But if you need a bit more of a boost, you can use Google Calendar’s other awesome functions.
For example, you can sync your to-do list with Google Calendar How to Sync Your Google Calendar With Your To-Do List How to Sync Your Google Calendar With Your To-Do List In organizing your life, two tools are indispensable: your calendar and your to-do list. But most task management solutions keep these two things separate. We'll show you how to combine them. Read More and see your important tasks alongside your batch schedule. This might help you prioritize among tasks in each batch.
Or you could use the updated multi-calendar view 5 New Google Calendar Features You Have to Try! 5 New Google Calendar Features You Have to Try! Google Calendar just got more fantastic. Google finally updated its calendar. We'll show you how to get the new design and which new features you must try. Read More to keep your batch scheduling separate from your other appointments.
You can even tag your calendar entries How to Make the Most of Google Calendar with 7+ New Tools How to Make the Most of Google Calendar with 7+ New Tools Use Google Calendar to save time and make the most of your work day. These new Google Calendar tools and services offer a few more productivity tricks. Read More to see where your time is going and how you can improve your time management.
There are so many features and tools out there that you can do almost whatever you want with your Google Calendar.
Of course, it’s never that simple. There’s always upkeep. For example, you should regularly set aside a few minutes to review your batches. If you feel like a certain task isn’t flowing with the others in its batch, you might want to create a new batch to reduce switching costs.
And you may find that your scheduling isn’t optimal. Maybe you need more time in between batches, or you need a full day with no scheduled activities to catch up on things.
Even when you find the perfect productivity system How to Create the Last Perfect Time Management System You'll Ever Use How to Create the Last Perfect Time Management System You'll Ever Use Productivity is a constant search for more organization with less work. A way to accomplish everything you dream to accomplish, without losing out on sleep. Can this automated time management system do it all? Read More , there’s always going to be some upkeep that you need to perform. Batching tasks is no exception.
But when you batch your tasks successfully and integrate them into Google Calendar, you’ll have a nearly automated time management system. And it doesn’t get much better than that!
Have you tried task batching? What do you do to minimize the time and effort it takes to switch tasks? Share your advice in the comments below!
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