3 Hat Productivity

Task Batching

Do you find the prospect of sitting down to do an hour of totally uninterrupted work completely unrealistic? /Something/ always comes up a few minutes in: an external interruption, a reminder of something urgent you need to get done right now or you might forget it, or a vague boredom creeping in that pulls you off to do some quick shopping on Amazon and /then you’ll get right back to working on that new feature./

I used to have this problem a lot. One of the most effective things I’ve done to get rid of it is to batch my administrative tasks to Saturday.

This one simple habit has made it much easier to do long stretches of uninterrupted work /and/ to get shorter administrative tasks done faster.

In practice, here’s what this looks like:

In the middle of doing some deep work, my brain might distract me with the tantalizing thought, “Oh man, you know what you need to do? You need to order new socks because your current ones wore through the bottoms.”

Instead of zipping off to Amazon right away, I hit a keyboard shortcut to bring up Things (CMD+option+space) and type “buy new socks.” Then, I’m back to work, worry-free.

If I get a gift idea while I’m out having dinner with my girlfriend, instead of shopping right there on the Amazon app (to her great ire), I just make a little note on my phone to buy her a Bluetooth speaker for graduation.

At the start of each day, I prioritize what I want to work on and triage my inbox. Any task that feels administrative gets immediately pushed to the next Saturday.

When Saturday rolls around, I know that my only focus is on all that little komono I set aside for myself, so I can be totally focused on those tasks without worry or guilt.

Batching these processes has another advantage: I can do all of the similar tasks at the same time and save the transition cost!

For example: I can group together all the things I need to buy and buy them all at once. I only have to open a new Amazon tab once, and I only have to checkout once. Amazon makes buying stuff pretty easy with one tap ordering, but batching my purchases still saves time online and trips to the post office.

Additionally, once I’ve let something sit for a few days, I’ve robbed it of its immediate shiny power. In the moment of thinking that it’s really important to buy a banana ice cream machine, I might feel like nothing could convince me that I don’t have to buy it right now. A few days later, though, looking at the todo “buy banana ice cream machine,” I have to recreate that immediacy from scratch. Do I really need a banana ice cream machine? Well, no, not really. I think I just really wanted one because I was really hungry and craving sugar.

So: batch your tasks, kids.

Christian Genco

Written by Christian Genco. Follow him on Twitter and your twitter feed will get marginally more interesting.

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