Why Batching Works
Batching is the practice of doing a bunch of something at once. For example, checking your email periodically and dealing with it all at once, rather than as it comes in throughout the day, is a type of batching.
Batching is a great timesaver for many types of tasks. But why does it work?
1. Fewer physical transitions
When your email client is already open, or your phone message pad is already out on your desk, it’s easier to blast through a number of emails or calls. The act of moving to another location, obtaining other materials, or switching to different technology takes time, and batching can recapture this time for more important work. This is the most obvious benefit to batching – just as you wouldn’t make a single chocolate chip cookie from scratch, it’s much more efficient to physically perform a group of actions rather than just one.
2. Fewer mental transitions
Doing good work requires not only the right tools and information, but also having your head in the game. When you can do several of one type of task, the experience from one task transfers onto the next. For example, if you’re making a difficult request of one person, batch it with another request with someone else, so you only have to get into the mindset that these requests will require one time.
3. Fewer interruptions to yourself and others
The main characteristic of batchable tasks is that you can do several of them in a row, without stopping. Often, when we have to seek someone else to help with the completion of a task (e.g. the school secretary), we’re interrupting their other tasks. It’s much more efficient to interrupt once and hand over ten tasks, or request ten pieces of information, than to interrupt ten times.
4. The power of focusing on a goal
When you have ten phone calls to return, it’s easy to see the goal: get all ten done. Batching creates a clear goal for the particular set of tasks, and this goal will help you be more focused on getting them done.
If you’re not sure how batching can help improve your workflow, try keeping lists, and batching similar tasks as you work through each list.