Batch Like-Minded Processes

Every January, my parents do a brilliant thing: they map out the year’s birthdays, buy cards for everyone in a single trip (often armed with coupons to save big bucks), sign & address every card in a single sitting, and slip them into the mail one by one as each birthday approaches. They save dozens of trips to the store (as much as 35 hours per year in round trips!) and finish the project with an annual peace of mind.

It might sound like cheating, but how many people’s birthdays have you missed? When faced with impending birthdays, it’s a lot of work to go to the store every time – the deed rarely gets done! Better to do it in a batch than not at all.

Batching like-minded tasks plays a key role in productivity. While multi-tasking, priorities get disheveled. You only carry out part of a task before moving on to another. By the end of the day, you’ve touched hundreds of things and finished nothing. Better to finish one stack and move on after it’s done. You may not make progress in other areas, but at least you can take pride in crossing something off your list.

The “like-minded” part is important. Managing money uses a different part of your brain than design. It takes a lot of mental effort to switch gears between creativity and cold numbers. The transition between may cost you time and quality. While the financials and design may fall under one project, they are not like-minded processes. Better to do the financials for three different projects at once – even at the expense of crossing a project off your list. You will hone your focus and build mental momentum to get you through similar tasks much quicker. In aggregate, you will save a lot of time and yield better results.

Study your to-do list. Group similar items by tool used, skill needed, energy level, people involved or any other comparison metric. Split tasks into sub-tasks if they need more than one different thought process. Tackle the biggest group pile of like-minded processes first. Then revel in your accomplishments.

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4 thoughts on “Batch Like-Minded Processes

  1. Good post. I only disagree with your last two sentences. In some cases, taking out “the biggest pile” first is not the best way to handle your tasks. One bit you left out is that some tasks tax the brain more than others. Creative ones, for example, are more mentally draining than rote spreadsheet/financial tasks. If you have a huge design pile, sometimes it makes sense to spread it out into 2-4 hour chunks, and space them out. Creative tasks can also be the most fulfilling, and as such we sometimes benefit from saving a ‘reward’ to the end of our work.
    Separating into piles is a must, but how you tackle those piles can be mapped out creatively to account for energy levels and pulsing mental activity throughout the day.

    • Totally agree. In fact, I go back on what I said about the biggest piles. I never do that – I tend to start with a very small one so I can accomplish a feat and move on in my day with more confidence.

      Very good points, Drew. Thanks, brother.

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