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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Product First, Everything Else Second

Why try to market, organize a business for, or sell a product if your product doesn’t even exist yet? I’ve been guilty of this a thousand times: recognize a great idea, get excited, and run outside to get everything off the ground. I’ve filed Limited Liability Corporations, printed posters, made announcements, and tried to raise money – for projects that hardly even made it on paper.

There are several problems with this. First, you’re spending a ton of time doing work that is not relevant until you have something to show for it. Time spent on “extras” means time not spent developing great content, executing ideas, and bringing your vision to life. Product is at the core of every great business and must come first (pray tell me one organism that grows from the shell inward?).

Moreover, the execution of ideas seldom aligns with the vision outlined in the first place. After facing obstacles and discovering new approaches to the same problem, the end result may look or feel nothing like the thing you set out to build. Any time you spend marketing, filing papers, and chasing investor deals for your project before you realize it will most likely be a complete waste of time. There will be a major disconnect between the core and the shell trying to promote it. Everything you did outside the lab will be invalidated by the discoveries within.

If you don’t have a product or story to tell, nothing else matters. Forget all the extra bullshit and get to the real work.

Down To The Wire

Deadlines exist for a reason. In spite of procrastination and poor time management, they make sure things get done. Sometimes, all it takes is a looming deadline to help you cross the finish line. If it wasn’t for a daily deadline, this blog probably would not exist. I would not have written this post.

If you want to get something done, impose a deadline and have others hold you accountable. Simple.