The internet has proposed countless productivity methods — Eat the Frog, The Pomodoro Technique, and GTD, to name a few. Now, there’s a new method to defeat procrastination: Task batching.

You’re probably wondering what sets task batching apart from any other productivity method. Tomato-shaped timers and Mark Twain references might catch your attention, but one thing sets task batching apart from other productivity methods: simplicity.

Task batching will help you stop multitasking and start putting logic back into planning your to-do list. But how exactly does it work?

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What is task batching?

Task batching is a productivity method where one organizes their to-do list into groups of tasks based on similarity. This way, they can complete numerous tasks at once without wasting time shifting their focus.

For example, a marketing assistant could create a task batch for all of their social media tasks. Instead of trying to post on social media every day, they’d start their week by scheduling out an entire week’s worth of social media posts in one workday.

In this scenario, they won’t have to shift their focus to social media again for an entire week. This might not sound like a big deal at first, but if they’re also handling email marketing, content writing, and juggling phone calls and meetings, task batching can provide them peace of mind.

If you’re thinking, “This sounds a lot like time blocking,” you’re not wrong. However, there are some key differences you should know if you’re deciding between those two important time management techniques.

 

 

Task batching vs. time blocking: what’s the difference?

Because of their nearly identical names, task batching and time blocking are often used interchangeably. If you’re practicing time blocking, you’re really only halfway to mastering the concept of task batching.

If it helps, think of time blocking as a rectangle and task batching as a square. All squares are rectangles, but not all rectangles are squares. The same is true of the task batching vs. time blocking debate.

All task batching involves time blocking, but the inverse is not true.

Time blocking vs. time batching

Time blocking simply involves blocking off a period of time in your calendar to focus on independent work. Task batching takes this concept a step further by organizing this time by subject matter.

By now, you’re probably asking yourself, “How do I task batch?”

How to start task batching

You can start task batching by sorting your tasks into groups based on similarity. The idea is to knock out related tasks all at once so that you won’t have to exit the flow state each time you complete a task.

Like any productivity hack, you’ll need to follow a few crucial steps to truly take full advantage of task batching.

Step 1: Create a to-do list

Task batching relies heavily on sorting your workflow into a “batch” of related tasks that you can work on back-to-back.

Of course, you can’t do this until you’ve taken the time to sort out your to-do list. Whether you do it the night before or first thing in the morning, make sure you keep your to-do list updated on a daily basis.

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Task batching only works if you can find some free time to get organized. You may even need to employ other time management methods to help you build out your to-do list.

Once you have a list you’re happy with, you can start batching.


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Step 2: Categorize and sort related tasks

Now that you have a to-do list in place, you can start grouping or “batching” your tasks.
Start by categorizing them based on category, objective, or even the amount of time it will take you to complete them. Ultimately, it’s up to you to choose the criteria. That said, you do want to have some structure.

For example, you wouldn’t want to group administrative tasks like payroll with a creative task like developing a marketing plan for the upcoming quarter.

Closing out of your accounting software, finding where you left off in your planning, and even mentally shifting gears can cost you valuable time — and time that isn’t accounted for on your calendar.

Step 3: Block off time

Sorting your daily tasks is only half the battle. You’ll still need to set aside some time to actually work on them without outside distractions.

Start by choosing your favorite calendar app. From there, block out time and label each block of time accordingly. This might seem like a useless formality at first, but it will help you for a couple of different reasons.

For one, it’s helpful to set reminders and view where your deep work time lies within a day littered with meetings and other appointments. Secondly, treating this task batch as serious deep work creates a sense of urgency.

Lastly, it will serve as a reminder for teammates who might otherwise disturb you during your focus time. In fact, Asana states that a lot of complaints surrounding the time blocking technique stem from managers who want to be available to their teams at all times.

This is a noble gesture in theory, but it doesn’t benefit either side in the long run. Constant availability makes it hard for managers to complete independent tasks. It also makes it difficult for them to give employees their undivided attention.

The point of time blocking is to give everyone on your team notice that you’re attempting to enter a period of heightened productivity.

Once you and your employees understand this, it’s time to take action.

Step 4: Tackle your tasks

The point of task batching is to save time by eliminating context switching between totally unrelated tasks.

Try to focus on tasks that segue into one another nicely. For instance, I can schedule content brainstorming sessions and create all of my content briefs for future blog posts within the same work session.

Of course, it also helps to have the right tools to help you manage all of your different tasks better.

How project management tools help

The task batching process becomes even easier with a project management tool. For example, with Hubstaff Tasks, I can set upcoming blog posts into motion with relative ease.

I’ll start by copying the Task I’m currently working on when I move on to the next one. I’ll only need to replace the blog post title, the URL, due dates, and any other pertinent information.

Duplicating tasks

The drag-and-drop Sprint view makes it easy to group-specific tasks. You can also add tags to help you color code, create checklists within each Task, and add comments and attachments as needed. When you are ready to move on to your next Task, all of the information is there. You can even group tasks into Epics.

Then, configure notification settings so that you always have progress updates for your tasks. You’ll know right away when you’ve been tagged in a comment or assigned to a task.

Why does task batching work?

Task batching works because it keeps your brain focused on one task at a time. In fact, the American Psychological Association states that we lose up to 40% of productivity when we switch gears and adjust to a new state of mind.

“We lose up to 40% of productivity when we switch gears and adjust to a new state of mind.”

In other words, every teacher that warned you of the dangers of multitasking was probably correct. Less than 3% of the population has a predisposed knack for multitasking. The worst part? Studies show that multitasking is not a skill one can develop.

In other words, you’re either born with it or you aren’t. Despite what you think, no amount of practice will make you able to juggle unrelated tasks with great efficiency.

With that in mind, task batching becomes increasingly important. Since the vast majority of humans are incapable of multitasking, it’s important to keep like-minded tasks together to limit the lapses we experience when trying to do more than one job at once.

This is one of the primary benefits of task batching. Fortunately, there are plenty of others.


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What are the benefits of task batching?

Keeps you organized

When you can batch projects and group them together into a concise block, it helps you stay organized. Switching gears constantly adds delays in the cracks between your time blocks. It may not seem like a big deal to be behind schedule by a few minutes here and there, but that time adds up and makes it impossible to catch up.

When you mix in group work, your day can really get away from you if you start to fall behind. Task batching helps to ensure that you aren’t working on focused work until the last possible second before a meeting, appointment, or personal errand.

This extra time helps in other ways too.

Reduces stress

By task batching, you can budget less time between batches. Then, use these small gaps to take a break, grab a drink of water, or go for a walk — your mental health depends on it!

In fact, a 15-second break every ten minutes can reduce your fatigue up to 50%.

Breaks aside, the simple act of breaking your work down into more manageable pieces helps you finish your day on time so that you can turn off your brain for good. You don’t want to be part of the 19 percent of people working 60+ hours a week — especially since stroke is 35% more common in those working over 55 hours a week.

Ready to give task batching a try?

It’s important to remember that productivity is a pursuit. After countless productivity methods, you might be tempted to give up. In reality, each new method helps you push yourself and your brain into new routines.

Has task batching helped you stay focused and prevent burnout at work? Do you have strong opinions about a different method?

At the end of the day, it’s up to you to decide what works best for you. Let us know in the comments below.