Before we jump into the blog post, I want to quickly let you know that I’m currently accepting new one-on-one coaching clients who want a little extra guidance with changing their productivity habits. You can read more about my coaching practice here and book a session here. You can also download a FREE guide to habit formation and maintenance by subscribing to The Tending Letter in the yellow box below this post. Thanks for your time, and enjoy the blog post!
Momentum & Writing Update
I know you’re wondering what “batchotasking” is, but I want to share another update on this month’s theme, momentum. Want to learn how to gain momentum in your own writing? Check out my 2.6 blog post.
I hit 55% of my 10,000 word stretch goal for the month in the first week. Last week, I added 2,068 words, bringing me up to 6,124, or 61% of my goal.
Why the shift in writing output?
1) I lost a workday on Tuesday due to car trouble (waiting hours in a snowstorm for AAA to come tow me and replace my alternator and battery).
2) I chose to focus on revision of my Graduate Feminist Certificate paper on Wednesday and Thursday.
Even though it may look like I lost momentum on my writing output, I feel great about the work I got done. I’m still 2,457 words above my original goal (the one where I aim to write 333 words/day for 31 days). Also, I’m still not working on my academic work on the weekends, which feels like a major, healthy shift away from workaholism. Look for another report next week!
WTF is Batchotasking?
I love productivity. I love personal development. Most of all, I love blending them together to bring more intention, mindfulness, and success to my life. Batchotasking helps me do these things with confidence and a big ol’ sigh of relief.
Batchotasking is a combination of batching with monotasking. You’ve likely heard of the second one (perhaps from my 1.29 post, “Monotasking vs. Task Switching”?) but you may be a little murky on the action of batching. Don’t worry, I’ll give you a brief overview of both and teach you what they can do for you with their powers combined. As always, takeaway prompts abound so you can start batchotasking today.
When we think we are multitasking we are actually task switching. According to productivity reasearcher Chris Bailey, “It’s impossible for our brains to focus on two tasks at once—it’s actually rapidly switching between them. Instead of channeling our complete focus and energy into one task, we spread it thin, which prevents us from diving deep into any one of our tasks.” When we think we are multitasking, we are repeatedly pulling our focus away from not only one task, but two of them!
If task switching actually makes us do worse at our tasks, why would we do it? Tim Elcore answers our question in “The Unintended Consequences of Multi-Tasking”: crossing things off of our to do list when we are task switching releases dopamine into our systems. Because of this, “[w]e tend to pursue more short-term tasks that give us this dopamine shot, and soon we’re caught up in quantity over quality. We actually work harder, not smarter. And we don’t really focus. We assume we’re doing more and better, but in reality we trade in value for speed and volume.”
If you are thinking “Whatever, Kate. Multitasking is so a thing. I multitask like a badass,” then please remember the scene in Harry Potter when Hermione corrects Ron’s mispronunciation of a spell. (It’s LeviOsa, not LevioSA?) It’s task switching, not multitasking. While you might not take someone’s eye out if you choose to rapidly switch between tasks, you will likely end up overwhelmed, confused as to why you haven’t been more successful, and potentially talking shit on yourself to yourself.
Batch = a noun and a verb. You’ve maybe heard the noun form it in terms of whipping up a batch of cookies? (One of the definitions for batch is literally “the quantity baked at one time.”) Slap on a gerund and you get a verb form: batching.
When we apply it to productivity, batching means assigning a particular task to a particular day and time. It’s a popular topic among entruprenuers, who say that they usually dedicate Monday to one task, such as recording podcasts, Tuesday to another, such as working with clients, Wednesday to another, such as invoicing, etc.
I don’t have a Harry Potter metaphor to offer you in praise of batching, but I can tell you a few reasons why I think it’s beneficial. Batching can help you…
- Practice setting healthy boundaries around work output, since it requires you to put tasks back on the shelf when you end your batching time. (This is particularly important for people with workaholic tendencies.)
- Identitfy which goals are manageable and achievable for a particular batching session, which will enble you to feel proud of progress along the way.
- Prioritize your highest impact tasks and get down to business, which will boost your agency and focus your resources.
- Make habit formation easier, because you can tie particular cues and rewards to batched routines.
How Do I Do It?
All you have to do is batch your monotasking into sessions.
You might be concerned, wondering, “That is too much structure for me. I’m a rhythm person and don’t like to be tied down to a predetermined to-do list. I like to go with the flow and see where my interests take me.”
Don’t worry: batchotasking works with routines, rhythms, depth, breadth, inspiration, stream-of-consciousness writing, and other preferences. The only requirement is that you is that you focus on one general task in one general time…and don’t task switch!
Still not convinced? Check out what batchotasking has allowed me to do:
- Not work past 6pm
- Not work on weekends
- Write an average of 662 words per hour for my dissertation chapter draft
- Priotize exercise, cooking, and self-care
- Build small habits during the turnover from one batchotask to the next, like drinking more water and washing dishes
If you do it with intention, batchotasking will help you to shift your habits, enhance your focus, and set boundaries around your productivity, which will earn you more confidence and allow you to reserve energy for down time activities (which you can also batchotask).
Set Yourself Up for Batchotask Success
I encourage you to make a batchotasking plan ahead of time. To do this, you will need to select a task and select a time. You can make this as general or as specific as you prefer. Here’s an example:
Wednesday: Work on dissertation chapter in the morning
- read or write
- end goal of 10,000 words by end of month
Wednesday: Morning dissertation routine
- 7-8am: stretch, power breakfast, coffee + water
- 8-11am: Work at home and…
- Set 3 dissertation goals and write them in dissertation journal before I work (one should be to write 333 words, others can include reading and taking notes)
- Use Pomodoro method to work in pulses and pauses. Stand up and walk around during breaks (no screens!)
- Use final Pomodoro to record daily dissertation progress in dissertation journal
Both lists say the same thing: work on that dissertation! While some people may prefer the freedom of the general side, I personally prefer the specific side. In fact, the specific list is literally my exact morning routine for 4-5 days of the week.
How to Stay on Batchtoask
Use a pulse and pause method, such as pomodoros (25 minutes work; 5 minutes break; repeat four times then take 15 minute break). I use the app BeFocused on my iPhone and the Tomato Timer on my laptop. Want to track your progress? Check out this free Pomodoro Schedule Tracker from Oh Adele Can.
Avoid e-distractions. Worried about the endless distractions of social media or online shopping or Googling “baby animals”? Try an internet blocker. I use the applications Freedom and Antisocial, which block the internet and specific websites, respectively. I purchased lifetime memberships to those apps years ago when they were much cheaper, but you can see a list of cheap and free internet and selective website blockers here.
Stick a fork in it. When you finish your batchotasking session, put that task back on the shelf for the day or the week. If you monotasked, focused, and tried your best, then you’ve done everything you can, AKA you did a good job! Give yourself permission to leave that task within its batchotasked boundaries, check it off your must-do list, and move on to your other batched monotasks…which includes things like hanging with friends without checking work email on your phone! You deserve it, tenderheart.