Batch Work For Your Brain

Today’s topic – overwhelm. More specifically, a strategy to deal with that overwhelm. 

We’ve talked about a few different strategies including spoon theory, five in the moment strategies to help you ground yourself, and an interview with the author of Overwhelmed: Work, Love and Play When Nobody Has The Time

Today, however, I want to talk about a strategy that you can apply in your personal and professional life that has made a huge difference in my own life – batch work. 

batch work

What in the heck is batch work? Batch work is when you dedicate a period of time to doing one task… again and again and again. Think meal prepping – I’d say this is the most popular form of batch work for the average human being. You set aside a period of time to plan, shop, prep and maybe even cook your meals for a certain number of days. The intention is that it saves you time and energy in the long run. And it works, right? 

Any of you meal preppers out there know that it might be annoying in the moment (I personally don’t jump for joy at meal planning, but I find ways to make it enjoyable), but the dividends are huge. Instead of thinking on and off throughout the day about what I’m going to cook – it’s done! Hey presto, tonight I know that we’re having Mexican Quinoa, I have all the ingredients, and I’ve prepped what I can. 

But how does batch work apply to other areas of our lives. 

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First off you have to embrace the FACT that multi-tasking isn’t a real thing. Yes, you can stir a soup and have a conversation at the same time, but can you work on three projects at once? Not effectively?

How many tabs do you have open on your computer on average? I’m going to guess more than five. Now… how many of those are related to the project you’re working on this second? 

We do this, right? We switch from task to task to task and expect our brain to be able to keep up. But our brain wasn’t designed to go this quickly. We are not a computer, and even computers overheat from time to time and need to cool down. It’s not so obvious for us humans when the fan is trying to start up in our brain. 

Here’s how batch working can apply to the workplace. What is a task or a project that you do weekly or monthly? For me, it’s podcasting. I do interview recordings and I do solo recordings. For interviews I need to source guests, record with them, edit the episodes, put up show notes and then schedule them on social media. It’s a lot. 

Without batching, that’s about 6 hours that I have to piece together throughout a week for an interview. Or 2-3 hours for a solo episode. 

When I batch, I plan for a day a month that I dedicate to editing episodes and putting up show notes. It’s pretty rad. 

Let me clarify – it’s HARD in the moment. I like variety. I like changing things up. So, the first time that I went into batch mode I resented it. I wanted badly to switch tasks, because that’s what I have trained myself into. 

Switch. Switch. Swtich. 

But you know what happens when we constantly switch tasks? Science shows that we are up to 40% less productive when we’re multi-tasking, that we’re up to 50% more likely to make errors and that we take up to 50% longer to finish said task. 

Gah. That’s pretty bad. 

For an entrepreneur and a mom of two, time is my biggest value. I don’t have a lot of it, so I have to spend it wisely. 

Once I started batch working, and doing it consistently, things started to shift. I felt this HUGE relief each week when my podcast would come out as scheduled, instead of me rushing to upload it the night before. 

I’ve applied this to other areas of my life and business including:

  • Expenses
  • Planning the kids clothes for a week at a time
  • Meal planning (obviously)
  • Administrative tasks
  • Growth time (time to read and generate new ideas)
  • Social media scheduling
  • Calendar planning with my husband

There are plenty of ways that you can apply this. Again, look at your work role. What would change if you were able to batch at least one type of work? 

Here’s what batch working (when I do it consistently) has done for me:

  • More clarity
  • Less dread
  • Feeling more on top of things
  • A sense of calm
  • A sense of accomplishment
  • Increased organization
  • Increased efficiency

But, how do you start?

First things first you need to clear off some time on your calendar and COMMIT to it. That day (or half day) is non-negotiable. Next you have to remind yourself of the why, especially if the idea of spending hours on one task goes against your norm. Then you have to create the space to do it. It’s one thing to have the time booked on your calendar, but it’s another to avoid emails and succumbing to the ping of notifications on your phone. And finally… reward yourself! At the end of that stretch you get… whatever it is that appeals to you. A fancy coffee, to go to your favourite workout class, date night, you name it.

Will you try it? I’d love to know. 

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