Darren at Problogger has written a great post on Batch Processing. Basically he has found that he can get more done by batching similar tasks together.
I generally set aside Monday mornings (and usually Wednesdays also) for writing posts. I take my laptop – camp out in a cafe – spend most of the morning off-line (so there are no other distractions) and just write. My goal is to write at least 5 posts that I can then use later in the week. Quite often I’ll write as many as 10 posts in a 5-6 hour period.
About twice each year I do something similar for Productivity501. I’ll spend about a week writing posts for the next 6 months. I’ll spend 3 or 4 hours a day for 4 or 5 days just writing posts and scheduling them in the future. I’ve found that this helps me really get into my work zone and I get much more done in a shorter period of time than if I tried to do a bit each day.
I have discovered that most of the activities that I do in my work can be ‘batched’ in one way or another. I have discovered that many ‘urgent’ things can wait and in fact to make them ‘take a number’ and ‘get in line’ brings order to mess.
There are a number of “urgent” things that become much less important once you decide they will have to wait.
Darren goes on to talk about how he thinks this works well for him because of his personality type. I think it is more than just personality. When you switch from one task to another there is always some overhead. In computer terms this is referred to switching context. If your computer is updating your clock and then switches to deal with some data coming over the network, it has to switch context or load everything back into the CPU necessary for that particular task. Computers can do this fairly quickly. Humans cannot. The more you jump around, the more you lose time between the tasks.
This is easy to overlook because you will feel busy, but a lot of the busy feeling comes from making the switch–not from actual work being accomplished. It is like walking to the store taking 10 steps forward and 9 back. Just because you feel tired doesn’t mean you are accomplishing more.
Check out Darren’s full post.
Arjun Muralidharan says
The overhead thing is what I thought about first as well. In economic terms, we learnt about “transaction costs”. For example, a sale of an iPod between Apple and you first required you to have an internet connection and Apple to process your payment. Credit card fees are a typical transaction cost.
And there are costs in commencing an finishing a task, which should be minimized as they’re pure deadweight loss.
thanks for linking up to my post. Your batching process is really interesting – I’d not considered doing it quite like that (ie writing posts for 6 months) – makes sense though.
appreciate you adding to the conversation in this way.
Mark Shead says
@Darren – Usually when I do the big batches, I’ll focus on a a topic or group of topics and do a bunch of short posts. For example, I might do a money savings tip every friday for the rest of the year and then come back and do a time saving tip every monday for the rest of the year. I haven’t had a big enough block of time to do it for awhile though.
Mandar Vaze says
I can understand writing posts for a week, like Darren does. But writing for next 6 months ? Isn’t that a bit overkill ?
Based on the example you gave, I can understand that your posts for future would need to be generic, but aren’t you afraid, that when they are published “in future”, they may be obsolete (or out of context)
Mark Shead says
@Mandar – It has worked well for me in the past. I’ll do something like a “quicktip” and write one for each week for the rest of the year. This helps make sure the site has something new–even if I get too busy with other projects. I haven’t ever had a problem with it becoming irrelevant, but it would depend on your subject matter.