Are you interested in getting more done each day? Did you know that changing our brain’s focus from one activity to another and back (i.e. multi tasking) can cause each task to take 40% longer? It’s true, and the quality of what we’re doing can suffer as well. Unfortunately, in an effort to do a number of things at once, we are doing them all poorly or in a more time-consuming way. This was proven in a study done in 2001 by Joshua Rubinstein, PhD, Jeffrey Evans, PhD, and David Meyer, PhD. They determined that even brief mental blocks created by shifting between tasks can cost as much as 40% of someone’s productive time.
Why is that?
Your brain has a hard time switching gears. Each time your focus is interrupted, it requires a mental shift to think back to your original goal or task and get back on track. Sometimes you lose your original plan entirely with the interruption.
So, you can get around this by grouping similar tasks together, which is called batching. There are a number of reasons why batching tasks can be a better solution:
- Focusing on a similar set of tasks at once can help you to stay focused
- To put your brain on an autopilot of sorts once it gets in a rhythm of how to do that task. (Obviously it will depend a bit on what the task is) – for example, you can get in a great autopilot folding large amounts of laundry
- You also save yourself time on getting out, putting away, and cleaning of supplies on certain types of tasks
- You can save yourself trips out of the house or use of gas when batching errands
Let’s look at an example
If you are someone who pays your bills via checkbook – which would you rather do?
- Every single time a bill comes in the mail – pull out the stamps, grab the return address labels, find your checkbook, write the check, walk the bill out to the mailbox and file the remaining paper. Let’s say you have 8 bills in a month, so you are doing that 8 times. Say it takes 15 minutes to do that. You are spending 2 hours paying bills.
OR would you prefer…
- Waiting until you have your bills all collected for the month, taking one time of pulling out the stamps and the return address labels, writing the checks, walking all the bills out to the mailbox, and filing the related paper. If you pay them all at once, it may take 25 minutes rather than the 15 above, but that’s much better than 2 hours! You have saved yourself more than an hour and a half of time with just this one switch.
If you want to take it to another level, you could batch the process of setting up automated bill payments and save yourself the bill paying time entirely each month.
This concept of batching can be applied in lots of areas for parents and those running a household. Here are some ideas.
What tasks work well for batching?
- Meal Planning – Sit down once each week to plan all your meals for the next week and write a grocery list at the same time. (Check out our awesome meal planning tool here to streamline this.) Meal planning saves you from making multiple trips to the grocery store in the week and saves you time in not having to scramble and decide each night what’s for dinner.
- Meal Prepping – Once a week chop all the vegetables for the upcoming week’s dinners, lunches, and snacks. If you’re doing a certain meat more than once, grill or cook a big batch at once. Then add your seasonings on the day you use it. If you like eggs for breakfast, make a bunch of mini eggs in muffin tins or hard boil enough for the week at once. You will have less dishes if you do these tasks in batches than if you did them multiple different times.
- Packing Lunches – Once you have all the supplies out, it’s a breeze to pack all the week’s lunches at once and have them ready to be grabbed by your child each morning.
- Setting Appointments – Plan one afternoon to call on all the doctor’s appointments, dentist appointments, dermatologists appointments, eye doctor appointments and hair appointments that can be anticipated so you have them all scheduled and ready to go (for yourself and your kids). If you’re feeling really ambitious, you can also have an appointment day that you knock out going to as many appointments as possible.
- Running Errands – Pick one time a week to run all your errands at once. Plan ahead what you need at each place and then go to them in an order that makes the most sense for if you have the kids with or are trying to drive the most efficient path. (Keep a running list through the week of errands to run and things needed for the house – then use it on the set day.) If you want to include groceries in this, consider pre-ordering them and just picking them up as the last stop. Many stores now offer that for free and they will bring them right to your car. Check out the programs offered at Hyvee and Walmart.
- Buying kids clothes – Find a great garage sale, consignment shop or sale? Buy all the clothes your child will need for the next season or size. You’ll have everything on hand and ready for when they need it. You won’t have to think about running to the store for clothes 4 times in the next 4 months, because it will be all taken care of.
- Cleaning tasks – If you’ve washed multiple loads of clothes, folding them all at once is a timesaver. Change all the sheets on all the beds at the same time. Bathe all the kids at once (depending on how many there are)!
- Projects – If you’re going to make a photo book of your last vacation, it is easier to plan a few hours to start that task because it goes a lot faster once you get into a rhythm. There are many project based tasks that work like this.
This is just a start of a list of tasks that work well for batching. Have you thought of others? Let us know if you have more great ideas for tasks to batch by connecting in with our Facebook Community. If you liked an idea above, why not make a plan now on how you can try it out in your life?