Master Your Week: Batching Your Tasks
Episode #5 of the course Master your time: The secret to being insanely productive by John Robin
Welcome to Day 5! We’re almost halfway through the course!
I hope after yesterday, you’re now appreciating the power of the Pareto threshold in your daily focused work.
Today, we’re going to explore that daily limit a bit further and what it takes to go past five hours of focused work on weekdays.
Batching Your Tasks
Have you ever worked on a project that was so engrossing, you looked up at the clock only to discover that hours have passed?
If so, then you’ve experienced the power of work momentum.
The hardest part of any focused work is getting started. Likewise, the hardest part of stopping focused work is having to restart later.
You’ve probably experienced this with your own work. For me, I especially appreciate it when I’m working on a writing project—for example, working on this course.
I could have planned out one block of 3 x 25 minutes/day and progressed by 75 minutes of focused work each day on it until it was complete. The upside to this is that in a work day, I can tackle various tasks in other blocks, with progress on this course being one of them.
The problem is that I gain momentum, then after I’m right in the flow of single focus on a single thing, I have to stop and switch mental gears. Whatever I would do next, I’m stuck with the same problem of having to gain momentum in something else.
By the time my five-hour Pareto threshold for the day hits, I’ve done four different things and I’m mentally exhausted.
Enter batching, the technique I’m going to teach you today.
Again, let’s take the example of my writing this course and how I actually did it:
I planned my work week so when I actually began this course, I would do no other focused writing work until it was done. This way, I only have to start once, then I continue the momentum of this single task until it’s complete. When I stop, I’m done with the course, and I can turn my energy to starting up another focused task.
Master Your Week
This principle is the key to mastering your week.
Writing this course is about a ten- to twelve-hour job. Broken down into the specific 25-minute periods of focus, that’s 40-48 of them.
Now, when my mind is focused singly on the energy of writing this course, every time I put in my blocks of work, I’m driven by the forward momentum.
When Monday comes and I’m staring at my five-hour Pareto limit, I can easily push past this because of the momentum. I have even had occasional weekdays where I will put in seven blocks of 3 x 25-minute focus periods, i.e., 8.75 hours of focused work. It all depends on the project and how I’ve planned the day, but in terms of the “Monday to Thursday punch,” the stronger the punch, the sooner I get to enjoy the rest of the week.
Batch your tasks. Whatever work you’re going to do, you now have two levels on which you can tackle it:
• the 25-minute period of focus itself
• the blocks of 25-minute periods, which you’ll spend on the task until its objective is met
For example, with this course, the objective guiding the 25-minute periods is: Finish, revise, and submit the draft for review.
Pick your objectives so they have a logical break point. If you have to read a chapter for your psychology course, then that objective can be what drives your batch: It might take 15 periods of 25-minute focus to get through everything (depending on how many notes you have to take and concepts to unpack), but the idea is that you aren’t just coasting along.
The key here is the momentum this single focus creates. It’s so strong, in fact, that it doesn’t matter if the blocks of a given batch carry over multiple days (e.g., this course and its ~16 ultradian blocks). Mentally having your head in one gear gives you an extra level of momentum when you start each day.
Batching your tasks lets you line up your 25-minute periods of focus to drive you further in a given day, past where your attention naturally starts to fall apart (approximately five hours). This is important to help you get more done on weekdays, to reach your Pareto threshold for the week (33.6 hours) and have the weekends free.
Your homework is to create a large batch that spans more than five hours of total work, then tackle that in blocks to harness the power of momentum.
Tomorrow, we’re going to talk about the number-one enemy to batching: commitments and the necessity of saying NO.
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