Tools You Can Use- Batching Tasks

I feel like I can do a better job in the community if I am spending less time at my desk, so I am always on the look-out for new ideas and techniques for doing this. Batching tasks is my new favorite technique. I first heard about batching in David Allen's Getting Things Done book. By doing related tasks at the same time you improve efficiency and give your brain a chance to focus. I have heard that it takes the brain 6 minutes to move from one type of tasks to another and researchers have measured a 20-30% loss in the total time it took for subjects to complete two separate problems, when they switched back and forth mentally between the tasks. So think of all the time you are wasting every day switching from site visits, to grantee calls, to report writing. Your brain never has a chance to catch up. The easiest and most effective task to batch is the dreaded emails. If you have a little noise that sounds every time you have an new email or worse yet, your Blackberry goes off when you have a new message, shut off those reminders now. Consciously chose when you will read and reply to emails, so that you can be effective and not interrupt the rest of the tasks of your day because of the "urgent" things in your inbox. I have found that 2-3 times a day works best for me, so that I am still responsive but get other things done. Other tasks that can be batched are:

  • Site visits,
  • informational calls from grantees (i.e. schedule them all on Thursday afternoons),
  • writing,
  • community relations activities, and
  • educational or networking opportunities.

What other tasks have you batched and what are the downsides to batching?