It’s Memorial Day weekend. A time for us in America to reflect on the sacrifice that our family members and neighbors have made for the freedoms that we all enjoy. I never met several of the men in my family, my Grandfather and Great Uncle in particular, because of their sacrifice. I thank them and all the others who lost their lives defending our ideals that we still work everyday to achieve through democracy.
To round out our series on How I get stuff done, I want to talk about batching. Rachel and I made a road trip to visit her family in Kansas this weekend, and we went to the farmers market yesterday. As I was walking past the booths of goods, it struck me that agriculture based businesses, especially small ones, are absolutely bound by seasonality and operate by batching. Knowledge based businesses really aren’t and so we lose a bit of a sense of the rhythm of batching.
I didn’t pick up my love affair with batching as a farmer, I picked it up as a computer programmer. In software, there are some tasks that are so intense, that you can’t do them all the time. You have to try to queue them up, and in some regularly scheduled window of time, batch the execution of that task.
Why am I talking about batching with regard to getting a bunch of stuff done? Because one of the biggest barriers I see people have with getting large amounts of stuff done, is coming to peace with the idea that they can’t do everything at the same time. And that the best way to make significant progress with high quality in anything, is to dedicate focused time to a task to the exclusion of everything else.
Let me give you a universal example of how to batch:
Projects can always be broken down into very small, efficiently executed pieces. What’s an example of that? Processing incoming mail (which if you’re like me you get way too much of).
a) First, just put all the damn mail in a pile. Don’t go through it yet, just pile it all up.
b) Then sort through the mail making piles of how mail should be addressed.
c) Then actually address the mail. Junk mail in the Trash / recycling, Pay Bills, Shred stuff etc.
Don’t try to do all of those things at once. It’s really inefficient and also can make you sort of bonkers. How many other things on your to do list are actually multi-step tasks, and could be broken down into batches? Start looking at your productivity as processes that you might want to hand off to a group of others and you will start to see areas where batching can be applied. This is honestly one of the biggest boosts to my productivity and mental health while trying to do a massive amount of work.
If I think of any other things that are key for me, I’ll be sure to let you know.