Have you ever noticed that you do a lot of the same tasks every day? If you have 10 emails come in at different times, is it more efficient to answer them right away and get them dealt with and out of your inbox the moment they come through, or to gather them and complete them all at once? The answer may surprise you.
Every time you switch your brain to doing some other task, it comes with a mental cost.
Physically speaking, when you try to multitask, or when you decide to switch tasks, your brain takes time to respond. There are two parts to the switch cost. To completely oversimplify, one cost comes from the time needed to switch your mind away from the previous task, and one cost comes from the new mental control settings you need to do the next task. To your brain, each “task” is new, different, and operates under a new set of “rules” so switching from task to task is more difficult for your brain to accomplish.
Ever be in the middle of writing an epic scene when a family member interrupts you to ask you about the weekend plans? You start answering their questions haphazardly, and they’re giving you that blank stare. Then your brain organizes the right information a little more succinctly and you’re able to present them with everything they need to know. But it takes a minute for your brain to kick in, right? No? Just me?
It takes time for your brain to switch tasks.
In the age of information, where everything happens at lightspeed, it seems so easy to just check and hit send on that email and get it out of your inbox, but every time you do, your productivity actually takes a toll. Sometimes, like in the case of a family, the switching of tasks is completely unavoidable. Other times, like sending those emails, the tasks can be batched.
If you’ve never heard of batching tasks, let me give a short example. If you have three tasks due this week–let’s say, a blog post, updating a book description, and changing your website’s header photo to match your next book release, all of those involve work on your site, right? So these tasks can and should be done all at once. It is more effective to do all the tasks for your site at once than to work on it multiple times during the week on the day each work order is due.
Why? We are trying to minimize the amount of switching our brain does in the workday.
The video this week comes from Jordan Paige. This video is a little bit longer. If you want to skip to the introduction and get straight to the meat of the video, go to 5:52, or skip all the way to 19:43 for a more concrete example:
Okay, so Batch. Your. Tasks.
As Jordan mentioned, it isn’t usually effective to decide “Monday is for blog posts and paperwork day, Tuesday is for Writing. Wednesday is my Email day…” because as I always say, it’s never nothing in life. What you can do is set your day, in fact your whole week up a little bit like this:
8:00 – 9:30 Get Ready – Clean your desk, get your breakfast in, make the coffee, grab the water, grab the snacks.
9:30 – 11:00 Most Important Task – Work on your #1 most important task for the day. Get the words in. Edit the chapters. Figure out a story arc.
11:00 – 12:30 Work on your List Items – Mark off as many checklist items as you can for the day. Make phone calls, send emails, do the busywork just before lunch, when your brain isn’t at its best.
12:30 – 1:30 Eat!~ – You guys, I cannot stress how important this is. It helps regulate your blood sugar and your mood, so eat a good lunch. (Just don’t do it when you’re slammed. It’s always a bad idea. Trust me on this.)
1:30 – 3:00 Marketing and Dumpster Fires – Now that you’re revved up from your lunch, get yourself going to check in with your social media, and deal with difficult situations, because dumpster fires aren’t cute. Well… most of the time…
3:00 – 4:30 Check In and Prep for Tomorrow – How much did you accomplish today? What do you need to get done tomorrow? Meet with your agent or editor once in a while so they know what you are up to, send the last of your emails, and then check out and go home.
Remember to take small breaks in-between each block of time. If you work in chunks of time, instead of as things come to you, your brain has to switch tasks less often, and your productivity will see a boost because of it.