Our brain prefers to work on brief projects as opposed to longer ones; battles are invigorating; but wars are exhausting. Chunking and batching make longer tasks more doable. David J Levitin, author of The organized mind, says that “working in chunks gives a neurochemical satisfaction at the completion of each stage.” This means we get more frequent rewards, which lead to sustained motivation to keep working towards our goal, whether it is to write a book or renovate a home.
I suppose that’s why I find it so much easier to write books by first writing brief articles that link together to form chapters. And it is one of the reasons I like to work in 90-minute chunks of time throughout the days and weeks. It has also been found that our energy rises and falls in approximately 90-minute cycles throughout the day.
All conscious mental activities consume energy, and it stands to reason that the longer the work session, the greater the drain on your resources. Shorter sessions, followed by a break or change of pace will reduce this energy drain.
Batching, like chunking described above, conserves energy; but it goes further by batching together those smaller tasks that are similar in nature and require similar resources. For example, I might have a 90-minute block of time scheduled for writing articles for my newsletter and blog, material for my newsletters, courses or website – all requiring writing, voice activated software, reference books, notes from my journal, and so on. A batching session could also involve communicating with various people by phone, text or email, both business, at a particular time in the day.
Other examples of the types of tasks that lend themselves to batching are back-to-back meetings, interviews and errands – where you visit the places farthest from your home or office first and work your way back. It can also involve reading magazines, blogs, websites, books and other resources in search of information on a specific topic, posting and reviewing material on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter or organizing a specific area of your home or office.
Batching consumes less energy and causes less mental fatigue since you are using the same areas of the brain and not switching back and forth from one task to another or putting demands on your energy supply by having to make frequent and unrelated decisions. It also increases productivity since you are wasting less time locating materials, interrupting yourself or deciding what to do next.
Forming the habit of batching reduces the practice of multitasking, and eliminates time wasted and things overlooked that occur when you constantly transition between tasks throughout the day.
The practice of batching can be further enhanced by alternating your chunks or work sessions with high-energy brain work such as problem-solving and decision-making with low-energy work such as organizing files or physical activity. David Rock, in his book, Your brain at work, claims that one big advantage of this strategy is that it gives the brain a chance to recover.
Whether high-energy or low energy, the important thing is to maintain variety throughout the day, and avoid scheduling the same type of work in two consecutive modules.
For further reading on energy management, including ways of both sourcing and conserving personal energy, you might refer to my e-book, Managing your personal energy, published by Bookboon.com.