Try Batching and Uni-Tasking…
We live in this world of multi-tasking, where the goal is to get as much done in the least amount of time possible. In working with students with executive functioning deficits, I’m always looking for “best practices” I can teach to them and use for myself as well. I’ve noticed that “batching” has helped me a great deal with productivity, and I encourage students to do the same (executive functioning weaknesses or not).
In the past I’ve used a method called tasking. It’s getting things done, but in no particular order. For example, I’ll prepare a session for one of my clients, then check and respond to emails, I may get derailed by an interesting webinar along the way, respond to a text requiring me to check my schedule, etc. I’m getting things done and feeling productive, but in no particular order and getting distracted along the way. While I can prioritize with tasking, I’m not necessarily grouping like tasks together. The problem is that every time a new task comes my way, my brain switches, taking just a bit of time away to think about the new task and then switch back to a different mindset. This is in addition to attempting to multi-task while I am working on one task that can potentially derail my efforts. A little task switching over an entire day can add up and greatly reduce productivity and output.
So what is batching?
Batching is taking the tasks you are intending to get done and “batching” them together as they go together. It is the opposite of multi-tasking and instead encourages focusing on one type of activity at a time.
For example, now I’ll prep for all my students prior to their sessions. Prepping all of my student sessions together for a designated period of time without checking phone, email or anything else deemed productive or not, and then chunking that task with other “like” tasks like returning client phone calls keeps me in student/client mode versus going to the market and meal planning, which requires my brain to shift to an entirely new task mindset. So, in my example, batching would be prepping all of my student sessions for a period of time and then moving to client calls/emails for a period of time, chunking like minded activities together. Then I can meal prep, get my shopping list together while I am in meal prep mode, and go the market. Since I’m out, run other errands in the same area, again chunking/batching “like” activities together and avoiding multi-tasking, which, like it or not, decreases productivity.
For students, batching could mean doing all homework in a designated period of time, with breaks, of course, or it could mean batching down even more by doing all math work in one chunk rather than switching from math to English and then to math again. Sometimes the brain needs a math break, and if that is the case, it would be appropriate to switch to something entirely new and different, like English. However, I wouldn’t encourage switching in the middle of a task or working on math for 10 minutes, stopping mid problem, and then working on English for 10 minutes. Try to find an ending point prior to switching to another topic.
Attempting to multi-task, which involves even more task switching, while doing math by having social media open, responding to texts, and even hearing the ding of a text coming in automatically switches the brain’s focus and requires the brain to regroup in order to come back to the task at hand. Doing this during homework time highly reduces productivity and accuracy, meaning more time and more mistakes. As much as we think we can do it and may even think we are good at it, the brain is not designed to multi-task, so the less task switching involved, the more productive and accurate the product.
Take Away: Have a visual of what you would like to get done in one day or afternoon and group like items together. Turn off phone and social media, or use an app like “Freedom-Reduce Distractions” to help you minimize your distractions and need to multi-task.
A little plug: The Integrative Study Lounge teaches students how to batch and “uni-task” (yes, I just made that up), allowing students to get more done in less time with greater accuracy.
For more info, please contact Michelle at firstname.lastname@example.org.