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Edward Huang
Edward Huang

Posted on • Originally published at on

How to do more things with less time by using Batch Processing

Photo by The New York Public Library

In this day and age, there is more knowledge that we’re able to learn every day than all of the cumulative history of humankind. According to the Wall Street Journal, entry-level jobs are not considered entry in skills anymore, because automation has taken over a lot of the lower task. Therefore, new hires don’t have the built-in luxury of time to develop workforce toughness and professionalism that is often learned by going through the grind of an entry-level position. Companies are increasingly expecting fresh talent to start at speed, learn by themselves from the get-go, and quickly contribute results.

Therefore, the one thing that virtually everyone agrees upon is that there is not enough time in a day. No matter how wealthy you are, the one thing that we cannot buy more is time.

How are you able to accomplish a lot of things in a short amount of time? How can one create multiple companies while raising a kid? How do you free up your time to do outstanding tasks?

At first glance, it seems that multitasking might be the best option to get a lot of things done quickly and learn a lot of things all at once. Even though it feels like we are getting a lot of stuff done, a study conducted in 2001 by Joshua Rubinstein, Jeffrey Evans, and David Meyer shows that our brain is not as nearly good at handling multitasking as we think we are capable of.

That’s why I’m proposing an alternative to multitasking that is actually productive, a method called batch processing. Implementing batch processing in your life can help free up your time and increase your productivity. In this article, we will discuss everything about batch processing, including when you should or should not utilize it in your life to enable you to be up to 10x more productive.

What is Batch Processing?

Batch processing is traditionally a process by which a computer completes jobs in batches, often simultaneously non-stop, and in sequential order. Batch means doing things in bulk. In software, batch processing is designed so that all of the input data is pre-selected before the program begins to run so that it is able to run once through all the way to completion.

The primary purpose of the batching process is to conserve system energy by doing things in bulk and increase efficiency by using automation. For example, a bank will use batch processing to operate all their transaction once every hour instead of processing every individual transaction immediately. In machine learning, the batching process is widely used in transforming, extracting, loading (ETL) data by waiting until the data is in a large enough batch to do the operations, instead of reactively processing continuous data into the pipeline.

We subconsciously already use batch processing in our routine and many of our daily tasks. Batch processing is a process where you combine all similar jobs together, then complete them during a dedicated period without interruption. For instance, the post office will wait for a specific time to gather numerous pieces of mail before delivering them to a household, instead of delivering every single letter individually every time a new one arrives at the post office.

Why does Batch Processing work?

Batch processing works in two ways: 1) it decreases the amount of setup time and 2) it helps free up more time to focus on deep work.

Decreases the Amount of Start-up and Slow-down Time

Whenever we shift gears to do something, it takes an average of 15 minutes to regain complete focus. Therefore, doing the same type of task multiple times in a day will accumulate in wasted energy consumption; leaving less energy to focus on other things. The time it takes for you to shift gears from doing one task to another can add up a significant amount of load time, before you’re able to regain the focus state.

Helps Free Up More Time to do Deep Work

Deep work is performing an activity in a state of distraction-free concentration that pushes your cognitive ability to its limits. By using batch processing to tackle the more mundane tasks, you can dedicate more time to focus on your side project, side hustle, any creative or entrepreneurial pursuits.

When do you want to use Batch Processing?

Automating Tasks

Similar to how batch processing in software works to operate with the least interactions, you want to have all the repetitive task to be automated as much as possible to free more space.

Investing can be done using batch processing. The biggest mistake that an investor can make is starting late. Therefore, you can automate your finances every month by putting it on autopilot and using autopay. First, evaluate your monthly budget. Then, set up a multiple savings accounts and checking account to direct deposit to. For instance, I assess how much I will keep spending per month. Then, I will set up 1 checking account for direct deposit to my sub-account. That sub-account can be for paying rent, for any transportation-related, for traveling, savings for a birthday present, and guilt-free. Then, I will start automating my finance by making a direct deposit each month to each sub-account. Once I did it, I don’t need to look at any of my money ever because it is automated. However, I will re-evaluate my expenses, and change all the percentage once every six months to adopt any new investment or anything that needed to be altered. By doing this, I don’t need to be worried the bills that I will be paying, and I don’t have to worry about how much money is left when I bought that avocado toast, because it is all handled automatically.

Finding news outlet can be done with Batch Processing. Instead of you in search of daily news each day, let the story come to you. There are media collection systems that you can use which learn your reading habit and gather articles that you want to read. Service like the Skimm, which send skimmed version of the global news each day to your inbox, can help decrease all the time on searching for communication, and more time on reading news.

Doing Work that Requires Minimal Effort

Tasks that usually requires minimal effort are tasks that often have high repetition, with less unique problem-solving skills needed to get them done. To gain hours of our lives back each day, we can operate those tasks with batch processing.

Washing dishes and doing errands can be done using batch processing. Although these tasks take a minimal amount of time to complete, it can quickly accumulate overhead time if we operate these tasks often. Using batch processing can free up more time.

Laundry is often done in batches. Some people may do their laundry every day, but most people do their laundry weekly or bi-weekly, once enough clothes accumulate. Doing laundry every day consumes our energy to gather the laundry, put in detergent, wait for the wash cycle to end, put the clothes in the dryer, fold and put back the cleaned clothes. It also consumes water and electricity energy that costs money. By accumulating the effortless task in one sitting, we can save the effort of setup cost and use those time to get more things done.

Lastly, replying to emails and phone calls can be operated using batch processing. I have a dedicated hour each day, where I respond to emails. Then, I will close down my email and focus on other priorities. I will only respond to them if it is urgent.

When should I not use Batch Processing?

Be aware of overusing and/or overextending the purpose of batch processing. Some tasks that we do won’t be positively affected by batch processing. Even if we’re able to use the batch processing technique for these types of functions, doesn’t mean that we should.

Overusing them might result in burnout.

Creating Bulk Content in One Setting

Some people may be capable with implementing batch processing to create various materials but producing multiple contents at once can lead to lower quality and mental fatigue.

You need to understand how your energy pattern works, especially when it comes to tasks that require quality over quantity. Overall, batch processing will not make an impact on your energy budget when creating in-depth content because it is a matter of combining all efforts into one setting instead of separating them. It doesn’t change the amount of energy that you will exert on your work. If you thrive in creating quality content through smaller iterations, I would recommend not to do them in batches. I usually develop a routine in my daily or weekly schedule for creative pursuits because it provides time to generate new ideas, helps me balance existing ideas, and it’s an overall better energy management strategy for me.

Instead of flushing out all of your ideas in one sitting, it can be best to stop when you notice your energy and focus declining and pick up another time when your mind is back to the original state of focus and productivity. One of the tips that Ernest Hemmingway suggested about how to write books is to stop in the mid-sentence of writing if you know what will happen next. This way, you can ensure that you won’t empty your well of creativity and imagination.

Solving Multiple Complex Tasks in One Setting

When you are dealing with mentally challenging and complex tasks, you don’t want to operate the functions in bulk because it will create brain exhaustion and lead to burnout. For instance, tackling various sophisticated algorithmic features or designing a software system for a particular business requirement need a tremendous amount of energy and focus in order to create a superb outcome. Doing multiple complex problem-solving tasks can lead you to “productivity hangover” afterward, resulting in a rest day, or a prolonged period of inactivity.

Burnout often occurs when someone is doing a complex task at a long-term interval while feeling pressure and chronic stress. A lot of the time, problem-solving tasks require a high amount of focus to achieve good results. Spending too long on deep work can exhaust your energy and lead you to mentally and emotionally tapped out.

So, divide a highly complex task into multiple smaller bite-sized pieces. Doing so, you can tackle the tasks at a much higher quality, and you’re able to recharge your energy for the next job more quickly.

Wrap up To create more time in a fast-paced environment, we can use batch processing to decrease the amount of setup cost, and thereby increase more time to focus on productive, deep work. The batch processing technique is already integrated with many of our daily lives and routine. For instance, we do laundry once a week, and mail gets delivered once a day from the post office. These are the tasks performed with batch processing to create a more efficient system. However, be aware of over-optimizing productivity because it can lead to burnout and fatigue.

Lastly, it all goes back to understanding our personal energy management system. We need to hone our instincts to look at tasks from this point of view, “How does this task combine with my energy? Will it create more productivity in my life in bulk or in bite-sized pieces?” With that, we can figure out if batch processing the tasks will help us get more things done.


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