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Productivity hack: Work in batches

September 27, 2010

Never put off till tomorrow what you can do the day after tomorrow. – Mark Twain

This is one of the single-most effective productivity hacks I’ve used.

Batch your work, throw it on your calendar, then when the time comes, power through it.  For example, put 3 or 4 15-minute blocks on your calendar for email.  Then shut your email off, only turning it on when it’s time.  If it’s important, they’ll text you.  If it’s really really important, they’ll call you.  If there’s a massive earthquake, the screams and shaking will tip you off.

Really, no email is *that* time sensitive.

Same goes for other categories like sales, research, hiring, customer outreach, etc.  Here’s a sample use case:

Monday – Saturday
Email: 9-915am, 1130-1145am, 2-215pm, 430-415pm
Sales: 12-1230pm, 3-330pm
Hiring: 11-1130am
Research: 4-420pm
and so on….

A few additional benefits

  1. Tasks generally expand to fill the time alloted.  Having hard and fast time buckets naturally forces us to be more effective.  If you have only 15 minutes to power through 100 emails, you’ll notice yourself being more selective and efficient.
  2. Knowing that these tasks will be taken care of in their due-time frees up the mind to focus on whatever’s at hand, not all the 100-something things that nip at a founder’s attention at any given time.
  3. The feeling of satisfaction as you check off that block of time and the work you accomplished.
  4. Peace of mind.  Trust me, non-stop context switching is a huge source of stress.

In fact, if you want more peace of mind, throw your internet guilty pleasures like Facebook, Techcrunch, Twitter, HackerNews, etc. on the calendar as well. Give yourself those 20 minutes of candy, let your brain melt, then get back to the next task at hand – the ones that matter, the day in and day out ones that’ll move your company forward.

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