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Batch Processing for Human Productivity

You are more than a machine. And while that might sound like a trite truism, it is helpful to remember. Too often, we expect ourselves to keep up exhausting schedules — but rest, joy, and creativity are all part of being human. Why, then, are we suggesting using a technological process to improve human productivity? Hear us out.

First, what is batch processing? It’s when a machine or system groups similar tasks to accomplish them without any human intervention. Credit cards batch process all transactions into one monthly bill. Similarly, companies don’t actually pay hourly employees every hour; instead, payroll batches their time and pays them weekly or bi-weekly.

Batch processing makes certain business procedures much more efficient. Surprisingly, it just might help humans, too.

Much has been written glorifying the ability to multitask. It makes us feel like we are being super productive when we’re not giving our full attention to any one task. Our brains function best when we are focused. Multitasking forces our focus to toggle back and forth between tasks, which is an inefficient and exhausting use of our time.

So how do we, as humans, realize the benefits of batch processing in our everyday lives?

Instead of constantly dividing our attention (aka multitasking), we should take a page from the batch-processing notebook and group similar tasks together — giving them all our focus. For example, group all writing tasks for the day together, and then set aside a specific amount of time to accomplish them. If you’re required to produce multiple reports or analysis at work, block out a chunk of time and produce them back-to-back before moving on to your next “batch” of tasks.

One area where batch processing is most relevant is in our approach to emails. We tend to check emails incessantly throughout the day, often while we’re in the middle of a task. This may be because our brain needs a quick break from the task at hand, because it’s a habit, or because we’re afraid to miss an important message.

What if we instead dedicated only the first ten minutes of each hour to checking emails, allowing us to respond more promptly and lucidly? Then, the remaining 50 minutes could be focused on completing a group of similar tasks without interruption.

Of course, our brains are not machines — they need breaks to refuel. But give batch processing a try, and you might be surprised by how much more efficient you become.

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