The Secret Sauce to My Productivity

We’ve all heard the triangular saying, “You can only pick two: school, sleep, or social life.” Often times, us busy people admit defeat and pick two. Even though something is eliminated from your life, you still feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything done. You can rotate which part of the triangle you sacrifice, but the point is, you are still sacrificing something when you shouldn’t have to.

I’m a member of three college extracurricular organizations and take four classes a quarter. It was trial and error when learning how to optimize my time. And of course, being a college student means that not all of my days are perfectly productive. However, I owe all of my productive days to a book I was introduced to my senior year of high school.

This little, majestic, 126-page book is called Design Your Day. It is written by Claire Diaz-Ortiz, who was an early employee at Twitter and has been named one of the 100 Most Creative People in Business by Fast Company. Her book eliminated my negative view on productivity and taught me how to live my best, and busiest, life. The book’s central idea is that it is possible to “Do Less” so you can “Do More” with your life. Out of all the sections in this book, the one that has stuck with me the most is a practice she calls “batching.”

Batching is a practice where you bulk similar tasks together and accomplish them concurrently. This method has been the secret sauce to my productivity the last few years. For example, I will eat my oatmeal while simultaneously checking my LinkedIn and waiting for my tea to boil in the morning. All of my morning to-dos are streamlined into roughly 10 minutes. If I did each task by itself, those three things would take me roughly 20 minutes to complete.

Imagine batching as a set of baskets. For instance, one could have a morning routine basket, an academic basket, a Her Campus basket, and a social life basket. The baskets “social life” and “Her Campus” can batch together into one. By attending Her Campus meetings, you can socialize and spend time with your lovely friends while also checking off something on your to-do list. It’s the best feeling when my baskets overlap and basically take care of each other.

The transition time between different baskets is crucial to the success of batching. Diaz-Ortiz writes that “studies show that we lose up to 40 percent of our time in any given day by switching back and forth between tasks.” So, if you’re taking notes for a communications class, only work on communications for the time being and begin your Spanish homework only after you’ve completed your notes.

The time it takes for your brain to shift gears is valuable time to be productive. A good signifier to whether or not you’re successfully batching is how many tabs you have open on your computer. If I have ten tabs open and each tab is completely unrelated, I know that I have to choose one, reset, and get back to work.

Batching has changed my college experience for the better. Because of batching, I get to keep all three points in the typical “choose two” triangle. If this article spoke to you at all, I think you should sit down, write out what your “baskets” are, and figure out how you can batch them together to “Do Less” so you can live more.