This week, authors J. Thorn and Crys Cain talk about the productivity tool “batching,” and what common and unique ways authors can take advantage of this tool.
Crys: Welcome to the TASM podcast. I’m Crys Cain, with my cohost, J Thorn.
J: I’m still here, Crys.
Crys: We’re still here! Still batch recording!
J: Third week in a row. Or second week in a row? There’ll be no updates.
Crys: And this will probably be our summers. We’ll get together. We’ll do about a bunch of episodes and then catch you all up on our life in that next recording session.
J: In all seriousness, productivity tip, batching really works for things like this because there’s an investment in time to get ready and record a podcast live with another person. The mental prep and the technical prep and some of the work afterwards is the same, whether you do one episode or ten.
That’s why it’s a common thing, and there are some podcasters who will, dedicate one day a month and they’ll do all their episodes in that one day. It’s a challenge, but at the same time, that means you’re only setting your mic up once. And you’re only thinking about the episodes once.
It definitely can work in your favor. The downside to it is that there’s sort of a flow and a rhythm that you build in the relationship with your fellow podcaster when you’re touching base every week. And when you batch, you don’t get that opportunity. The times are few and far between.
So just a little peek under the hood at what happens in podcast world sometimes that can maybe translate to the writing world.
Crys: Well, I was going to say we actually had a different question planned, but that question is actually more interesting to me at the moment. Do you mind if we switch the question?
J: No one would’ve known but us, Crys.
Crys: I could have surprised you just: this is our question. J didn’t know it, but here it is! So the question now this week is: how can authors benefit from batching?
J: Yeah, I could go on about this. I’m a big fan of batching. The other way that I think it’s labeled is time blocking.
If you hear people talking about time-blocking, it’s a similar concept. The idea is that you designate certain times and or locations for specific tasks and you only do those at that time or location.
Let’s take drafting for example. There’s a wide spectrum of advice on getting your words in. Some people would say you should write every single day, no matter what. And that if you get five minutes in line at the bank and ten minutes at the post office and thirty minutes on your lunch break, you should be writing and all those little moments and that’ll move you forward. And that’s true.
Other people might say you have to write every day, but you have to do it at the same time, in the same place, so that you develop a habit and a routine, and that’s gonna move you forward. And that’s also true.
But there’s also there variants here. Another example would be like what if Monday was your first draft day? And all you did on Monday was write your first draft And then you used other times in the week to revise, but that was the only day you did it.
The variations also come into play when you talk about your level of experience in writing. If you are relatively new to writing, I think it makes more sense to build the muscle and to try and write every day if you can.
But once you hit a certain level of proficiency, I think time-blocking or batching might work better.
This is something I do. I have a there’s one day of the week where, when I work on my short stories and that’s the only day I work on them and there’s another day, it happens to be Thursday, where it’s just podcasting. That’s all I do is all my podcast work.
And that really helps because I don’t have the switching costs in my brain when I’m going from one type of a task to another.
Crys: Yeah. I think that a lot of the admin tasks are really… how do I phrase this? What are the words? What are words? They slot really well into batching.
Crys: And it’s a lot harder for the specifically creative tasks to slot in. I know that when I go to changeebookmy ebook covers, cause I do my EBIT covers for some of my books, into audio book covers, when I create the ebook covers, those are generally one-off. I work on those until they’re done.
But switching them from ebook to audio is generally pretty easy, so I will go through, it’s just, switching locations of things that have already been created and the size. So I’ll go through and do a bunch of audio covers all at once. But when I’m doing that first creation of a cover? That tends to be more of a one session thing. I don’t do multiple covers at once, normally.
J: Yeah, I get that. Okay.
Crys: Other things that I’ve written down that are really good for batching are: newsletter, any kind of ad work you do, blog posts, social media. Especially social media, I think because the less time we actively spend on apps, the less time that gets accidentally wasted.
So if you’re able to batch those and then schedule them, or at least have them ready to copy and post when it’s time, that cuts down on a lot of lost time.
J: It certainly does.
Hearing us, you and I are independent creators. We don’t have quote unquote jobs, and it would be easy to think oh that’s great, batching is great. Time-blocking is great. But I’m working a job. I have a family, I have responsibilities. I can’t take a whole day.
And I think it’s important to know that time-blocking scales very easily. So if if you have five hours then that’s your block. But if you have 30 minutes, that’s your block.
And I think the important thing to remember with time blocking and batching is that you want to try it to be doing as similar tasks as possible, because every time you have to switch the task, there’s a cost on your brain. There’s a little penalty that you pay when you switch from doing one type of thing to another.
So even if it’s only 30 minutes a day, if you only do one thing in that 30 minutes chances are, you’re going to be more efficient.
Crys: I actually just thought of a great exercise that is an element of batching, but with the creativity. And I know that you’ve done this as you validated ideas and that’s to create like ten, twenty Pixar pitches in one or two sessions. And then you have all these ideas for stories, but you haven’t invested a ton of time into them.
But because you’ve batched created ideas. One, your brain gets tired of the boring stuff. So you get into the weird stuff and the good stuff much faster. And two, then you have a bunch of stuff to evaluate and see which ones actually stand out.
J: So true. And there’s a third benefit there too, which is subconsciously, your brain is working on those pitches.
So even if you created ten or fifteen pitches and you said I’m not going to come back to these for a week, your brain’s working on those in that week, even though you don’t know it. That’s why you’ll often hear writing advice where people will say when you finish a draft, you should set it aside for a certain amount of time.
And there’s no rule for that. But the idea is that your subconscious is working on it. So if you do batching and you have space in between, especially for the more creative stuff, you’d be surprised what comes to you in that in between.
Crys: Yeah. And this topic ties in really well with our decision fatigue conversation.
You mentioned that you don’t lose energy because of switching from different tasks to different tasks, which is an element of decision fatigue. But also if you’re planning for, say, a launch, if you do all of the stuff for your launch in batches, plan out all of your posts that are going to go out in the week before, the week after, your emails, and get those all ready to go and then scheduled, you cut down on one, a lot of anxiety that you’re going to forget something or that you haven’t done enough, because you can see your whole plan in front of you. But also two, the worry that you’re going to forget to do something. It’s just all there. It cuts out a lot of anxiety, which also saps your energy.
J: Yes. Good point.
Crys: Do you have a question for our dear listeners this week?
J: Yeah, is there anything in your life you batch? And maybe it’s not even writing related, maybe there’s a certain household tasks that you do at the same time in the same place every time you do it. And why do you do it that way?
So I’d love to know who’s batching and what are they about.
Crys: Thanks for joining us this week! Drop your answer below, and if you would like to be part of the conversations in real time, you can join us at The Author Success Mastermind.