Boost Your Productivity By Working in Batch Mode

By Jack Rosenberger

One of the best pieces of productivity advice I’ve found during the last several years is this quote from computer scientist Donald Knuth—who is best known for his ongoing, multi-volume The Art of Computer Programming—and which can be found on his Stanford University homepage: “The only way to gain enough efficiency to complete The Art of Computer Programming is to operate in batch mode, concentrating intensively and uninterruptedly on one subject at a time, rather than swapping a number of topics in and out of my mind.”

When I have a high-intensity task to perform, such as writing a blog post or editing an article, I follow Knuth’s model of working in batch mode. In layperson’s terms, operating in batch mode means focusing. When I’m working in batch mode, I am totally focused on the task before me. Nothing else matters.

Operating in batch mode helps me, as an editor and writer, perform my best work. Not only am I able to devote my full attention to the project at hand, but I find that I often complete it in a very efficient manner.

Many people like to multitask, but studies have shown that multitasking can reduce productivity by approximately 40 percent, according to some researchers. Why? Because the constant switching from one task to another makes it difficult to avoid distractions and can even produce mental blocks that impede your work progress. (For more information on the cognitive costs of multitasking, click here.)

Thanks to Charles Duhigg, author of the best-selling The Power of Habits, people are becoming more aware of the powerful impact that habits have upon our lives. Emulate Donald Knuth’s example of operating in batch mode and make it a work habit of yours. If you’re like me, you’ll find the rewards to be endless.

About the Author

Jack Rosenberger is the managing editor of CIO Insight. You can follow him on Twitter via @CIOInsight.

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