Brain Science Your Way To
BATCH SYSTEM WRITING
WHY BATCH WRITE?
Producing a blog a day, scores of business proposals or half a dozen books a year is no longer considered exceptional.
It is today’s standard for anyone with an idea to advance, be it a new thought, technology or product. This high level of productivity requires an energy-efficient system, not long days and sleepless nights.
The key is batching: grouping similar writing tasks and focusing on one batch at a time. Within each batch you perform a single task and don’t let any other tasks distract you.
Batching is not multi-tasking, which research shows doesn’t work. Formula 5 isn’t the left hand typing dialogue for a novel while the right hand crafts transitional prose for a travel guide. Humans can perform two tasks at once, such as walk and talk, or chew gum and read a map. What we can’t do is focus on two things at once. Multi-tasking, like juggling is an illusion. To the casual observer, a juggler is juggling three balls at once. In reality, the balls are being independently caught and thrown in rapid succession. Catch, toss, catch, toss. One ball at a time. It’s what researchers refer to as “task switching.”
HERE ARE 8 WAYS BATCH-WRITING WILL INCREASE YOUR EFFICIENCY IN PRODUCING BOOKS, SALES PROPOSALS, SOCIAL MEDIA CONTENT, RESEARCH AND POSITION PAPERS:
1. ELIMINATE TASK SWITCHING.
When you switch from one task to another, voluntarily or not, two things happen. The first is nearly instantaneous: you decide to switch. The second is you have to activate the “rules” for whatever you’re about to do. Bounce between one activity and another and you lose time as your brain reorients to the new task. Those milliseconds add up. Researchers have shown that the cost of extra time from having to task switch can range from increases of up to 25 percent for simple tasks to over 100 percent for complicated tasks.
2. FUEL MOMENTUM.
3. ENHANCE BRAIN CIRCUITRY.
Repeating like actions rewires and fortiﬁes the brain’s habit-forming circuits for efficiency. This decreases productivity costs associated with task-switching because it limits the need for decision-making, which is a costly to the brain’s energy stores.
4. DECREASE RAMP-UP TIME.
Formula 5 batching incorporates triage into your creative process to prioritize current and future actions. When you begin a new writing task or restart one in “bake” mode, a triage system requires less time to activate task-switching rules. Also, it leaves no orphaned tasks, which take up physical and mental space because they haven’t been tied up in the easiest possible form to be resumed later.
5. SURF ENERGY WAVES.
In the 1960s, researchers discovered that the 90-minute sleep cycle – from light to deep sleep and back out again – repeats itself throughout our waking hours. The difference is that during the day we move from a state of alertness then progressively into physiological fatigue approximately every 90 minutes. Working in 90-minute intervals turns out to be a prescription for maximizing productivity.
6. SPEED WITH STRATEGY.
The key to a sustainable, pleasurable system for increasing writing output is to partner with the brain’s natural wiring. Time saved through multiple efficiencies, including aggregation, energy cycles, repetition and renewal add up. Consolidating work into intense and uninterrupted pulses, maximizes results produced per unit of time spent working.
7. PRODUCE DURING DOWNTIME.
Humans aren’t designed to expend energy continuously. Research shows that the brain’s unconscious regions have greater neuron density. They can move around more information and sift through more potential solutions than the conscious centers of thinking (called “working memory”). Letting your conscious brain rest enables your unconscious mind to take a shift sorting through your most complex writing projects. Reframe downtime from “slacking” to “renewal,” and pulse between spending and recovering conscious energy when there’s more to do. This will be far more productive than overriding the body’s signals to take a break.
8. HARNESS BRAIN POWER.
The brain makes up 1/50th of our body mass but consumes a staggering 1/5th of the calories we burn for energy. By strategically managing the brain’s powerful yet limited energy resources, we can write more productively.
SETTING UP YOUR FORMULA 5
BATCH WRITING SYSTEM
ORGANIZATION – REPEATED DECISION MAKING
From songwriters and choreographers to novelists and screenwriters, those who have mastered craft do so, in part, because they organize their output. Free your mind from repeated decision-making for rote aspects of any writing project. Set up once, a system you return to again and again for each new project. You produce faster because you don’t invest precious resources recreating the assembly line each time you use it.
Create templates for:
starting new projects (sandboxes for experiments, covers, references, appendices)
versioning (footers) and
archives (dated, nested folders).
Copy and paste templates into folders you create for each writing project. As you accumulate new ideas for individual projects in related batches, you are doing it within established architecture. When accessing a project at any stage of development you needn’t squander brain energy trying to remember its location or how it’s organized.
Automation allows you to move faster because you are reacting through cultivated habit, not repeatedly making a choice.
IDEA GENERATION = READINESS + CONTAINERS
Ideas flow at times convenient for them, not you: while you are driving, showering or running errands; and immediately upon awakening from sleep.
Be ready with containers for the flood: notebooks, voice recorders or mobile digital devices.
The more ideas you generate and document, the more you can execute on. This means finished projects and products to your target market faster.
ACCUMULATION + BATCHING = ↑ VOLUME AND TEXTURE OF IDEAS
Formula 5 batch writing, in its simplest form, is accumulated ideas over time in a unit of 5.
Accumulated ideas eventually presented as a singular, completed writing project is no different than managing multiple projects to completion at a traditional job:
You work on a project for a time then put it aside at a natural stopping point or because you’ve reached a stated milestone on the road to completion.
While that project “bakes,” you turn your energies to another which may not relate to the first.
You advance this second project to its next milestone then pick up projects three and four.
Ideas from the fourth project may spark an idea to add to project two.
If so, you place that newly-formed idea in project two’s organizing container where you are accumulating ideas for later evaluation and possible development.
WORKING MEMORY + BATCHING = WHAT WE KNOW + WHAT WE’VE STORED AND CAN RETAIN LONG ENOUGH TO ↑ THE PRODUCTION AND QUALITY OF 5 RELATED WRITING PROJECTS.
Computers can batch thousands of jobs. By contrast, there’s a limit to the human brain’s ability to consciously manage a large volume of ideas consciously.
That limit is called “working memory.” It’s the ability to take stored, conscious information and readily retrieve it in ways that allow us to satisfy a current goal.
MRI research studies show the brain’s capacity for working memory to be, on average, 5.
Attempts to batch-write more than 5 projects in succession is to work against the brain’s limits and court divided focus and reduced output.
↑ SIMILARITY OF TOPICS + GENRES + WRITING STAGES =
↑ BATCH ADVANCEMENT AND ↓ TIME.
This is foundational to Formula 5
Work with 5 writing projects that are as similar in content, genre and writing stage as possible. Think of the batch as one project with 5 related sections.
Batch similar ideas and genres (research papers, books, blogs, social media content).
Advance all projects in the batch of 5 at the same stage of writing: Idea generation, development, research and editing.
These strategies allow you to take advantage of the limits of working memory in service of your productivity.
FREQUENT TOUCHES X MULTIPLE VERSIONS = ↑ IN MATURE IDEAS WITH ↓ IN ENERGY EXPENDITURE
Advance batches by creating multiple versions of each project.
Rather than attempt to perfect a single project with each working session, touch projects in each batch frequently and cyclically. This allows for the “bake time” – objectivity and maturation – that quality writing requires.
This strategy will maximize your ability to refine each version of your ideas over time without taxing the limits of the brain’s conscious resources.
↑ MILESTONES = ↑ WRITING + PRODUCTION QUALITY
Achieving stated milestones is your most valuable productivity metric for each writing session. Not pages or word count.
Is the milestone for a batch of projects to analyze and flesh research? Line edit before sending to peer review? Tighten sections filled with clunky prose?
The value of your writing productivity is based on the best execution of ideas in any given day, not the number of hours you work or words you type.