Doctors spend more time charting and administrative tasks than ever, leading many to professional burnout. If you’re a busy physician in search of a shorter, more focused workday, task batching will help. 

What is task batching?

Task batching is a productivity strategy that involves setting aside time blocks to complete similar tasks in one sitting. The term “task batching” is borrowed from “batch processing,” a method for running software programs automatically in batches. 

Task batching is a productivity strategy that involves setting aside time blocks to complete similar tasks in one sitting.

The idea behind task batching as a productivity strategy is simple: distraction leads to inefficiency, so focus on one type of work at a time. 

Unfortunately, most doctors do the opposite, constantly switching between many different tasks. But the human brain works best when focusing on one thing at a time, and it usually takes about 20 minutes to refocus after a distraction. So whenever our work is frequently interrupted, we lose a lot of productivity to switching back and forth between contexts.

Of course, singular focus is rarely possible in complex work contexts like medicine. But you can create more focus and productivity in your workday by ignoring small items like phone messages or refill requests when they land in your inbox. Instead, set aside dedicated time to handle these tasks all at once. 

Blocking off time to handle specific batches of tasks will help you stay focused and get more done than you can while multitasking. 

Task batching for physicians

As a doctor, many people and tasks need your attention throughout the workday. You’re seeing patients, taking notes in the EHR, and ordering prescriptions. You’re responding to messages, completing referral paperwork, and coordinating with your clinical team. 

All of these work tasks are important and necessary. But your work can be more focused and productive by putting non-urgent jobs in “baskets” to handle twice a day.

Here are a few examples of tasks that many doctors could handle in batches throughout the workday: 

  • EHR input (if not completed during or directly after patient visits)
  • reviewing and planning patient care
  • communicating with other providers
  • communicating with insurance companies
  • obtaining prior authorization
  • responding to email and inbox messages

If you have regular office days with an AM and PM schedule, try setting aside 30 minutes to batch-process non-urgent tasks twice a day. For example, you could only check email and respond to administrative requests at 11:30 AM and 4:30 PM. Or you could put an hour in your calendar daily at 5 pm to close any unfinished charts. 

Using task batching will help you get home on time and complete work before leaving the clinic.

Benefits of task batching

Working on to-dos in batches can help you save time, experience deeper focus, and avoid burnout. Let’s look at a few benefits of this simple productivity strategy. 

Saves time

Studies have found that family doctors spend nearly 90 minutes with the EHR each night after work. If you’re having trouble fitting all of your work into one workday, task batching can help you be more efficient and minimize procrastination. 

Batching tasks uses time blocks to create a sense of urgency. When you’ve set aside dedicated time for a specific focus, you think, “I’ve got 30 minutes to complete these tasks!” This clarity can help you check items off your list rather than put them off until later. 

Promotes deep work

Deep work is a satisfying state of concentration that helps you create quality work quickly. By making time blocks for task batching, you set aside minor distractions throughout your workday and handle these in a focused work session at a specific time. The resulting single-tasking can help you spend more time in a deep focus state that is effective and satisfying. 

Reduces errors

Studies have found doctors spend about one-third of their workday multitasking. But interruptions, multi-tasking, and fatigue increase the risk of medical errors while reducing task performance. 

Task batching will help you focus on what’s at hand and ensure you’re providing the highest quality care possible. 

Decreases burnout

Physician burnout has skyrocketed in recent years, with anywhere from 47% to 78% of doctors reporting symptoms of burnout. Furthermore, many providers point to a growing administrative load and frustrations with the EHR as the primary cause of their professional dissatisfaction. 

Productivity strategies like task batching may seem disproportionately small compared to the physician burnout problem. But the truth is that every bit of efficiency helps. Imagine getting home even 30 minutes earlier every day, knowing that you had closed all your charts and completed lingering to-dos before leaving the office. Would you experience more well-being?

Try task batching to reduce EHR time

Task batching can save physicians time while producing more focused work, a hallmark of professional satisfaction. When’s the next time you can try batching tasks?

Put an hour in your calendar with a note for which non-urgent EHR and administrative tasks you’ll handle during that time. Then enjoy being focused and present throughout your workday, knowing you can complete other tasks at the scheduled time.

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