“Batching” is the second most important time management and productivity technique. Some people call it “chunking” but I don’t think “chunking” sounds like something I’d want to do.
The first most important productive practice, of course, keeping a day planner or using a program like Asana. But batching is so critical when you are trying to save time and get more done – especially when you are an entrepreneur.
When I had a 9-5 corporate job I didn’t really care how long things took me to get done. As long as I got my deliverables done on-time everything was cool with my boss. I would finish everything I was assigned in the first two hours of the work day and then the rest of the day kind of “looked” busy. It used to drive me crazy that I couldn’t just go home when my work was done and I had to sit there until 5 PM or even later to “look good”!
Then, when I opened my own business all the deadlines were up to me everything changed. I needed to get more done and be in more of a “flow” with my work. This concept of batching quickly seeped into my personal life as well.
Basically, batching is ploughing through a bunch of similar tasks at once… looking at all your tasks that you have during a certain week or span of time that are similar in nature and batching them altogether.
Have you ever noticed when you get into the groove with a certain task, you become more efficient as you go? But if you stop and start different things, you lose momentum by switching gears.
Batching is also letting tasks that are not urgent build up so you can take care of them all at once. Things like email, snail mail, voicemails, laundry, cooking prep, etc.
Batching is also the answer to our distracting, but necessary time consumers, those repetitive tasks that interrupt the most important tasks on our list.
People do repetitive tasks like checking email often for fear of emergencies. One, there are seldom any real emergencies. Second, of all the urgent communication you do receive, often times it is at a much more minimal cost to correct than forgoing the concept of batching.
Here are some of my favorite things to batch:
Emails – Email was never meant to be an urgent communication method. In fact, that is why I do like email so much! You can check it at your leisure and respond at the time that is best for you. The first rule of email is to turn off any notification bells or distracting pop-ups on your computer screen! The next step is to set regular times when you will “batch” all your replies. You can test with different time spans between checking your email that is right for you and your life/business but by all means let the emails build up in your inbox and clear them out all in one sitting.
Writing – You are probably writing a lot for your business these days because the internet is so content orientated … or, you wish you were able to write more. With writing articles and blogging why not batch a few projects together into one writing time when you know you will be the most creative and not forced? There is nothing worse than trying to write something because of a deadline and not just letting it flow!
Social Media – Social media is a great way to advertise your business for free or at a very low cost and build relationships with clients and customers, but it can be a terrible distraction and time stealer. It is the first place most entrepreneurs I know go to distract themselves from doing the really important work they should be doing. They do this in the name of “promoting their business” but really, they are just wasting time if they don’t have a strategy to post and a system for maintaining their social media. What I usually suggest is using a software like Hootsuite to pre-program your posts. For example, I post about six times a day to all social media platforms, but it only takes one batch of time (about three hours per month for all my posts!). For maintaining social media, just like email, you don’t need to jump at each new post from your friends, clients and family and comment back. Batch your responses to a set time every day or week – whatever span of time is right for you and your business and write everyone back at once. And PLEASE turn off your instant notification when someone posts to your timeline or messages you on social media as well as email!
Out of Home/Office Appointments – Most of us work from home now and although it saves hundreds of hours per year in getting ready for “work” and commuting, etc. – working from home can make the times you must leave your home office a real time consumer. I mean by the time you get dressed, make-up on, drive, park, and come home often it feels like most of the day was taken up by just one out of the office meeting. So, why not batch all your appointments into one or two days a week? You get ready and out into the world one to two times a week and the rest you can focus on your important projects and calls from home. Now I am warning you that these two days might be really long out-of-the-office, but in the end you will only have to get ready and be out for two days and the rest of the time you can focus.
Administrative Tasks – Administrative tasks in your business like invoicing, confirming appointments and updating your client database, etc. can be done in batches. Let these tasks build up until it is “worthy” to set some time aside and batch them. Or better yet, get a virtual assistant of actual help to help you with these tasks. Delegating is a whole other article, but one that should be considered. You need to focus on being the entrepreneur not buying stamps or updating the events schedule!
Beauty and Health Appointments – Why not have your yearly check-up with your doctor and dental cleaning all in one day? What about batching your hair, nails, and other beauty appointments to one regular day every month? You can also batch the appointment making for all these treatments. One day at the beginning of a new year just make all your appointments for that year in one sitting. It takes a little time to coordinate and set up, but you will be saving twelve phone calls a year per service. This goes for your car and home maintenance too!
Errands – If you are leaving your home office to run errands try to batch them all into one day and pay attention to the order or route you take to do your errands to minimize drive time. Don’t think you are efficient by running out the door every time your dry cleaning is ready – let it build up until you are out in the world anyway. For most of you this is common sense, but it is necessary to remind yourself at times. Sometimes we just want to get something checked off our list for the sake of getting something done, but that isn’t always the most efficient. Sometimes letting things build up is worth it.
Phone calls (especially sales calls) – I don’t know anyone who likes making actual phone calls anymore and especially sales or follow-up calls. But, in the business world it is still necessary – especially if you are trying to get your business off the ground! Try batching all your calls into one phone session. Keep a list in your planner on the day you will do this so of all the calls you need to make and jot the phone number down there as well. When that day comes just grab a cup of coffee and plough through the list making call after call. You will find that not only is it much more efficient, but you will have a better “flow” to your speech and attract more customers/clients to sign up with you.
Snail Mail and Bill Paying – Whoever said you had to check your snail mailbox every day? For some reason, it is ingrained in us to get and deal with the daily pile of mail. Again, this is mainly because we think there could be an “emergency” lurking in the mailbox, but really, how often has there been a mail emergency for you in the last few years? But, think about it – if you go to the mailbox everyday and sort through all the junk and deal with all the correspondence and bills that will probably take you about 10 to 20 minutes per day. If you “batch” all the mail collection into one day a week it will still probably take you just 10 to 20 minutes (this is because of the high amount of junk and actually stopping everything to go to the mailbox and evaluate everything. Batching your mail into four days a month can literally save you close to NINE hours a month! Here is the math: 20 minutes x 30 days a month = 600 minutes divided by 60 minutes per hour = 10 hours per month spend on mail! Or, just take 20 minutes x 4 days a month, that equals only 80 minutes or only 1.5 hours per month!
Prepping and Cooking – We have all heard that planning meals ahead can save you hundreds of calories and also dollars. But, what about all the prep work of washing and chopping? Can that be batched as well? Of course! So, the next time you plan to go grocery shopping (with your meal plan and shopping list in your planner, right?) add on just an extra hour or so to wash and chop or prep all your meals for the week in one session. Then, when you find yourself working late you can just literally throw stuff together and make a great healthy meal! You are only the sous chef or prep cook once a week and won’t make a detour through the drive-thru!
Exercise – Some physical trainers might disagree with me but sometimes I batch exercise. Hey, it is better than not doing it at all, right? If I see that I have a really intense work week coming up with a lot of appointments or speaking engagements I “batch” my exercise into greater intensity and longer sessions on let’s say four days out of the week rather than an hour of going-through-the-motions exercise seven days a week. You can also batch different techniques. For example, you can do all your cardio on certain days and all your strength training or yoga on other days. Again, I am not a personal exercise trainer – I just know what has helped me stay in shape and get my hectic work schedule in too.
So, what can you start batching? Leave your comments below on what you already batch or plan to!