When I first heard about task batching, I thought it sounded like a lot more work than worth the benefits. I remember spending an hour planning out how I would group all my tasks. In one day I’ll write three blog posts. The next day, I will edit just one. One? I didn’t get that by working in chunks on specific projects, especially routine tasks, I could free up my time more. There are only 24 hours in a day. What would you do if you had an extra hour each day, or maybe just once a week? For me, I would finish a book, cuddle with my cat more, and watch Netflix with my husband.
So, after the first go around was spent with me planning more than doing, I recently decided to batch my time, again. I can’t tell you how much more I am getting done! I work a full time job, run this blog, and still need to be a wife and furmom. It’s a lot to handle. So, I have started to really manage my time better. How? By being mindful of the blocks I set. This may sound similar to time blocking because it is. With time blocking, you set a limit on how long you will work. With task batching, you are grouping together tasks that you can put into time blocks. With batching your tasks, though, you are able to fill in those blocks with meaningful tasks; tasks that will propel you forward.
PRODUCTIVE OVER “BEING BUSY”
If you are familiar with the term “busy” that is constantly thrown around, you may be aware of how harmful this word really is. Being busy is not being productive. If you are busy, then you aren’t doing what you should be. It has become an excuse to say no to things asked of you that you don’t necessarily want to make time for. I get it, I don’t want to say yes to everything; nor, should I. But by distracting yourself with things that won’t push you towards finishing a goal or project, than you being busy is you wasting valuable time that could be so beneficial. We need to be more intentional with our time; know where it is all going. For me, if I am busy it’s because I became distracted. If I am productive, it means I am getting what needs to get done.
So often do we use “busy” as a placeholder that the slogans are on t-shirts, mugs, and everything you can think of. How does task batching replace this word/phrase? It gives your time a home. If you have one hour to clean the house, if you take a social media break, are you really using a full hour to clean? If you decide to multi-task, are you being productive or just managing to do three things at once adequately? Don’t waste your time; it’s too valuable. Multi-tasking will only lower the quality of what you are producing.
REEVALUATING TIME NOT SO WELL SPENT
When I tried task batching again, I tried to become more aware of where my time was being spent. I discovered three things.
I was browsing social media much too frequently between tasks.
Multitasking was getting out of hand.
I could only focus for one hour at a time.
When I really looked at what I was doing, I was disappointed in all the missed opportunities of time well spent. Instead of working on content creation, I browsed social media for forty-five minutes. During the time my husband and I were together, I could be seen glued to my phone more than him. I wasn’t making the effort I needed to be where I wanted to be; leading me into a rabbit hole of disappointment. I remember before I tried to gain back my time, I would be so angry at the lack of progress I made.
It’s important to be critical of how and where you spend your time. If you set up a block of one hour to work on tasks you have grouped together: writing and answering emails, following up on unanswered emails, and anything administrative related, you can save more time because you are forcing yourself to focus, are aware that there is only this set time to do these things, and you aren’t flip flopping between projects. Map out your day into three focus blocks; not necessarily by time, for each day. Break down the blocks by assigning them sections in your day: morning, afternoon, and night.
NO MORE MULTITASKING
When you start to track your time, you can start to see a pattern: how long you can focus for, what distractions are taking time away, and where you should be focusing your time on more. If you decide you want to get a better feel for how productive you really are, try a time tracking exercise for 30 days; this will give you a more thorough picture than just tracking for a week. Our brains can’t handle switching from tasks to tasks in such a limited amount of time. If you are switching from one thing to another every forty-five minutes or less, it takes more time for your brain to recognize that you have switched focuses.
When you group tasks into blocks, you are allowing your brain to stay focused. Of course, you are going to need breaks in between. If you haven’t heard of the Pomodoro method, you set a timer for a certain amount of time. When the timer goes off, you get to take a five minute break before resetting the timer. I like to do this in hour increments with a bit longer break (ten to fifteen minutes). I feel when I can regroup for those fifteen minutes, my brain feels charged enough to focus more thoroughly. Do what works for you. However, it is vital to take a short break for this method to truly work.
CREATING A WORKFLOW
When you begin to batch everything on your to-do list you are creating a type of workflow. In order to be successful with your new workflow you should be keeping it simple for your mind. If you need to send and answer emails, and leave comments on blogs or social media apps, you should do them in one block of time because it takes you the same effort to do each in separate sections; so, by combining them together you won’t have to constantly switch back to the skills/mindset used to complete the tasks.
Monday: Design work-- create two - three products
Tuesday: Content creation-- two blog posts
Wednesday: Edit two blog posts, take photos
Thursday: Design work-- promotional graphics, one product
Friday: Administrative, home
Saturday: Blog maintenance, content creation
Sunday: Administrative tasks, errands
For your workflow to be successful, you need to find out when you are the most focused, what days you feel the most energetic to do more energy sucking tasks, and how many tasks you should group in a time block. Try to make a habit of checking in with yourself twice a day; this will allow you to see what worked and didn’t turn out so well. I am all about checking off everything in my to-do list, but quite frankly I think you are more productive if you check in at the end of the day. Of course, refer back to your list or keep it visible throughout the day. Just don’t stop once you complete a task; you will throw off your workflow. Task batching can be extremely useful if you put the time into setting it up. It didn’t work for me on the first, or even second time. It’s all about changing things until you know they really work.
Take those steps towards reaching your prime, productive potential. Achieve even the biggest of dreams. Try and try again. If task batching doesn’t work the first time, try again and again until you find what does work for you.
Remember, it’s all about planning one night at a time.
~ Hannah ~