If you look away from your computer screen for even a second, your eyes are introduced to a world of distractions.
Your phone, chatting coworkers and many other, often self-imposed mental interruptions are the plague of productivity. It’s amazing what people can get done nowadays, considering a lot of things near and far are calling for our attention. Imagine the work you could accomplish if you had a strategy for blocking off time for specific tasks.
Enter time batching.
What is time batching?
Time batching is a time management technique that includes grouping similar tasks together and setting aside a time to complete them all or work on them until a predetermined point of progress. The purpose of time batching is to minimize distractions for a workflow that enables concentration, attention to detail, and productivity.
When you have a list of 30 small tasks, it can be easy to get one done rather quickly and then scroll through Instagram. Then you check another simple task off your list and you pick up a book to read. Separating your to-do list items into batches helps you dedicate your full attention to those particular tasks, as opposed to multitasking.
Let’s look at an example within your personal life and then relate it back to business.
Say you plan your Saturday to be a fun day full of chores around the house. You need to organize your closet, fold laundry, and do the dishes. You wouldn’t clean three plates, go fold a shirt, and then pick which drawer you want your socks to be held in, would you? No. Because it wouldn’t make any sense or be very time efficient. If you were to practice time batching, you would pair cleaning your closet with folding your laundry (because both of these tasks include clothes) and then do the dishes after.
Now your day at the office - you need to put together a presentation, send 10 emails, and write a report. You wouldn’t make two presentation slides, send four emails, and then write the introduction to your report, right? It wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world, but continuously switching activities and refocusing your attention is a gigantic time suck.
Why does time batching work?
People see success with time batching because it eliminates the presence of multi-tasking. Multi-tasking, or dealing with more than one task at the same time, is a productivity killer. Don’t take it from me, take it from science, and few different studies on multitasking and business:
- Multitasking can lead to as much as a 40% drop in productivity.
- People who are interrupted and have to switch their attention back and forth take 50% longer to complete a task.
- Multitaskers make up to 50% more errors when completing a task.
Building (metaphorical) structures and boundaries with your time make it easier to dive into a task or group of tasks without breaking your workflow.
Who uses time batching?
The beauty of time batching is that it can be used by just about anybody - no matter your job, industry, or role in life. Anyone that is looking to have a productive day and feel satisfied at the end of the day should incorporate time batching into their time management techniques.
Time batching can be used to separate any task, but they are often split into two categories: shallow and deep.
A shallow task is an activity that is quick, easy, and doesn’t require much energy.
A deep task is a lengthy project that is going to require a lot more time and energy.
When time batching, you can find a like group of shallow tasks and knock them all out at once during a certain period of time. On the other hand, you can also set aside a specific amount of time to make some progress on a deep task. Either way, you will achieve a state of flow where you are in the zone and making the most of your time.
Here are some signs you should be using time batching:
- You find it hard to concentrate on a single task
- You get distracted easily
- Your work environment is full of disturbances
- You regularly repeat certain tasks
- Your regular tasks are all related and can be categorized together
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How to use time batching
Ready to get started? Here’s the time batching process:
1. Determine your tasks
Before batching, you need to first see what kind of tasks you are working with. This step essentially includes writing a to-do list where you get a clear picture of what your day/week/month is going to look like. If you are going to be using time batching for both personal and professional tasks, make sure to keep them separate.
2. Batch your tasks
With your list in front of you, find related tasks would make sense to do one right after the other. Remember there is no limit to the amount of tasks that can fit into a certain batch, but there should be a realistic time frame. Even though the point of time batching is to help your attention span, we can only stay fully focused for so long before we need a break to eat, use the bathroom, or get some fresh air.
Say you have 30 similar tasks to do in your marketing automation tool. You estimate that it will take 3 hours. That’s a long time to be fully focused. In cases like this, there is nothing wrong with splitting those tasks even further into two batches of 15 projects that will take an hour and a half each.
3. Evaluate your process
After you have completed your time batching tasks, assess how well you did. This is something that is going to take some time and practice, and being a perfect time batcher after the first go around is not likely. After doing it a couple of times, you will learn more about yourself as a doer. How long can you actually stay focused? (This is different for everyone and there is no shame in your answer). Is there a sweet spot for the amount of tasks you can do within that time frame? Is there an order you like to follow? Do you prefer to do big or small tasks first?
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Time batching tips
Focusing on only batching your time is a good place to start, but there are some tips that will make the experience even more productive.
The point of time batching is to group similar tasks together for a more productive day. However, sometimes it makes more sense to complete tasks together that aren’t so similar. For example, say you need to go to the gym and do some grocery shopping. If the grocery store is on the way home from the gym, it makes perfect sense to do those activities back to back, even though they aren’t necessarily similar.
Set clear goals
Setting due dates and holding yourself accountable to completing them is necessary to time batch successfully. Having an end date/time will motivate you that much more when trying to be productive. If you set loose time parameters, you will keep pushing it back and cut yourself too much slack. When setting these goals, make sure you write them down. A Harvard Business study found that people that write their goals down are three times as likely to complete them.
Use the right tools
In the age of technology, there are countless tools that can help you stay organized when time batching. Project management software is the perfect tool for handling a lot of tasks at once. It manages both short and long term projects, enables collaboration on tasks, and analyzes productivity. If online tools aren’t your favorite, you can always get a physical calendar and write everything down. Or hey, why not do both?
Eliminate distractions where you can
Time batching is meant to eliminate distractions that come about when we go are constantly transitioning from one task to another. However, there are plenty of other distractions that we face during our day to day. Phones, TVs, friends, loud spaces- there is an abundance of distractions while working, and it is your job to get rid of them. Mute that cell phone, turn off the TV or radio, and find a quiet place to work. This will only help you.
Share your plans
If you work with a team or around a lot of other people, let them know that you are time batching for however long and would prefer to not be disturbed. Make it clear that the purpose of this time management technique is to eliminate distractions and stay focused. This way, they will think twice before reaching out to you during your designated time batching period.
Benefits of time batching
If you aren’t 100 percent sold on time batching, let the following benefits change your mind.
- Improves focus: Grouping tasks together will help you stay focused on one set of activities, as opposed to refocusing over and over.
- Saves time: Batching all your tasks together eliminates wasted time moving from task to task.
- Reduces mental clutter: Avoiding multitasking helps your brain stay calm and focused, even on your busiest days.
- Relieves stress: Having a big task ahead can be daunting. Using time batching to tackle it in an orderly and practical way will help reduce that stress.
Batch it up
Time batching is a great time management technique for anyone. Whether you get easily distracted, struggle with organization, or have a busy month ahead of you, adopting these practices into your daily routine will make you more productive, leaving more time for yourself. Try it, and let us know in the comments below how it's working for you!
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