Batching similar tasks for the week
One of my favourite time management tips right now is batching similar tasks into my available working hours for the week. It lets me see the bigger picture of what I can get done, as well as allowing me to get into the flow and achieve more, even though I work part-time.
To batch my tasks I look at my weekly schedule and identify periods of work time that will suit particular tasks. For example on Fridays I get 7 hours without the kids while they are in childcare. This is the biggest portion of time I have in one chunk and it is the best time for me to really focus. So on Fridays I try to do things that are creative, like writing posts and taking photos. In contrast, on Tuesdays I only work for 1 hour in the morning IF my youngest has a sleep. In this time I schedule one of my blocks of answering emails. If it doesn’t happen I don’t stress, but it is also something I can jump in and out of without needing too much focus. My other batched tasks include social media updates (which I try and schedule now), packing and sending orders, contacting clients, doing technical updates, checking statistics and sales, tax, etc.
Why does this work better for me?
Like most people’s to-do lists, mine is usually ordered in a priority list. But the tasks to be completed are often all over the place:
- Compile photography blog post for Puppy Tales
- Email the distributor of dog paper clips
- Finalise topic for guest post
- Complete my tax for this quarter
- Resize the images for dog coat review
- Read coaching module 8
- Write back to September contributors
- Finalise newsletter content
- Follow up ad invoices
- Schedule Facebook post for tomorrow
I used to jump down my lists like a crazy woman, wondering what I could tackle in the next 20 mins while the kids were asleep. Sorting the list every time became very inefficient and tiring. Because I wasn’t chunking like tasks together I was also wasting a lot of time mentally moving between quite different roles. I would often end up multi-tasking and not properly finishing anything, or lost in Facebook wondering what it was that I was meant to be doing.
Batching similar tasks is a productivity hack that can save you lots of time. While my weekly schedule remains fairly similar week to week I do like to sit down on a Sunday evening to check the week ahead and remind myself when I am doing what. It gets me mentally prepared and gives me a sense that I am ahead of the game! I still have my to-do list but it doesn’t run me. I actually find that the list is also much shorter because I know that when it is time for a task like answering emails I can jump into my inbox and see what needs to be answered instead of writing “reply to distributors” on my list.
Another benefit of batching my tasks is that I think about the flow of my business and put appropriate business rules into place as needed. For instance, now that I know the times I will pack and send orders, I will change my delivery notices on the site accordingly. Or as I start to get into the routine of answering emails in blocks I am setting up an auto-responder that will let people know when I will reply and provide them with extra information that might answer their query without me needing to reply.
Crafting my week to fit in the kids, manage the household and run my business has become a little bit easier with this method and I enjoy the time I am not working more! Because when something pops into my head like “I didn’t write my newsletter yet!” I know I will deal with that when I come to the allotted time on Friday. Sure, there will always be emergencies but everything seems to flow a bit better.