Do you find yourself struggling to get tasks done at once? Are you easily distracted while working on one task after another? If so, maybe it’s time to modify the way you perform work tasks. If you’re used to a batch time format of work, you may be familiar with the process of time batching. It’s been around for some time, and very common in production work environments.
Batch Time Format: What is time batching?
Time batching is a fundamental process of doing certain tasks during a specific time frame. Rather than spreading them out throughout the day, you set aside time to get all of those tasks down in one sitting.
Time batching can be more efficient for those who struggle to hold off on other tasks later in the day. By scheduling these tasks through time batching, it’s easier and can help workers be more productive.
One common approach to time batching is email management. As most people are aware, email can be a significant productivity killer. People tend to get stuck in an email when they could be focused on more complex tasks.
More so, the solution to email is inbox zero. Inbox zero means having an empty inbox by the middle or the end of your workday. The goal is not to have any emails leftover for the next day. It helps people stay organized and prevent their inboxes from being flooded with numerous emails.
Inbox zero is the primary focus of services such as Sanebox. If you’re interested in learning more, check out my recent review of Sanebox for email management.
How does it apply to inbox zero?
Time batching can be beneficial when we want to save time. These days, email is constant, so a lot of people are wired to check it all the time. However, that can end up costing you time later in the day.
That time you lost could have been spent on fulfilling difficult tasks or doing tasks during times you’re at peak performance. As I’ve mentioned before, the peak performance period is when you’re likely to perform your best work. That can be in the morning or early afternoon, but that’s the time to knock off some of your most challenging tasks.
Rather than checking your email on the go, set aside one or two times a day to review email. It can be in the late morning, then again towards the end of the day. As long as you’re working on your priorities, time batching can be a great approach to time management.
For the remainder of this post, I will go in further detail about how time batching works. What are some necessary steps and list practical examples of when it can be used? Also, I’ll go over how you can review the process again after trying it several times. What went well or what didn’t work while working on specific tasks will be mentioned as well.
Batch time format
How to implement time batching
If you’re starting with time batching, it might feel a little daunting at first. However, there is a more straightforward process to use this strategy. Here are the steps you should take:
Day-by-Day: Take it one day at a time
Each day, make a short to-do list that consists of three-five things you need to get done. Making a giant laundry list of tasks can be overwhelming, so you want to keep it short but achievable. You can do this task first thing in the morning, or do it before going to bed the night before.
Once your to-do list is made, you have your day all planned out. One challenge for some people is if they can complete all their tasks in one day.
Maybe, or maybe not.
Either way, it’s best to stay focused on the most important things at hand. Starting with the most challenging task is better when you have more energy and creativity in you. The lighter work can wait until later in the day once you’ve got the hard work knocked out.
One of my best practices is to complete my challenging tasks when starting my day. I have more energy, focus, and can think clearly when I want to perform at my best.
So if it’s an article for this website, I’ll prioritize it since I want to produce quality content. Afterward, I’ll leave some light work near the end of the day. Anything such as email, social media, or administrative action can be put off until I finish my more significant tasks.
Week by Week
Once you get adjusted to planning out your days, you can move ahead to a weekly schedule. It’ll be more natural planning out a week when you’re used to single days. You might want to consolidate some of your work in a one-time frame.
What I mean is by asking this question: “Is there anything that I can do today that I normally would do in two-three days?” It’s an essential question if you think you can get more work done in only one day of the week.
For example, if you run a blog and send out weekly emails, you can set time to write those daily emails in one sitting. If you send out emails three times a week (Monday, Wednesday, Friday), you can set aside time to write all of those emails late Sunday or early Monday of that week.
Writing those emails out in one setting can leave you more free time later on in the week.
What I do every week
Currently, I practice time batching techniques every week. Most weeks, I usually write two-three content posts for this website. At the beginning of the week (Tuesdays), I might write two blog posts for a few hours: one will be published the next day, while the other one goes out at the end of the week.
It helps me block out time to do most of my writing/content creation. Sometimes, the end of the week might tie me down to work on other business projects.
One tool I enjoy using is Google calendar. This calendar nicely lays out my weeks, while outlining what I need to get done.
Here is a screenshot of the things I do on a daily/weekly basis.
If you become a master at time batching, take that extra step to plan out your work for an entire month. It may be daunting to plan out four weeks of work, but it’ll make your schedule look much smoother.
I’ll admit that I haven’t gotten to this stage yet. I’m comfortable planning week by week, and things can change throughout the week. So I’m concerned I’ll have to roll back my plans around the middle of the month.
At some point, I plan on taking that next step forward regarding monthly planning. It’ll be challenging, but much easier once I start practicing it. I look forward to writing a future article on breaking this process down at some point.
The process of time batching
The art of time batching works similar to a production line (i.e., manufacturer type of work). There’s a step-by-step procedure to getting through the batches, and then you work your way through.
A typical example I like to think of is making a batch of chocolate chip cookies. It’s a simple process to make cookies, so time batching works the same way when putting together paperwork or cookies.
Here are the first two steps of the process:
Batch your tasks
Before beginning any work, take a moment to group similar tasks. Work items such as reading and replying to emails, attending meetings, or writing a report can all go into separate batches.
It’ll be easier to make these tasks separate to make the work run smoother. Once you’ve figured out the separations, determine how much time you need to complete a set of functions.
For instance, if you set aside a half-hour to look over email, set a timer for 30 minutes. Once the 30 minutes is up, it’s time to move on to the next set of tasks.
The purpose of setting the timers is to ensure you’re staying on track. You may not always get everything done in a half-hour period or so. But it’ll help you manage your time better while keeping the workday running smoothly.
Complete the batch
Start with your first batch of tasks. Use the time frame to focus on those specific tasks, and avoid distractions if possible. Of course, you can take breaks in between. It’s essential to make sure you’re focused on finishing those batches promptly.
As you work on your batches, keep track of the time you spend on the tasks. You may find that some tasks take longer than others, while others go by quicker. So it’s good to adjust your time and make notes of what you want to change.
If it’s going at a more moderate pace to complete more manageable tasks, feel free to make those adjustments. If you can outsource or delegate those tasks to someone else, do that as well.
If you run a business, outsourcing and automation become useful for you to save time. If you feel that those tasks can be done through someone else or a machine, take that approach to save time and money.
As mentioned earlier, taking breaks is necessary to do an efficient job throughout time batching. If you take shorter breaks, that’ll help rejuvenate your energy and stay on track of things.
Also, the less likely for you to make costly errors if you worked through more extended periods batching.
I’ve gotten in the practice of taking breaks every 30-40 minutes. Taking those short five-ten minute breaks helps keep me active while feeling less tired than by doing the opposite. So make sure to take those breaks!
Review the process
As you finish your workday, review how the day went to figure out what worked or didn’t work? Did some tasks take longer than expected? Did some work go by quicker? These are things that need to be reevaluated, so that way you can do a better job the next time around.
What didn’t work?
If you understand the specifics of doing a task, you may not need to revisit that portion. Instead, figure out other ways to make getting through a job quicker. Once you know how to do a task correctly, go at a faster pace.
In my years of work experience, my general rule of thumb for work: focus on quality first, speed will come later.
For myself, I’m always looking over the work I do. Some tasks take me longer than usual, but I know I can speed up that process. If it’s writing a lengthy article for the website, I know I can find ways to write it in less than an hour or so. So I’m always thinking of better ways to improve my efficiency.
Time batching has long been a practical approach to increasing productivity. It’s an excellent solution for those who struggle switching from one task to the next. Or, it helps those who struggle on which tasks to start on. As mentioned earlier, it’s a good rule for those to apply in a production line work environment.
Especially these days, time batching helps people manage their email inbox. Email can be a hassle for some, so it’s good to keep some of these tips in mind. If you can master email while spending less time in there, you’re already a step ahead in the game.
Time batching will continue to be used in many types of work. It’ll help individuals manage their time while increasing their efficiency. It’s a method worth looking into if you happen to be someone struggling with time management.
Have you heard of time batching before? Which one of the tasks do you prefer to use in implementing this process? Planning day-by-day, weekly, or monthly basis planning?
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Eric is a time management consultant and owner of the blog, quitkillingtime.com. He takes great pride in helping people manage their time, personally and professionally. Eric is a firm believer in time freedom, as he believes in taking ownership of time. “Time is your most important asset. It can be your best friend or worst enemy. How you use your time can shape the future you desire to have.” In his leisure time, Eric loves to write and read whenever possible. He likes to go for long walks out in nature and been taking Zumba classes every week at his local gym. You can follow Eric via Facebook and LinkedIn.