Running around like a headless chicken on most days and feeling frenzied about the fact that you can’t do it all? Is your to-do list as long as the Great Wall of China?
I hear you; I’ve been there.
Back in 2018, when I started getting overwhelmed by it all, I resorted to the idea of time blocking and started practising it actively on a day by day basis.
Read more: How Time Blocking Gives you back control of your day
But it would be nearly 3 years later that I’d learn to practise the fine art of task batching and apply it to my daily routine.
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Task batching, as the term implies, is the art of grouping certain items of work together and getting them done in a single sitting or at a stretch. There are different ways that you can adopt the concept of task batching and broadly, they fall into two categories:
Group them by the time taken
Group them by similarity
Let’s talk about how you can get started with task batching for yourself.
TASK BATCHING BY TIME TAKEN FOR EACH SET OF TASKS
A notepad and a pen
A Digital note taking app (Google Keep/Evernote)
HOW TO GET STARTED WITH TASK BATCHING
- Make a list of tasks that you want to get through per day and per week. Do this at two times of the day- the night before when you wind down before bed and in the morning, before you start on your tasks for the day.
Pro tip: Try to limit the tasks to between 5 and 10 tasks per day. Anything more than that can get overwhelming.
- Write an hourly estimate against each set of tasks. Remember that some tasks will barely take you 10 to 15 minutes, for example, writing an Instagram caption. Other tasks will take you longer, perhaps up to an hour, say, writing a blog post.
The time estimates are useful when you want to implement the next step.
- Schedule a Focusmate session (More on this later in the post)
- Batch low-intensity tasks and shorter tasks together; maybe listen to some music to get you through it. I typically batch the following tasks together: Creating an Instagram post/ Creating 3 pins per day for Pinterest/ Checking and responding to social media notifications.
Each of these tasks take me about 15 to 20 minutes. I can finish all 3 in a single one-hour session of deep work.
- Go deep on a single high-intensity task. Pick the one task that requires maximum focus and concentration. Typically, these are my tasks that require an entire hour of concentration: Writing a blog post/ Editing an older blog post for improved SEO/ Writing sales page copy/ Writing an e-book/ Creating a course.
None of these tasks are done within the same batch of time. I split them into different blocks so that the focus aspect is not compromised.
- Once you’ve completed the tasks for each batch of time (say, an hour), tick off those tasks on your list for the day.
WHY I LOVE FOCUSMATE
I first came across Focusmate when my coach, George Kao, mentioned it in one of his courses.
In essence, it’s an accountability tool where you’re paired up with another person on video. It keeps you on task to complete your chosen work for the day. Your video stays on while you can choose to mute yourself, as you work through the task you’ve set for yourself. The other person does the same.
Intrigued, I decided to check it out and tentatively set up a session in late September of 2020. While I was happy with the concept, I did feel a little uncomfortable with the idea of having the video turned on with a total stranger watching me while I worked.
Fortunately, more recently, Focusmate brought in two very useful features:
- The ability to be paired up with other people of the same gender. So, as a woman, I can choose to be paired up only with other women and non-binary people.
- My personal favourite, though, is the private Focusmate Invite link! I can share that link with people in my network who’d like to co-work with me exclusively. This was a HUGE win and a big shift in the right direction.
*Linda Brandt did a very lovely post on the plus points of Focusmate here. Gracia Kleijnen did a more deep-dive intensive post on the nuts and bolts of Focusmate here.
Highly recommend that you read both articles.
By the way, Focusmate has a free plan that allows you to try out 3 Focusmate sessions per week at no charge whatsoever.
Love it and want to continue? Upgrade to the paid plan at the amazing price of just $5 per month (I know! Sign me up!)
Ever since I discovered and started actively using Focusmate for my time-bound tasks, I am seeing some amazing returns on my investment.
What’s more, I became so proficient at it that I now work for just 4 hours a day on my blog and business while bringing in a steady stream of income. I also take weekends off, barring the one post/video I put up on Saturdays.
Has it been liberating? You bet!
Has it been life changing? Like you wouldn’t believe.
BATCHING TASKS BY TYPE:
Next we come to the practical aspect of task batching and figuring out how we can batch tasks together by type instead of time.
HOW TO GET STARTED WITH TASK BATCHING BY TYPE
1) Decide on the kinds of tasks that you typically do on a working day
2) Block out an hour or two hours a day for task completion
3) Keep a list of tasks handy (remember the earlier point about grouping by time)
4) Start the timer (or a Focusmate session) and get cracking
As content creators, most people I know struggle with making time to create social media images for their work or perhaps material (videos/written text) to post on social media
Here’s how content batching comes to the rescue!
Determine how many images you’d like to post each week, to each of your active social media channels. (Remember, the key word here is active.)
Once you’ve decided on a rhythm, say 5 posts a week on Instagram, open up an Instagram template on Canva and create those images. When you get into the flow of creation, you’d be amazed at how quickly you churn out those graphics.
Once the graphics are ready, download them to a folder on your desktop and then schedule them out using a tool like Buffer or Tailwind.
TIME TAKEN FOR SOCIAL MEDIA GRAPHICS (CREATION AND SCHEDULING PER WEEK): 1 hour
Social Media Engagement
Are you the kind who looks up every single time you get a notification ping on your smartphone or who gets drawn to that red bell alert saying you have a new comment on your post on Facebook?
Do what I did.
Remove social media apps from your phone. Go on, do it!
I did that many moons ago and I only re-install the Instagram app once a week if I have to upload a video or do a Live video.
Now that you’ve removed the apps, open the social media platform on your laptop. All your notifications are safe and waiting.
Now, schedule 20 minutes a day to check each of the platforms and the list of notifications and get to them one by one.
TIME TAKEN PER WEEK ON THIS TASK: 100 Minutes
Pro Tip: Do it only from the laptop. I find that this saves me tons of time and I am not scrolling through my phone on a whim or squandering time aimlessly.
Who here loves email? And when I say love, I mean with an unabashed, unbridled joy!
Okay, that was a trick question. Nobody loves email. I mean it’s necessary and it’s useful but it is NOT the first or the last thing you want to be doing on any given day. Being at other people’s beck and call? Yeah, not my idea of fun.
However, email does have utility and when used in an intentional way can do a lot, including build the right kind of connections, keep you in touch with clients/ co-workers and of course, for checking those newsletters which you’ve signed up for.
Now, how do you batch email work?
I find that emails broadly fall into a few categories, which I explain in more detail in my post on How to Effectively Declutter your Inbox.
In a nutshell, it helps if you can batch email work into 3 broad categories:
– Check and archive
– Check and delete
– Check and respond
The first task takes just a few minutes per mail. These are mails that have important information/ account details/ password requests/ purchase confirmations, that sort of thing. They’re necessary, but not urgent. Hit the archive button and no you don’t need a folder. The search function is pretty effective at finding what you need, in a pinch.
The second task is even quicker. These are from publications and/or people who are trying to sell you something that you don’t really need. Decide if they require your attention (or your money) and take a call on hitting that delete button right away.
The final category is what you need to be focusing on. This is where batching comes into play.
Let’s say you have 10 emails in your inbox that require a reply. The subject line is enough to tell you if they do. If yes, batch them all together in the inbox, turn on a timer (or a Focusmate session) and start replying to them one at a time.
Without distraction, you can easily get through 10 emails within 20 minutes, maybe 30.
Batch these tasks for twice a day and stop looking at your inbox through the day. Save yourself time and focus.
Finding people in your niche/network to collaborate with is a valuable exercise. It builds connections in ways that you wouldn’t anticipate.
The idea of networking (or Netcaring, as my coach puts it) and which I find a personally better term, is to build genuine connections with the people who matter.
If you are a blogger, chances are you’ve met other bloggers and writers on your journey. That is one way of networking.
As a business owner, it’s a good idea to join a paid membership group for fellow business owners or follow the right people in your niche on a business platform, like Linkedin.
Once you do, it helps to read their posts and find out if there’s a potential collaborative exercise that you can take up with that person.
Netcaring takes time (in the long term sense) so don’t expect magic right away. But show up everyday and do your networking in batches of 15 minutes at a time.
Read a few posts, drop a genuine request to connect and work out how/if you can collaborate with that individual in some way.
Writing (A Novel/ A blog post)
Whether you’re trying to write your next book or trying to write a blog post, this will apply.
I love writing. Everyone who knows me can attest to this fact. I write every single day, either on Medium or my blog or on Google Docs or in a notebook. Writing is something I truly enjoy.
However, if writing is something you’re struggling to make time for, I recommend putting it on your calendar and jealously guard that time for yourself.
Once again and at the risk of sounding like a broken record, do try out Focusmate. A client of mine who is an author recently signed up for Focusmate and managed to edit 17 chapters of her novel in two days, journaled and edited another short story for submission! That’s insane and I am amazed that it’s worked so well for her.
Batching writing into actionable chunks is a fabulous way to reach those writing goals you’ve always had.
If you ever feel that sense of boredom creep over you when it comes to doing your taxes, filing and sending out invoices, setting up calendar appointments and more, this tip will be super helpful.
For the record, I actively find all of the above tasks don’t necessarily fall into my favourite things to do. But there are two things that I started doing which made it much easier to navigate.
One, I started practising the principle of Joyful Productivity as explained by George Kao. Two (and you guessed it), I decided to batch these tasks with other low-intensity tasks and finished them during a Focusmate session.
The funny thing is what would take me hours (writing invoices/mailing them/ keeping records for my accountant) would now be done in under 30 minutes for 15 invoices. Amazing!
For people like me who don’t have a virtual assistant, the idea of batching is absolutely perfect!
So, are you planning to give task batching a try? I promise that you will find time opening up in your day like never before.