Hello Zen Organizer,
Today, I want to talk about a great productivity and time management technique: batching.
I’ve found it to be one of the most efficient ways to complete a lot of my tasks and gain time.
For example, when I batch the content creation for Zenly Organized, I can create, in one week, three podcast episodes and blog articles as well as a month-worth of content for Instagram. When I don’t batch my content, it can take me a whole week to simply create the content for the next week, that is, one podcast episode, one blog article, one newsletter, and 3-5 Instagram publications.
The same happens when I do meal prep, which consists in preparing most of the meals for the week. I manage to cook three complete meals, plus a dessert or snacks, in three hours. If I don’t do it this way, it takes me way more than three hours during the week to prepare the same amount of food.
So I hope I have convinced you to give batching a try!
Below, I explain what batching is, its advantages, how to use batching, and examples of tasks you can batch and others that shouldn’t be batched.
Batching is a technique that consists of grouping similar tasks together to reduce the number of times you switch between different tasks. The act of switching between different tasks is called “cognitive switching,” and it’s one of the most detrimental practices for your productivity.
So if you want to be productive, it's important to reduce the number of times your work gets fragmented between different tasks. And batching is a great way to do that!
What are the advantages of batching?
As you’ve probably guessed by now, batching has many advantages.
First of all, as mentioned, batching reduces the division of your attention caused by the constant switching between tasks. Why is that? Because our mind needs some time to stop thinking about the previous task and focus entirely on the new one. So every time we switch between tasks, our attention is diminished (Hammond, 2016). And working without complete focus is one of the main causes of productivity loss.
Plus, constantly switching between tasks is much more stressful than focusing on one task at a time. So you’ll probably also be much more relaxed when using this technique.
Also, you’ve probably noticed that our mind usually requires a certain warm-up time when we start a new activity, especially if it’s a demanding task. As a result, if we spend too little time on such tasks before we switch to something else, we risk getting little done while having lost time uselessly (Mark, 2005).
Batching also has the advantage to reduce the time and energy lost on preparation because you only do it once for multiple projects.
For example, if you want to create a reel, you need to set up your tripod and lighting, prepare your clothes, move some furniture around, etc. Maybe it takes you 10 minutes to do all that. Well, it makes more sense to lose these 10 minutes of preparation once and get four reels done in one session than lose 10 minutes times four to create the same reels but in four different moments, doesn’t it?
It’s also a great technique to simplify your organization because you only have to organize your days and weeks by dividing them into specific time windows for your different tasks, without needing to detail everything every single time.
How to batch
Like most things, it will take a little bit of time to put your batching strategy into place, but believe me: it will be well worth your time and effort!
Here are the steps I recommend using to implement your batching strategy:
1. Identify your recurring tasks. Try to deconstruct them as much as possible.
For example, the creation of a blog article can be deconstructed into the following tasks: choosing the topic, doing research, writing the plan, writing the article, editing, creating the layout, writing the SEO description, etc.).
2. Estimate (or better yet, do a time audit) the time it takes you to complete each of these tasks. It will help you determine how much time you should block to batch this kind of task.
3. Determine the effort required to complete each kind of task. You can rank it on a scale of 1 to 5 or determine whether it requires a low, moderate, or high effort.
4. Based on the nature of the task (creative, deep work, busy work, social interaction, etc.) and the effort it requires, determine the best moment of the day to tackle it for your chronotype.
5. Create blocks of time for each task you plan on batching. Allocate a specific time and duration to your batching session in your planner (more below on which tasks can be batched).
I suggest planning your weeks and even months using this process. You’ll see, once you know well the tasks you want to batch, their duration, effort, and nature, it becomes much easier to block your batching sessions in your planner.
And, of course, once you’re ready to start your batching session, eliminate all distractions: no notifications, possibly no phone calls, no emails (unless you’re replying to your emails 😉), no social media. If possible, close your door and/or put on noise-cancelling headphones.
Your batching sessions will only be more productive if you concentrate 100% on your tasks and don’t switch between other tasks, which would completely ruin the purpose of batching...! 😅
What tasks can you batch?
You can batch a lot of tasks, both professional and personal.
Organization: batch the planning and organization of your weeks and months. You’ll be more efficient this way. Plus, you’ll have a clearer picture of your organization than if you only plan day by day.
Replying to emails: instead of answering your emails throughout the day, determine one to three moments to do so. While you’re working on something else, turn off your email notifications and/or your email app.
Content creation: if you’re an entrepreneur, I HIGHLY recommend batching your content creation! It’ll make you gain tons of time, and it'll also free up the mental load of always having to create the upcoming content. I suggest batching the following content creation tasks:
redaction of captions
podcast recording (although I personally can’t record more than two episodes in a row because it’s too energy-consuming)
Brainstorming sessions: plan a session to brainstorm your upcoming content ideas, offers, marketing campaigns, etc. It’ll be easier to get inspired and come up with many ideas if you do it uninterrupted for one or two hours.
Meetings: try to book all of your meetings on the same day(s) and in the same place, if possible. It will allow you to have full days of uninterrupted work to focus on your other tasks.
Meal planning: instead of losing time (and mental energy) thinking about what you’ll be eating every single day, take 30 minutes to plan your meals for the week. You won’t have to think about it again during the week, and you’ll know exactly what you need to buy at the grocery store (saving you time and money).
Grocery shopping: try to do all your grocery shopping for the week at once. Going back multiple times to the supermarket during the week is a waste of time, energy, money (you tend to buy more than you need by going often), and gas.
Cooking: if you can, set aside a period during the week to prepare some ingredients or meals in advance. It will help you save tons of time on cooking and dishwashing.
When not to batch tasks
Although batching is an amazing technique I highly recommend you implement, it doesn’t work with every type of task.
Highly creative or demanding tasks: if a task requires a lot of energy and creativity, it’ll be hard to complete more than one of this type of task at once.
For example, it’s hard to write two long blog articles in one single batching session because it requires a lot of time, effort, and creativity to write just one. But you can dedicate a complete morning/afternoon to the redaction of one article without fragmenting your work.
When you’re tired: batching should be reserved for your productivity peak(s) and your creativity peak(s) (check out your chronotype to know when they are). When you’re tired, it can be quite daunting (and close to impossible) to tackle the redaction of 10 Instagram captions or the cooking of a week’s worth of meals.
I hope this was useful and that implementing batching in your life will help you free up more time and energy, so you can enjoy life more and do more of what lights you up!
I wish you a zenly organized week,
Hammond, C. (2016). Why your brain likes it when you multi-task. Retrieved from: https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20160218-why-multi-tasking-might-not-be-such-a-bad-idea
Mark, G. (2005). No Task Left Behind? Examining the Nature of Fragmented Work. Retrieved from: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/221516226_No_Task_Left_Behind_Examining_the_Nature_of_Fragmented_Work