When you first started your online business, you had visions of sailing through your day, sipping coffee in your favorite sweatpants. Your children, if you have them, would remain blissfully quiet in the next room, working out solutions for world peace. Birds would be chirping outside of your office window, and your cat would be purring gently in your lap.
But you never dreamed that your working day would be full of more tasks than there are hours in the day to complete them. Multitasking, as I’ve discussed before, is a headache-inducing downward spiral that achieves nothing in the end. According to Professor of Informatics Gloria Marks in this interview, constantly switching tasks leads to higher levels of stress and decreased productivity.
Task batching is an easy to follow plan that will end the headaches of lowered productivity due to too much work, too many distractions, and not enough time.
The simplest definition of task batching is that it is a way of combining similar tasks together to be tackled head-on, once and done, during the same block of time before moving on to the next batch. Task batching focuses on one area and devotes time to it exclusively. These areas could be marketing, blogging, or answering emails. It is like if timeboxing and monotasking had a baby because it requires a streamlined focus on one area, but it includes all tasks that are related within that area.
How Task Batching Increases Productivity
When you work from home, no matter how your day is planned, you will end up hopelessly distracted from your goals. This happens when the phone rings, multiple notifications are alerting you as “Urgent,” and you can’t tear yourself away from Words with Friends because you just know you can find a spot for that thirty-point word. Task batching gives you an organized approach to accomplishing your daily goals by organizing related work into blocks on a list and then tackling that list category by category. It is a simple but effective strategy that keeps your mind focused on one thing at a time.
No matter the approach you usually take with your work, without organization you will find yourself endlessly distracted by social media, your website, emails, and countless other tasks. With each distraction, your task list grows and your productivity decreases. Task batching eliminates this by allowing you to organize your work, stick to a schedule, and see exactly how productive you were.
Task batching gives a clear starting point to your day and a structured approach to accomplishing your work.
Making Task Batching Work for You
If you’re like most hustling entrepreneurs, your days are spent endlessly answering emails, updating your social media pages, and adding new content to your website(s). Eventually, you may be able to pull it together long enough to do some work for your clients.
Task batching is a simple strategy. Some tasks can be completed in one batch, while others may need to be repeated periodically throughout the day or week.
Some considerations when using task batching may be:
Time of day: You may be at your creative peak early in the morning and find that this time is more productive for writing blog entries; later in the day, you may find yourself in a creative slump. Schedule your batches for your natural peaks and valleys throughout your day.
Silencing your alerts: Devices that are sending notifications are impossible to resist. It’s hardwired into us to drop what we are doing and check them immediately. Unless your batch is specifically centered around the notifications, put your alerts on silent.
Close your email program or Gmail tab entirely: Same as those pesky notification alerts, we are naturally drawn to the allure of a flashing “new message” icon on our email pages. Shut them down completely unless your batch is focused on answering emails. Even the simple fact that the program is open, is enough to entice you multiple times an hour to “check your email”. Instead of forcing you to resist it, just close it down so you can focus on the task at hand.
Your individual task batching lists can be weekly, biweekly, monthly, or daily; you have the flexibility to decide. The idea is that all similar tasks are kept together.
- You may decide that once a week you need to write social media updates and schedule them for release. You can batch all of them into one block of time, handling all your social media interests together.
- Throughout the day, schedule two batches if needed to include checking and responding to email.
- Schedule a batch or two each day that includes all your phone obligations; checking voicemails and returning calls, or scheduling appointments, for example.
- Have a batch that handles your blog articles daily or write them in advance and schedule them for later release.
- If you do podcast interviews or produce YouTube videos, schedule them together on your “audio” or “video” day.
Now that you have a general idea, it’s time to make your own task batching list. You can use a spreadsheet like Excel, a free downloadable list like this one, pencil it into a physical daily calendar or journal, or try a free software such as easynote.io or TrackingTime. No matter how you want to organize your work, task batching makes it easy to stay focused on productivity.