Simple shortcuts to business success #19: Batch tasks for maximum efficiency


For many people a typical work day looks like this:

  • Get to office
  • Fire up laptop
  • Check emails
  • Go grab a coffee
  • Check Facebook while drinking coffee
  • Check the emails that came in while on Facebook
  • Answer some emails
  • Start on the report that’s due at the end of the day. Work on that for five minutes. Need a break.
  • Decide to answer some of the emails you didn’t answer when they first came through this morning.
  • Back to the report. It’s proving to be a bit of a struggle so decide to work more on it after lunch.
  • Back to email.
  • A bit tired so jump on Facebook for a break.
  • It’s probably time for another coffee.
  • Need to go to the toilet now.
  • Back to the computer. Decide you might do that 20-minute job you’ve been putting off for a week.
  • Finish the job.
  • Reward self by going on Facebook for 5 minutes.
  • Spend 20 minutes on Facebook reading articles.
  • Lunch time
  • Make a quick phone call to someone you missed earlier in the day.
  • Ok, back to that report. Plenty of time to get it done before the COB deadline.
  • Report is proving hard work.
  • Check emails and answer a few for that ‘easy win’ feeling.
  • Make another phone call.
  • How is it 3pm already?
  • Back to the report …

I’m guessing you recognise this day. We’ve all had them. Big problems arise when we’re having them more often than not. These days are unproductive not only because we’re not getting that report done, but because we’re jumping all over the place from job to job. Every one of these types of jobs: writing, emailing, reading, talking on the phone – they all require a different kind of mental energy. The more we jump from one to the other, the less able we are to do each task well, and the faster we get tired. Which is especially bad news when we’re leaving something important like writing a report or a proposal until the last thing in the afternoon.

So how do we tackle this? By batching.

Batching is a system where we dedicate blocks of time to similar types of activities in order to get them done faster. It stops the task switching that we tend to indulge in over the course of a day or week and makes us more efficient by streamlining our days. It also allows us to schedule our days to maximise our energy levels.

When we’re batching effectively our day might look like this instead:

  • 9.00-9.15am: Quick check of emails to delete any spammy ones that came through the night before and ensure there’s nothing urgent in there.
  • 9.15-10.00am: Report writing
  • 10.00-10.15am: Break – have a coffee and browse Facebook (because let’s be realistic here – asking yourself to write a report for 2 hours without a break is a bit much)
  • 10.15-10.45am: Report writing
  • 10.45-11.15am: Respond to emails
  • 11.15-11.45am: Report writing
  • 11.45-12.15pm: Phone calls
  • 12.15-12.30pm:Respond to emails
  • 12.30-1.00pm: Lunch – browse Facebook
  • 1.00-2.00pm: Proof, edit and send off report.
  • 2.00-5.00pm: Ample time to do smaller, less mentally taxing jobs, answer emails etc.

What’s the difference between a ‘batched’ day and our ‘regular’ day? The batched day ensures we’re tackling the hard stuff (writing the report) in the morning when our energy levels are highest. It allocates time for ‘time-wasting’ (going on Facebook) which allows us to have our fun while putting a definite ceiling on how much we spend on there. And it stops us answering emails and phone calls according to other people’s schedules rather than our own.

In short, batching is a quick and easy way to take back control of our days … and ensure we actually get stuff done.

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