“B is for Batching”
If you think about any activity you might need to undertake, from writing a report to filling in your expense claim, or from conducting research to planning a meeting, the scale and scope of the task is much easier to contemplate when you’re underway than it is before you start. There’s a certain set-up time required to get into the mindset of writing a report or compiling your expenses. You need to remind yourself how the systems work, line up the right documents on your screen or get the paperwork in front of you. This set-up time can be a barrier to productivity or even a root of procrastination. Often, the set-up takes as long as the task itself – think about how long it takes to key in all the security information you need to access your online banking versus how long it takes to actually make the bank transfer. Yet once you’re in the zone with something, it’s quite easy to keep going.
Batching is a technique to reduce this set-up time and help you to stay in the zone. The idea is simple: store up similar tasks into batches, so that you do lots of them less often rather than more regularly as individual tasks. There are lots of ways to work in batches. Here are a few you can try:
- Save up the filing you need to do into a tray on your desk. Only complete the filing once that tray is full.
- Save up invoices that you need to pay and do them once a week or once a month rather than as they arrive.
- Turn on your email, process it to zero, then turn it off again.
- Buy things in bulk – anything from buying the year’s birthday cards for your whole family from a card store through to stationery supplies for the office. Stocking up means fewer trips to the shop or less time spent on the website fiddling around for your credit card verification.
- Set up meetings and schedule travel at the same time each day. I don’t schedule new meetings or calls until the end of every day. My diary is pretty complex, so getting into the mode of understanding my schedule is a big set-up cost just to schedule one lousy meeting. So, if I receive emails asking me about dates or looking for my availability, I save them in a folder all day so I can deal with it all at 6pm before I finish work.
- Think about projects. Batching together all the thinking needed to keep projects on track and doing this just once a week provides amazing clarity and saves a huge amount of time otherwise wasted stressing about the status of different projects.
The batching approach applies outside of work too. Why not think about batching when:
- Ironing your clothes – it’s much easier to do extra shirts when you’re already ironing than to have to get the ironing board out again tomorrow!
- Cooking – it takes just the same effort to make ten portions of chilli con carne as it does to make two!
Can you think of any other things in your life you could try batching (let us know your batching ideas by replying below!)?