So much to do. So little time. If you often feel that way, join a very large club. For starters, you can look for the tasks that really don't need to be done at all. Look for those you can delegate to someone else. But what if you don't have "staff" to delegate to? What if you have trimmed your list and everything that remains really does need to get done?
You are the one who has to do it. How can you get more done in the amount of time you have? That's where batching comes in.
So what is ‘batching?’
"Batching" is an old-time management tactic that refers to handling a number of similar items at one time. Let's look at an obvious example.
If you want a cookie, would you make just one? Would you roll out enough dough for just one?
Add the chocolate chips for just one? Heat the oven for just one cookie? Of course not. It's almost as easy to make several dozen.
Why does it work?
Many activities in life come with "start up" and "clean up" time. You gather materials before beginning and put them away afterwards. That lost motion adds up quickly. The trick is to maximize that "time in the middle," the time you are actually getting the work done.
In addition, you get into a mental "flow." Focus improves and thinking is clearer. Mistakes go down.
Batching puts an end to procrastination. The hard part is getting started. Once you're in that flow, you don't want to stop.
Opportunities to ‘batch’
Errands. Do you find yourself hopping in the car to run just one errand? Wait a few days until the errands accumulate and handle them all in a single trip.
Birthday cards. Do you run to the card shop every time a birthday appears on your calendar?
Why not stock up so you always have a supply at home. Take advantage of a sale or buy them by the box at a reduced price. Even better, use batching to address your cards for the whole year in one sitting.
College classes. I used to schedule a class for the earliest possible time and schedule remaining classes back-to-back. By lunch, I was done. Most semesters, I wound up with a couple of days each week class-free.
Meal planning. If a heavy work schedule makes daily meal preparation a challenge, try batch cooking on Sunday. Prepare the entire week's menu ahead of time.
Email. How many times a day does email derail your attention? Let it accumulate. Pick a couple of times during the day to handle it. At that point, handle every bit of it. When you're done, email is back to "empty."
Housework. Do you really want to haul out the vacuum cleaner and cleaning supplies every day? Pick one day each week and dig in.
Bill paying. Do you pay bills manually rather than through bank draft? Instead of hauling out the checkbook, return address labels, and stamps every time the postman comes, batch it. Pick a couple of days each month. Save up the bills and pay them all on the designated day.
Now it's your turn
You get the idea of what batching is all about. What are some examples from your life where batching would help? Once you get the hang of it, you’ll be surprised how your focus improves and how much more you accomplish.
Frank Buck is the author of Get Organized!: Time Management for School Leaders. "Global Gurus Top 30" named him #1 in the Time Management category for 2019. Dr. Buck speaks throughout the United States and internationally about organization and time management. You can reach him through his website: FrankBuck.org. Follow him on Twitter @DrFrankBuck.