Uncommonly More recently wrote a guest post for us in which they mention batching like-tasks (editing photos, writing copy, planning out hashtags, etc.) for saving valuable time when planning out and working on your social media. (Haven’t seen it yet? Take a look here!)
Batching and time blocking can also be used to increase efficiency in your other work and daily life too. Read on to find out more about why these methods are effective, and how you can start implementing them today.
WHAT IS TIME BLOCKING?
Time blocking is setting aside time - on your physical or digital calendar - and specifying what you’ll be doing during those specific periods.
Example 1: You can be more specific with your blocks, working around concrete items (light orange), blocking in items you are committing to get to (like going to the gym, dark blue), adding a buffer (travel/commute), and adding time blocks for work. In this particular example, we also chose to block in time for email reading.
Example 2: The second image is an example of a more general time block, starting with your ideal week and filling in as you go. Try to put similar appointment-types in the appropriate blocks. Before the week, choose exactly which tasks, projects, and meetings you’ll be doing in these different spaces. Fill it in on your calendar for that week.
If over-scheduling overwhelms you, try blocking more loosely on the calendar and writing down separately what you would plan to do during those times. The challenge here is that it can be more difficult to keep track, and also more difficult to say no to external requests if you see space available on your calendar. Protect your calendar as much as possible, and accept only things that make sense to you, your goals, your vision, and your main life and business priorities. (Need help figuring out these big-ticket items? Head on over to one my collaborative partners, LHS Coaching!)
WHAT IS BATCHING?
Batching is when you do all of one type of task during a specific time period.
While some people batch by client or by project, others suggest batching by type of task, i.e. all phone calls together, all emails, all photo editing, all invoicing, etc.
Note: If you are working for a client or employer on an hourly basis, you’ll need to batch by project/client in order to make sure you’re charging accurately.
WHY SHOULD I UTILIZE TIME BLOCKING AND BATCHING?
Reduce decision fatigue:
Deciding when you’ll do a task is half the battle! If you don’t schedule it into a specific day or time, you’ll find it keeps popping up on your to do list week after week – especially if it is one of those tasks or projects that seems too large or daunting. If you find a day and a time that will work for you, make a commitment to yourself and schedule it in. If you wait until the day-of to make these decisions, at this point we often no longer have the energy to take on something new or challenging and instead revert to something easier like responding to old emails or flipping through social media.
Expedite getting started:
When you get to the block, you’ll already have done the planning work to decide what is important and what you’re committed to working on. Too often we realize we have a couple of hours free to get to that pending work and suddenly we don’t know what to do. Should we be working on client projects? Should we be getting to those important but not urgent business development projects? If you set the time, task, and intention beforehand, you’ll be able to jump right in as soon as it is time to do so. No more decisions to be made, no more thinking about priorities (you did that when you planned it), just dive in and get the full benefit of your uninterrupted time.
Reduce switching cost:
“Switching cost” is when you regularly switch back and forth between different activities. There is a mental switching cost, as well as a tangible time-based switching cost.
When you make a switch between tasks, your brain needs extra time to get back to a deep enough focus to continue the project. Not only does it waste time, but it also wastes energy. Like a battery, our mental and physical energies get used and depleted as the day goes on, so help it last longer by switching tasks less frequently.
For physical tasks, are you driving to the store to pick up toothpaste, driving home, and then driving to pick up the kids a couple hours later? Try batching all of your driving tasks together, and more specifically all of those in the same direction at the same time. What about at home? Do you pull out all of your paperwork and supplies for one project, put it away to switch gears, and then take it back out a couple of hours later? This is the same for digital tasks – opening tabs, websites, programs, documents, folders, all of these items take up time, no matter how small it may seem. Work with one tool or one program straight through during a sprint and when you’re done, close it down and switch to a new one.
Exception: If you are billing clients hourly, this batching option may not be a feasible option for you when logging time for these clients. Try applying where applicable within a client project, or instead during your personal time.
HOW TO GET STARTED
This may take some time to implement, especially if you’ve never tried working with this method before, but be patient and don’t expect miracles over night. Stick with it, day by day. Humans today are inundated with perfectly designed distractions. The technology in our life now is intentionally created to pull our attention, so it’s no wonder we’re not good at concentrating on one task for long periods of time. Email inboxes, pings, texts, notifications, they make us feel good. There’s nothing wrong with us, it’s just how the brain works and how the apps have been designed, but we have to retrain ourselves to A) remove ourselves from these distractions (not rely on will power) and B) learn to stretch our concentration muscle a little bit at a time, so each day we get just a little bit better at sitting and concentrating for longer periods of time without craving that switch.
1) Assess yourself
Keep in mind what your energy flow is like on a daily, weekly, monthly, and even annual basis! (But let’s start small and look at daily energy levels first.) If you are most productive in the morning and are fully charged, set aside this time to work on business development projects. If you are like me and start to peter out after lunch, consider putting social activities during this time like phone calls, in-person meetings, collaborative projects, or networking events, etc.
2) Put appointments and other “non-negotiables” on the calendar first
Block onto your calendar things like special classes, office hours, or pre-scheduled appointments. Events or meetings you must attend that happen at the same time or day every month.
3) Make thematic blocks
Working around your energy flows and non-negotiables (mostly things you can’t change), when would be the best time to work in blocks for larger themes such as exercise, morning routine, lunch, dinner, deep work (energy intensive), client work (medium energy), surface work (minimal energy), etc. Put these major blocks on your calendar.
Try to set them into the routine at a time that you can be reasonably sure will stay the same each week, at least 80% of the time. Things do happen, we get it, but aim to be consistent.
4) Plan out the details of the week
Once your main blocks are on the calendar, each week before the week has begun, ideally the Friday before, choose what your priorities are for the coming week. Place them in the block that is the most appropriate fit for that task. Try to put only one project per block, or like-tasks together in a block.
5) Make it a habit
Even block in the time that you want to spend planning out your blocked week! If you have a traditional week, consider doing this either on Friday at the end of the day, or before the week begins if possible, like on Sunday afternoon. (If your week has a non-traditional flow, pick the day that makes the most sense to you.) Once Monday starts, the week has already begun and this time is best utilized jumping in. Create a ritual for planning the week and you’ll find it easier to stick to the blocking system. I have found that later in the day on Friday tends to be ideal. By that point you’ve just finished up as much as you’re able to accomplish for the current week, but all of the pending items and new appointments are fresh in your mind and you can schedule ahead. Plus, then you can also go into the weekend and unplug - start Monday off with a fresh start - jumping right in to the first project, block, meeting, etc.
Do you have any batching or blocking tips that have worked for you? Share in the comments below! Even feel free to send a photo or screenshot of a sample blocked week.
What to discuss how to make this work for your schedule? Schedule a complimentary 30-minute call with me here and we’ll put it together for you!
Happy planning and growing,