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Task batching as a form of time management is an effective way to increase your productivity levels. However, batching is more than just putting like tasks together to complete more in one sitting. While it is about putting like tasks together it is also about making sure you limit your distractions so you can complete batched tasks in a timely manner.
In order to understand how to batch effectively it’s important to first understand how we currently work and to identify our distractions. While I give tips on distractions and things you can batch really think about what things distract you from your work and what tasks you have that you could batch together to complete.
What Is Work Shifting
Work shifting is the act of constantly shifting work around due to multitasking. When you multitask your work you are actually just shifting from one project or task to another. This can cause mistakes and missed steps in a task.
It can also leave a lot of unfinished tasks and projects for you to handle. This raises stress levels which can seriously affect your mental and physical health and wellbeing.
My biggest work shifting problem is when I do laundry. My laundry room is upstairs so I will start a load of laundry, come downstairs to get some work done, and 5 hours later suddenly remember that I was supposed to get the laundry done.
So when it’s laundry day I go upstairs and while I’m doing laundry I clean up the entire upstairs. If I don’t need to clean the entire upstairs I instead will do some reading or watch some TV while I wait for laundry to complete.
Work shifting also takes place when distractions pop up. You could be in the middle of closing out a month when you get an email. You stop what you are doing to address the email.
Then you get a phone call and before you know it you have been distracted for 20 minutes. It then takes you 10 minutes or more to get back into your productive work flow.
In order to try to limit work shifting it’s important to identify what possible distractions could be headed your way. Then you can direct those distractions somewhere else for a short period of time.
At work your biggest distraction is probably that inbox, it becomes a double distraction when you have the phone notifications of emails too. I have a love hate relationship with my inbox.
As an introvert emails are fantastic because it means I don’t actually have to talk to anybody. I can overthink my responses until they are hopefully perfect and I never have to actually talk to somebody.
However, when that inbox is dinging all day long it becomes a distraction that pulls me away from all of my work.
Phone Calls/Text Messages
Phone calls and text messages are a massive distraction. From the moment the phone rings or the text message comes in your brain is immediately distracted from your work.
Even a short response or a short conversation can completely halt all productivity. After the phone call is completed and the text message is sent it can take you up to 10 minutes to get back into your productive flow.
While the phone call or text message itself can distract you from your work the biggest issue comes after you are done. In habit you may check your notification bar on your phone. This is when you see all those other distractions that you will want to check right at that moment.
We live and breath on our smartphones but those phone notifications can be the worst distraction to your productivity. Between lives returning on games, email, text messages, and social media phone notifications can distract you for hours.
Looking at one Facebook notification can derail your whole day. Before you know it you’ve spent an hour and a half scrolling through your Facebook feed and your productivity levels are at zero.
Family and Children
Family and children are fantastic and it’s actually a bit difficult to claim that they are distractions. Most of the time we are happily distracted by our children. We know that one day we are going to miss the way they come running up to you to tell you a story.
The fact of the matter is, family and children can be a distraction that does slow and sometimes stop your productivity in its tracks. It could be your child asking for a snack or wanting to tell you a story. It might be your husband asking what’s for dinner.
All these things can distract you from your tasks, though there is hope. By batching work together you can get similar functions done all at once and when you are less likely to be distracted.
Stopping Distractions Before They Start
Setting specific times when you can handle distractions is the best way to stop them from taking over your day and killing your productivity. The key is to set a schedule and stick to it. You can and should adjust the schedule as needed but stick to that schedule to keep distractions down.
Check Your Email Once Or Twice A Day
Schedule times when you can check your email. I recommend mid morning and before you end your work for the day – but the times should actually be determined around your work loads.
If your emails come through after your work day is done due to time zones, it might be crucial to check them the moment you get in. You may get so many emails in a day that you need to check them more than twice too.
Create and try different schedules based on your needs. Once a day; mid afternoon and at the end of your work day; or first thing, after lunch, and before the end of the day. Find a schedule that works and then stick to it.
Do All Your Phone Calls At One Point In The Day
Make and return all your phone calls at one time in your day. I used to do all my work calls twice daily. Once in the mid morning and then again before I was done with the work day. After work on my way home I would make all my personal phone calls.
I would also schedule phone calls within these times in order to keep people from causing a distraction. This allowed me to complete projects without being interrupted by random phone calls.
Turn Off Social Media Notifications
The quickest way to end distraction is to turn it off. Turn off your phone – or turn it on silence – and do not look at it until you are finished with your tasks.
The social media distraction is the most time consuming distraction. Save checking social media for the end of the day after all your tasks are completed. This will keep you from scrambling at the end of the day to finish all your work.
Set Boundaries With Your Family
If you are a work at home parent you probably know all too well how children and family can cause some pretty big distractions. While it may not be possible all the time you should try to schedule in time away from your family so you can focus in on your work.
When you can’t get away from your family you need to set boundaries and schedules. If your children are great in the morning try to get the most important things done first.
Set a schedule for your work and let your family know that during these times you cannot be interrupted. It will be tough at first but eventually the schedule sinks in and they save all their moments for when you can be mentally present for them.
Task Batching Ideas
Below are just some of the ways things that you can batch together in order to complete them quickly. I found it helpful to write down all of my tasks, everything from daily to monthly tasks, and figure out which ones are similar or located in the same are so I could work them all together.
Be it chores that are similar like sweeping, vacuuming, and mopping, or your entire chore list at once, do all your household chores together to maximize your productivity.
Since my laundry machines are located upstairs I will join together my laundry and upstairs cleaning on the same day in order to save time. Likewise if I am sweeping the wood flooring in my kitchen then I will sweep everything on to the carpet in the living room and vacuum.
Batching chores together based on your location or the type of chore helps you to complete the entire thing faster than if you were to just do one thing. The second benefit is your cleaning ends up expanding to a larger space and your whole house looks cleaner in the same or similar amount of time.
Instead of cooking at set times in the day or spending 30 minutes to an hour each day cooking dinner, try freezer cooking or preparing your meals for a full week or month before hand. I ended up saving loads of time by just preparing the majority of a meal before hand.
I used to prepare a month worth of freezer meals in just 5 hours. It made lunches and dinners easy to make and saved so much time through the rest of the month.
Load up ziploc bags or containers with your marinades and vegetables so all you have to do is dump them into a crock pot, Instant pot, or a sheet pan to cook. You can slice all your vegetables for the week in 30 minutes and skip the extra prep time all week long.
Certain work tasks can be done at the same time instead of spread out over the course of a week or so. I do all my brainstorming, outlining, and writing in one go. My pictures are all prepared at one time too.
For you it could mean contacting customers about scheduling a service all in one go. Or maybe doing all your filing at once.
Back in my corporate days my filing was done in another area of the building so I would let my files pile up for a day or two before I would file them away. I usually tried to go prepared to stop off in dispatch to drop off schedules and shipments, then when all was complete I would go for a break.
Try completing all your errands in one day instead of spreading them out over the course of several days. This will save you gas and give you the luxury of going directly home after work the majority of the week.
Additionally, you are less likely to forget everything because you will be prepared with lists for every place you stop. I personally hate leaving the house more than once or twice a week for errands so when I go out I try to make sure that I get everything done in one go.
Save your rewards for the end of the day when all your other tasks are completed. At this point you can scroll through social media, read, binge your favorite show and so on.
Treat social media as a reward for ignoring it all day and you will find that you are truly interested in what your friends and family share. When it’s there for you all day you may scroll through but not open and read what your family shares because you know you don’t have the time.
Likewise, you can focus on the TV show you are watching if you actually sit down to watch it after everything else is completed. If you try to multitask with TV you will end up missing parts of the story or you will not get your work completed.
When Batching Doesn’t Work
Batching doesn’t always work and you should leave room for the odd days as well. Sometimes life just gets a little crazy and batching your work isn’t feasible.
You will have days where you can only do the bare minimum for work, or cleaning, or cooking. There will be days when there are too many emergencies to take care of.
It’s ok to not batch everything together. The art of batching is more about finding a faster way to complete more and avoiding distractions that keep you from completing anything at all.
Increase Productivity By Batching
I’m going to sound a bit hipster here but I’ve been batching since before batching had a name. The reality is, I was and am a naturally lazy person, so I have always tried to find the most efficient way to get the things I don’t like to do – done – and fast.
Do you think batching will work for you? What are some things you would batch together to be more efficient? Let me know in the comments below. Follow me on Pinterest for more like this and be sure to pin this to your time management boards.
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