Scott H Young

20 Tips for Batching to Save Time and Cut Stress


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I’m batching right now. Although my articles appear almost daily on this website, I only write twice a week. This is my third article today. I was batching this morning too, when I did all my daily e-mail, RSS, website maintenance, comment-handling and inbox dumping over one 30 minute period.

I’m a huge fan of batching because it saves time and makes life simpler at the same time. Instead of scrambling to write an article each day or check my e-mail constantly, I batch. I’m going to show you how you can batch in your life.

How Does Batching Work?

Collect up a group of similar activities and do them all at the same time. This is the main principle behind batching. You could collect up all your e-mail answering, household chores, reading assignments or phone calls and do them at one time.

Why Does Batching Work?

  1. It reduces start-up and slow-down time. The time it takes to load your e-mail inbox might not seem like much, but it adds up over time. Even worse is the mental delay it takes to switch from doing one type of task to another.
  2. It reduces daily clutter. Instead of having seven individual writing times throughout my week I only have two. Instead of having several scans of my inbox each day, I have one. Instead of doing my assignments in pieces, I do them in one session.
  3. It improves focus. As you work for longer on a task, you can begin to enter flow. Flow is the state of mind where work becomes easy and distractions melt away. Successful batching is like meditation for your work.

How to Start Batching Now

Here are some things you can consider batching in your life to save time, stress and achieve meditative productivity:

  1. E-Mail. Tim Ferriss, author of the 4-Hour Workweek, claims he received over 300 e-mails per hour during the high point of his book’s bestseller climb. Despite this, he answers e-mail once per day. What’s your excuse?
  2. Reading. Compress your textbook or self-education reading into one or two batches per week.
  3. Blogging. Make use of your blogging platform’s timestamp feature. This post was ready to go days before it went live. You can still batch and keep up a regular posting rate.
  4. Phone Calls. Keep a list of all the people you need to call and empty it once per day. Doing your calls in one batch will give you more freedom and help you pick the times of the day where people are least busy.
  5. Entertainment. Batch all your leisure time at the end of the day. This motivates you to get your work finished early and gives you a chance to really relax instead of just procrastinate.
  6. Assignments. Whenever I need to write an essay or work on a project, I try to do it in one sitting. This can mean spending several hours one day working on a single assignment. But this saves the endless guilt and procrastination to finish.
  7. Computer Work. Batch all your computer work into part of the day and go wireless for the rest.
  8. Magazine/Article Reading. Do you get several subscriptions? Read through them all at one time and get them off your coffee table.
  9. Cleaning. Do all your cleaning-related chores at one time during the day and week.
  10. Shopping/Errands. Cut down on gas usage and do all your grocery shopping, dry cleaning and visits to the post office at one time.
  11. Cooking. No time to prepare proper meals? Set aside a few hours Sunday to cook quick meals for the week.
  12. Classes. Arrange to place all your classes back-to-back instead of having long spares.
  13. Free Time. Compress your work onto six days and give yourself the seventh off. How you define “work” is up to you. Generally if it goes on your to-do list, it’s work. I restrict my day off from school, this website and Toastmaster/speaking duties, but your to-don’t list will vary.
  14. Thinking. Do you ever have an hour or two of uninterrupted thinking time each week? If you don’t, get into the habit of doing a thorough weekly review. Often I come up with most the article ideas I’ll write the next week during this time.
  15. Planning. Set aside several hours to plan out your next big goal or idea. Planning in bits and pieces is the best way to ensure you never start.
  16. Sleep. Are you a chronic napper? Although Thomas Edison might disagree with me here, I’m a believer in sleeping only once each day. The side-effect of this is that you need to make sure you get enough sleep when you do.
  17. Repairs. Batch together all those little tasks you’ve been meaning to do but haven’t had time. Fix the doorknob to your bathroom, clear out the medicine cabinet or replace the burnt-out bulb on your lamp.
  18. Social Contact. Cut down on the impersonal, online communication and meet people in person. If you get your social fix from a computer screen, you’ll probably end up cutting back on real communication time.
  19. Productivity System. Batch all your to-do lists, inboxes and forms into one convenient location.
  20. Information Tracking. Whether it’s your stock picks or website stats, it’s easy to get obsessed over the numbers. I only track that information once per week, with my income tracking only once per month. Batching your measurements ensures you stay focused on the big picture, not daily fluctuations.

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22 Responses to “20 Tips for Batching to Save Time and Cut Stress”

  1. Cogsys says:

    Thanks for the articles, Scott! I’ve really ironed out some inefficiencies in my life and work since following a colleague’s blog link.

    Have you considered tagging your articles with categories so interested readers can browse related articles? (I’ve long admired the category system on e.g. http://www.futurepundit.com )

  2. Time batching is a great way to stay more productive – and get more accomplished. I think the time stamp feature on WordPress is a must for any blogger who wants to stay consistent – especially during the crazy-busy times in life.

  3. Scott Young says:

    Cogsys,

    Tagging functionality is something I’ve considered, although it would mean going through my 400+ archive of articles and tagging posts with relevant tags. A project I might start when I’ve finished my book.

    -Scott

  4. Nishida says:

    I like this idea. Good for in training doctors and post graduates students (like me) who have hectic crazy work schedules, with very limited time to read.

    Great advice!!!

  5. Brad Sayers says:

    Hey Scott, Re: your point one, neat to see how Adam Smith (died 1790) puts this:

    “….the advantage which is gained by saving the time commonly lost in passing from one sort of work to another is much greater than we should at first view be apt to imagine it. It is impossible to pass very quickly from one kind of work to another that is carried on in a different place and with quite different tools. A country weaver, who cultivates a small farm, must lose a good deal of time in passing from his loom to the field, and from the field to his loom. When the two trades can be carried on in the same workhouse, the loss of time is no doubt much less. It is even in this case, however, very considerable. A man commonly saunters a little in turning his hand [ie, multitasking] from one sort of employment to another. When he first begins the new work he is seldom very keen and hearty; his mind, as they say, does not go to it, and for some time he rather trifles than applies to good purpose [googling, web surfing]. The habit of sauntering and of indolent careless application, which is naturally, or rather necessarily acquired by every country workman who is obliged to change his work and his tools every half hour, and to apply his hand in twenty different ways almost every day of his life, renders him almost always slothful and lazy, and incapable of any vigorous application even on the most pressing occasions.” From the Wealth of Nations.

  6. [...] Scott H Young » 20 Tips for Batching to Save Time and Cut Stress (tags: productivity lifehacks) [...]

  7. Al at 7P says:

    I like the email batching idea. I practice that and it helped save a lot of time, because email was my top distraction.

    It required a leap of faith because it was a habit I was afraid to let go – will the world collapse if I didn’t respond immediately to my emails? If you’re reading this comment, then that’s proof that the world won’t collapse if you batch email reading.

  8. Scott Young says:

    Brad Sayers,

    What a coincidence. I’m reading the Wealth of Nations right now and I wrote down that exact quote in my journal just yesterday. Spooky.

    -Scott

  9. Iair says:

    “Compress your work onto six days and give yourself the seventh off.”
    Nice atheist you are!!! (just a joke).
    BTW, you just picked the point. Bible Says: Not to *work* on saturdays, that was a matter of discussion that continues up to nowadays, Jewish wises of all times have discussed about that. You wouldn’t believe how *much* books were written on that subject. They’re uncountabble. :)

  10. Thanks for this post! It has helped me to define what is procrastination and now i fully understand what it means. http://www.stop-procrastination.org offers methods and answers to aid you to prevent from procrastination. It’s very insightful and has helped me alot! Give it a read today!

  11. Kabir says:

    Wow this is crazy stuff. I’ve been reading articles on your website for about a month now, and have discovered that your writing a book, articles, reading 70+ books a year, maintaining this website, and at the same time getting straight A’s without much studying. That’s amazing how do you do it. I mean it must take time and practice, managing time and everything. I’ve already started using you holistic learning technique and have found a huge difference in how fast i learn things and what they mean to me. Will definitely try batching.

  12. Ann says:

    Nothing to add other than thanks for this article. I was just on another blog that had a similar idea called “timeboxing”. Between this article and that one…I have a good idea about where I could gain a few hours by just applying this.

    Thanks

  13. But where to put that 1. dirty clothes for cleaning and 2. ironing them

  14. [...] 20 Tips for Batching to Save Time and Cut Stress @ Scott H Young [...]

  15. [...] this blog post. The concept is simple, work on a group of similar activities all at the same time. 20 Tips for Batching to Save Time and Cut Stress “Collect up a group of similar activities and do them all at the same time. This is the main [...]

  16. [...] your work is one of the most common productivity tips out there. However, I’ve always had a little problem with it. Batching turns small, [...]

  17. dream says:

    Although the batching idea is great and works well I have to disagree on the sleep thing. Research has shown that people who get in short naps on a regular basis tend to need fewer hours of sleep overall. It’s also shown to reduce stress to a small degree. Too bad it’s been years since I read those articles so can’t remember the sources to site. I CAN vouch for the fact that when my work schedule allows it, I find myself sleeping in a 5 1/2 hour block and a nap of 30 minutes to an hour each day. During those periods I DO feel less stressed and a bit more productive. Just a thought, not everyone is built to work on the same schedule. I also have a few friends who get their best work done really late night/ early morning.

  18. J.H. says:

    I’m sure that F.W. Taylor, the father of scientific management and inspiration for the word “Taylorism,” would eagerly endorse point 1 as well.

  19. jim says:

    So does that mean you spend, when doing assignments, several hours setting in one place working without any breaks to eat/drink, washroom, relax…etc?

  20. tejas says:

    does it mean i should do all my maths work on say monday and networking on tuesday and so on…..

  21. […] work week’, I warmly recommend it. (Our review of the book is here.) Tim has also compiled a comprehensive list on batching in his […]

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