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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