Last week we looked at how we can block out time in our week to make sure we are getting the most of our time. This week, I’m going to be telling you about how we can batch your tasks for EVEN MORE productivity. I know, it sounds extreme. It’s not. It’s actually quite smart! As a virtual assistant, I use this technique every single day of my life.
Batching means grouping tasks. But the killer question is, HOW do you batch them? The obvious solution may be to batch them according to what you need to do – for example, do all the emails together. It is an entirely valid way to do it, but I’m going to suggest a few different ways to give you inspiration.
Batching by Context
This is something I do when working on specific clients. I have one client who has a very ‘Mean Girls’esque feeling to their business, and I find that when I am working on something for her, it is very difficult to work on something else in the middle because I need to summon up my inner Regina George. Because I have such a diverse range of client, this strategy works well for my work day. I have clients across education, beauty, professional services and the charity sector, and each of these has a very different feel to the next, and so it makes sense to batch tasks according to the company, to keep my mindset in with the vibe of the business.
Batching by Task
When it comes to grouping by task, I recommend focusing on one client or context. For example, if you have a lot of emails to send across three or four different contexts (personal, family, work, side hustle), I do not recommend clumping these all together, because it just gets too confusing. You don’t want to email your child’s teacher about the latest offer at your business by accident.
Then, you should sort your tasks for that client of context by category. For me, I have a range of tasks I do, and I sort my tasks like this:
This enables me to stay in one software item at a time, with minimal flicking between screens. Screen switching is a huge time consumer. Consider how many times you do it in a day. Unless you have a multi-monitor set up, I imagine this will be a lot!
Batching by Time
One of my top tips is, if it takes less than one minute, do it NOW! But if you have a LOT of 1 minute tasks that will mean stopping what you are doing, you can batch these together.
Here are the time categories I group by:
I have one hour per day which I protect for admin. In this hour, I’ll first tackle all the one minute or less tasks, then the tasks that take 1-5 minutes. Then, if I have finished them all, I’ll look at how long I have left, and choose a task from the list that closest fits that time.
Batching by Energy Levels
Having an intuitive knowledge of my energy levels, I know that there are certain times of day where actually, I should not be doing certain tasks. The first hour and last hour of the day, for example, are really bad for me. My focus is at its best between 8am and 3pm. In addition to this, I am human and sometimes I’m tired or lacking mojo. On days like this, I divide my list as follows:
Some tasks, such as things relating to my charity, require me to be strong and boundaried. If I’m feeling ‘meh’, I won’t put these tasks on my list. Do you think the Queen does things she hasn’t the energy for? NO. No, she does not. Other things require me to be compassionate – which can be quite emotionally exhausting. I will only schedule one of these slots every few days to prevent emotional burnout, and I will schedule self care for the 30 minutes immediately after.
If I am aware my brain is not able to focus, I’ll put my shallow tasks into a block and go through them. Shallow tasks are things such as simple emails, adding formatting to documents, scheduling social media posts and diary management, and tasks like this are usually ‘quick wins’, which I personally find very gratifying. One bonus of grouping the tasks this way is that if often drives me back into focus so I can follow it up with a deep task, such as proofreading.
The final way I will sometimes group tasks is by high/low energy. I also often subdivide these into impact in a graph like this:
I will then gauge my energy levels, and start with the high impact tasks for that category, and follow it up with the low impact tasks. Need a quick win? Go for low energy/high impact.
The Bottom Line
All of these methods are entirely valid, and you may vary which one you use from one day to the next. The important thing is choosing a system that works for you. If you aren’t sure, you can book a productivity consultation with me to discuss your needs in more depth.
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