Increase Productivity by Batching Tasks
Posted by Todd Smith
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For the past 29 years, I have been a student of time management and know that it has been one of the major keys to my success as an entrepreneur. I consistently look at how I can be more productive with my time. In fact, there is not a workday that goes by that I am not focused on maximizing how my time is spent.
Being productive with my time is part of my DNA and plays an important role in my everyday decisions. Today, I want to teach you a simple tip to be more productive, achieve greater success, and enjoy a better quality of life.
Batch Your Tasks
Effective time management is essential to achieve your career goals. My top time-management tip is to use a daily prioritized to-do list to plan your time. If you have not read My Top Time Management Tip, it is a must. In this lesson, I will share with you my second-best tip: batch your tasks.
Batching your tasks is not really difficult or complicated but requires a conscious effort. Basically, batching tasks entails the combination of responsibilities into one category and the completion of them at the same time. As an example, run all your errands at one time, rather than scattering them throughout the day.
Often, it’s the little tasks that add up and steal all our time. For instance, each time I have to pay bills, I open my mail, paperclip each bill with its return envelope, enter the information on the computer, print out the checks, sign the checks, get my backup thumb drive out of my fireproof safe, backup the system, put the thumb drive back into the safe, tear off the return part of each invoice and insert it along with the check into each envelope, lick the envelope, put a stamp on it, put it in the mailbox and file the remaining paperwork. Sure, there are bills you can pay through online checking or automated methods, but in my world, I have a lot of checks I have to pay manually.
If I went through this process with every invoice I received, it would take me ten times as long as my current process where I only pay my bills on the 25th of each month. For 20 years, I paid bills twice a month, but by moving to once a month, I am increasing my productivity even more. In moving it to once a month, I contacted my credit card companies who changed my billing cycle so they are all due at the same time. I did the same thing with my other vendors.
Other Examples of Batching Tasks
Returning Emails—I return emails three times a day. I may scan them between projects in case something is requiring my immediate attention, but I try to remain disciplined to only return them three times a day. When I am working on an important project or running behind on my responsibilities, I will then only return them twice a day.
Opening Mail—I put all my mail in a stack or box and only open it once a month when I pay bills. When I go through my mail, I throw all magazines, junk mail, and anything without a first-class stamp in our recycling container. Then, on the day I have designated for this task, I open the mail that remains.
Social Media—I have learned that social media can be time-consuming if you are not careful. Like everything I do, I had to establish my rules of engagement for this task. I review and respond to comments on Twitter and the Little Things Matter Facebook fan page once a day and make three posts a day that appear on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.
I realize if I invest more time using social media to promote my blog, I would have more subscribers, but I just don’t have the extra time. (So, will you help me spread the word?)
My Daily Blog Posts—I block out every morning from 8:00-11:30 to write my daily blog posts. This is the time of day when I am at my best, so I use it to write my posts. When I was in the sales industry, I used it to prospect for new business. Throughout my career, I have tried to protect my mornings to do my highest-valued work. Identify your most productive time of day and use it to do your most important tasks.
Returning Calls—I try to return all my calls when I am in the car, because, other than listening to self-development CDs, it is the best use of my time in the car.
Scheduling Calls—I try to schedule all my calls in the afternoon back to back with each other, rather than scattering them throughout my afternoon. Scheduling them back to back also gives me a reason to conclude a call when the time I have allocated to it is finished. I have also learned that when people know I have blocked out 15 minutes for a call that should only take 15 minutes, everyone gets right to the point. You could use this same strategy for your meetings.
An added benefit to batching tasks is the reduction of errors, as you will be more focused and systematic in what you are doing. When undertaking tasks I don’t enjoy, it allows me to get on a roll and get them all done at one time.
These are just a few examples of how I batch tasks throughout the day to increase my productivity. Please share with me some examples of how you batch your tasks below this post. We can all learn from each other.
If you don’t currently batch your tasks, begin by making a list of everything you do and determine how you can do a better job at batching your everyday responsibilities. If you are already batching your tasks, what improvements can you make to be even more productive?
Learning to batch your tasks is one of the most important time-management lessons you can master.
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