In My Never Ending Quest for Efficiency: Batch Processing

After last night’s frantic post, I realized that I have to get back to basics.  Let me be clear, I was not complaining. I like to be busy.  Every single thing I’m doing is something that I WANT to do.  And honestly, how many people can say that!?  I am truly grateful, even though every once in a while my commitments start to pile up and threaten to bury me alive.

When I get overwhelmed, it’s usually because I’ve become haphazard in my time management.  Fortunately I know the answer: Batch Processing.

All too often, I have a hard time buckling down.  I flit around from one thing to the next and before I know it I’ve started five or ten projects.  It’s hard to get a sense of accomplishment when I have a half dozen things going on at once.  And then when I’m interrupted, I FREAK because I know I’ll never remember half of what I was doing when I get back to it.

I’ve learned that I’m much more efficient (and sane) when I practice the batch processing approach to accomplishing my myriad of tasks. I read about batch processing years ago, I think it was from ProBlogger.  The busier I get and the more responsibilities I take on, the more I find that this approach is essential to getting it all done without losing my mind.

Batch processing is basically collecting up a bunch of similar jobs and doing them all at once. Rather than doing a little bit of everything every day, you work in batches.

For me, that means that one day I may spend a big chunk of time blogging.  And then the next day I may focus on design work.  Another day I will dedicate to household chores.

When I was in Seattle, I took a day and wrote four posts for Therapon, where I write weekly skin health articles.  Once I got in the groove, I just kept cranking until they were all finished.  Then instead of having that task hanging over my head each week, I could walk away from it for a month.

Doing tasks in batches saves time and makes me more efficient and makes the whole process more enjoyable.  It doesn’t mean that I don’t do anything else that day, but I try to concentrate on one main thing, get it done, and then fill in the rest of my time with whatever is most pressing (or most fun!)

So here’s how I do it.

1) Make a list.

I am not a list maker by nature, but it has become a necessity.  I try to prioritize what needs to be done, and list my projects in that order.  Then I prepare to tackle the first task on the list.

2) Turn off the noise.

My biggest distraction, whether it be to computer work, housework, or relationships, is Facebook/Twitter/Skype.  When I want to hunker down and focus on a task, I shut it all down.  Don’t get me wrong, these are great tools, but sometimes too much of a good thing is, well, no longer a good thing.

3) Wrap up loose ends.

I can’t dive into a new project until I’ve wrapped up all the outstanding projects that are lingering.  Some would say this is procrastinating, and it can become that way if I let myself get bogged down in nonessential tasks (which I tend to do, so I have to be careful.)  But we all think and focus better in an uncluttered space, and this goes for a cluttered to-do list too.  So before tackling a big task, I go through my emails and make sure there is nothing that needs my immediate response, and I like to make sure the house is picked up and the kids (if they are home) are occupied.

4) Gather everything you need in one place.

If it’s a baking day, I make sure I’ve been to the store and have all necessary ingredients.  If it’s a design day, I make sure I have all the info I need from my clients.  If it’s a writing day, I make sure I have all the information I need for the posts I want to write.  If it’s an errand day, I gather all my coupons, lists, returns, etc. and load them into the car.  If it’s a household chores day . . .  well, you get the drift!

5) Focus.

Once everything is prepped, it’s time to dive in and get to work.  Sometimes if it’s something I’m really having a hard time completing, I’ll set a goal and give myself some type of award.  I often find that once I get going, I’m on a roll and nothing can stop me.  Just ask my husband.  When I’m in the zone, there’s no point in trying to talk to me.

There are still plenty of days that I flit around from task to task, but I’m most efficient when I operate this way.

How do you get it all done?  Do you use batch processing?  What tips would you add to make this system more efficient?

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5 thoughts on “In My Never Ending Quest for Efficiency: Batch Processing

  1. Can’t work in batches–I’ve tried, but I need daily variety. I am also deadline driven, both for work and just as a personality trait, which means I work best and think clearest when I am down to the wire. I’ve found that a biweekly to-do list, rather than a daily list, is pretty helpful. I can plot out my week more or less with what ought to get done on what day, with the “must-do” items–appointments, kid activities, work deadline, etc.–anchoring each day. I’ve also learned to stock up on supplies–I do major shopping every two weeks and coordinate my shopping list with my biweekly task list. Working mostly from home gives me a good deal of flexibility. I’ve always loved to make lists–they look so organized–but following through was problematic until I just got tired of always coming up short and realized that my sanity was on the line!

  2. Interesting! This totally goes along with something I heard today on NPR about our brain cycles. The expert they were talking about said it’s really important to take breaks every 90 minutes, and to take several breaks a day that are REAL breaks — not, for instance, checking your email while you ‘break’.

    Apparently they studied professional musicians and found that the best ones practice 90 minutes a day, max, and the reason the are the best are because they are following the brains natural cycle for success. Practicing more would just make them WORSE players, rather than better.

    So, yes — batch, and take breaks.

    Oh, and they also recommended 20-45 minute naps once a day. I’d love to work that in. 😀

    If you go here: http://www.hereandnow.org/ and scroll down to the “The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working” you can listen to the story. Quite fascinating.

  3. I could be a poster child for the too many tasks at once club. I’m likin’ this idea!! “Turn off all the noise” is going to be the difficult one for me to conquer but for sure the most vital!

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