Up until the end of last year I thought I had it all figured out. I had a weekly schedule, where I would spread all my tasks throughout the 7 days of the week. My thinking behind this, was that spreading the workload through the week, was going to make things easier for myself.
So, for example, I would set different parts of my housework for each day, i.e. Monday: hoover, Tuesday: dusting, Wednesday: Kitchen + Fridge etc. The same would go for my work and blog. I tended to add lots of little tasks every day on various topics and sections of my work - from website updates, to emails, reading articles I needed to catch up with, replying to comments, writing blog posts, promoting them, being active on social media etc.
This way of doing things, resulted in me having huge to-do lists every day with lots of little tasks on various areas. And while I was trying to stay on top of that list, I would start doing each of the tasks, and then move to the next one. But there was no cohesion. So, for example, I would start to dust the house, then sit down to reply to some emails, and then go and hang out the laundry. And it would continue like this. Also, most of the times I would get distracted by something else (like an incoming txt or email), resulting in me spending more time than I thought on each task.
At the end of the day, I would find myself exhausted, looking with bleary eyes at a half-done to-do list, surrounded by lots of post-it notes with things I needed to remember throughout the day, feeling deflated and near to tears!
Multitasking is definitely not good for my productivity!
But then, I came across the term ‘batch days’ and my whole world changed!
What is a batch day?
A batch day is when you dedicate one day (or part of a day) to work on a specific topic, with no distractions so that you have maximum productivity. By batching similar tasks together and minimising distractions, you’ll be able to focus more on the specific tasks, and finish them quicker.
What can you batch?
Everything! From your blog posts, emails and your social media, to your housework, reading, cooking, calls and errants. It’s really up to you!
How does it work?
You create a list of tasks and things you need to do on a specific topic/category. Once you’ve created your list then you allocate a specific day as your batch day for this list, and you add it in your calendar. So, when that day comes, you’ll know exactly what needs to be done.
But there are certain rules:
No distractions: During the time you are working on your list, you can’t look at your phone (put it on a ‘do not disturb’ mode), check your emails or social media accounts, and generally you can’t get distracted by anything that doesn't have to do with the tasks on the list. Use the time when the kids are at school or, if you can, hire a babysitter.
Make sure that you’re prepared and you have everything you need. Check your list from the day before and make sure all the equipment, tools and devices you may need to finish the tasks for the day are ready. Charge your camera, download the right workbook, have the notebooks and pens you'll need at hand. Generally, make sure that there’ll be no surprises, which may prevent you from finishing all the tasks in your list.
Prepare everything else in advance. Obviously, you may have more responsibilities during that day that you cannot avoid or postpone. For example, being a mother of two, I know that when my kids come back from school, they want to eat straight away. So, on my batch days I’ll make sure that I’ve prepared something for lunch from the day before. That way I don’t have to stop what I’m doing to start cooking.
Utilise your time efficiently. You can make sure that you use those hours even more efficiently by using the pomodoro technique, and further blocking out your set time.
Take breaks. You need to give yourself some time off in between the tasks to mentally rest, so that you have the energy to continue. Every hour or so take a 10-15 minute break. Get up from the computer and have a snack, go out in the garden, meditate. Do something else and for a few minutes change environment.
You can’t do anything that’s on that list before the set day - unless you have some spare time and you feel like doing so :)
How does it work for me?
Changing my routine hasn’t been easy, but since I started implementing the batch days to my schedule I’ve seen some great results and lots of checked off to-do lists!
The following are a few things that I am batching in order to make myself more productive:
Housework - While before I was spreading all the tasks throughout the week, now I do most of the cleaning on Saturday mornings. I know exactly what needs to be done, and I don’t schedule any other work for that part of the day. Obviously, there are still things that I need to do during the week like laundry, cooking etc., but generally 90% of my cleaning is done on a Saturday.
Blog - I try to write and schedule the blog posts of the week on Mondays, so that I don’t have to think about them for the rest of the week. I have to admit that this doesn’t always happen, especially the last few weeks that I was moving to Squarespace, but generally speaking, I try to allocate one day for the blog posts. My plan is to have at least two week’s worth of blog posts pre-scheduled in order to use that time to batch other things. ;)
Social media - I have to admit that I get so distracted when I check my social media accounts, it’s ridiculous! I can spend anything from 10 to 30 minutes without even realising it! So, in order to avoid this distraction as much as possible, I use Buffer and Hootsuite to pre-schedule my social media. I set one day every 15 days to pre plan my pins on Pinterest using Buffer, while I use Hootsuite once a week to plan, organise and schedule my day to day social media interactions on Twitter and Facebook for that week.
Planning - I plan all my week every Sunday afternoon, while I make my weekly spread in my bullet journal. It helps me to have a clear view of the week ahead, put my thoughts in order, plan as much as I can and set batch days for various groups of tasks.
Brainstorming - I tend to set up 30-45mins to brainstorm ideas for my blog once every 15 days. It helps me put my thoughts on paper and come up with new things I can do. I tend to have a brain dump list in my bullet journal, where I can add ideas when they come up to me.
Errants - I’ve set every Thursday as my errant day. I know that I will dedicate that morning for all my shopping and errants, so that I won’t schedule any work for that time.
I’ve also created a FREE set of printables to help you when you plan your batch days. It’s a brain dump page and a batch day planning page. On the brain dump page you write all the ideas and tasks you think, without any order. This page is just to collect all your thoughts and empty your brain. The batch day planning page is where you group similar tasks from your brain dump page in lists, and you allocate a specific date as the batch day for them.
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Have you used batch days before? What are your thoughts? What other ways do you use to keep yourself focused and productive?