When you ask a friend how life’s going, what’s their typical response?
In my experience, it usually includes one word – busy.
We’re all busy. Just thinking off the top of my head for a minute, here’s all of the projects I have on my plate right now:
- Study for my MBA class final
- Clean up the mailbox that got egged
- Write 4 articles for freelance client A
- Write 6 more for client B
- Find a few more potential freelance clients
- Bathe the dog (it’s been… way too long)
- Prepare dinner (sorry wifey- don’t think it will happen today)
- Mow the grass
- Clean my office
- Move the bed to the new guest room (a.k.a. My office)
- Move the new chair to the old guest room
So, yeah… I’ve got stuff going on.
Oh yeah, and those are all things I have to do between watching my 2 year old terrorize my house.
Obviously I realize that everyone’s list looks different, but the idea is there. We have more things to do than we have time. Hence the huge appeal for books like The 4 Hour Work Week by Tim Ferris.
While that book has so many great lessons and themes, one lesson that I glazed over for a long time was the idea of batching tasks together. I think the reason why I didn’t really apply that lesson was because it dealt with email. I definitely get email, but not the hundreds or thousands a day like he does.
I Needed a Change
I’d spent countless days with an idea of what I’d do, and end up finishing very little of it. Usually that meant getting sucked into a black hole of one kind or another. YouTube, video games, a trip with the family to get out of the house, etc.
While re-listening to the 4HWW, the section on batching came on. I figured it may be worth a shot to try, even if I didn’t use it much for email.
My “method” – if you can call it that- had been to do a little work on lots of things every day. So I might write 1 article for a client, do 30 minutes of yard work, study for an hour, etc.
I felt like I was getting a lot done, but I wasn’t really. It took a while to transition from one task to the next, and that ramp-up period took time.
My First Batching Experiment
My first batching project was to go full-bore writing articles. I blocked out 4 hours and went to town.
While I was certainly tired of writing about that subject by the end of the 4 hours, I was amazed at how much I’d accomplished. I’d finished the entire month’s quota at once! Holy crap!
Besides just letting me tick off something from my to-do list, it gave me an intangible benefit. It reduced my stress. I no longer had to worry about that client for the next month, freeing up some free space in my head to focus on other things.
The next day I did the same thing- this time with studying. I was taking 3 MBA classes at the time, and each takes at least an hour of work/reading each week. I blocked out 4 hours stuck my nose in the books.
I was tired of reading about inventories and doing financial analysis after those 4 hours, but I was done! I had prepared for the upcoming classes, so again that was one more thing I didn’t have to worry about for at least another week.
Expanding the Batching Experiment
Since starting this experiment, I’ve implemented batching in lots of other activities. Yard work now tends to all get done at once, rather than a little bit each day. That lets me take just 1 shower and destroy just 1 pair of clothes instead of several each week.
Cooking takes a lot less time now, too. I’ll prepare several days worth of dinner at once and just store it in tupperware. Each day I take it out and heat it up within a few minutes. Donezo.
If you haven’t done it before, give batching a shot. Start with just one kind of task, then work up to more. You’re gonna love it, or I’ll eat my shoe.
Also, one last word on batching. Don’t think you have to do it all in ONE sitting. You can do it on one block of time, but work in short sprints instead of one long marathon. I like the Pomodoro method, where you work for 25 minutes and take a 5 minute break. The break is just long enough to stretch your legs and get something to eat/drink, and the 25 minutes is long enough to get a good chunk of work done with extreme focus.