There Might Be A Better Way To Batch Your Tasks…

There Might Be A Better Way To Batch Your Tasks…

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.

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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.

For more tips and advice on how to become more productive, sign up to my newsletter, which will give you lifetime access to my range of free printables!

How to Timeblock: A Beginner’s Guide

How to Timeblock: A Beginner’s Guide

As a virtual assistant, I work for a number of different clients. If I didn’t organise my time thoroughly, I guarantee that I would spend my day going round in circles. This is why I use Timeblocking.

As I mentioned last week, timeblocking is simply a way of timetabling your day so that you use your time for the things you should be doing. Sounds simple, but let’s be honest, how many of us start doing a piece of work, then check our emails, go back to the piece of work, then check our phone, then we see someone has liked our post on Facebook, then we remember the work we are supposed to be doing, and all of a sudden it’s lunchtime and you’ve done 30 minutes of work?

How to Start

Before you try and timetable your day, you should write a Master To Do List. My Work Week To Do list (free!!) is great for this. Sit with a piece of paper and write down every single thing that you know needs to be done, whether it is work related, home life, personal, side-hustle related… write it all on a list. If you’re a regular reader, you’ll have already done this in preparation for this week’s blog!

Sort Your List

Next, sort your list into categories. Mine are Client Work (which I divide up by client), Personal Work, Housework, Family and Charity. By sorting the tasks, you should see which lists are longer, which are shorter, which are more time heavy etc.

Allocate Time

How long do you think each list will take? This will vary vastly from person to person, depending on their individual skills, the nature of the tasks, and more. Be reasonable with your time, but not overly generous. I’ll give an example from my personal list here.

  • Write a questionnaire
  • Edit flyer
  • Distribute flyer
  • Send out email newsletter (including writing content)
  • Schedule video calls with clients 1, 2 and 3.

I know that editing the flyer should take less than 15 minutes, and composing the email to distribute it will take less than 5. The email newsletter could take up to an hour as I would need to compile the information for it and then create the email and send it around. Writing the questionnaire could take an hour – unless I can find a template, which I will try and do to save some time – no more than 10 minutes looking for a template. Scheduling the video calls is something that I automate, so sending my booking link to the three clients will take less than 2 minutes. In total, that list should take me about 2 and a half hours.

Repeat this step for each of your lists.

Block Your Time

Using my new February Printable, you can block your time on a day-by-day basis. I start my timeblocking from 7am, but realistically you can start it at any time of the day. For this step, you will need coloured pens or pencils – a different colour for each list. You know how much time each list will take, so you can either block out a chunk where you do all the work, or you can break it down. Whatever works best for you! The first few days or weeks will be a little bit of trial and error as you establish how you work best.

Here is an example of my day:

This is my Clever Fox daily planner. You can buy it here

The pink colour is my Stephanie Ward – Productivity Guru time, yellow is for household stuff, green is for a specific client for whom I have scheduled tasks throughout the day, purple is a different client for whom I do a block of work once a week, blue is for my charity and orange is my personal time. In the orange sections, I do things to replenish myself, such as reading, playing on my laptop, relaxing with my family, or listening to an audio book.

THESE REPLENISHMENT BLOCKS ARE JUST AS IMPORTANT AS THE ONES WHERE YOU ARE PRODUCTIVE!!

Do I need to say it louder for the people at the back?

So, I’ve blocked out my day, where does my list come into this?

It’s simple, you choose the corresponding list at the time of day which you have blocked out, and you just work through it! In my 7am block I have a pink block which means my business admin, so I’ll choose the Stephanie Ward – Productivity Guru list, and just start working through that. When 8am comes, I’ll put down that list and switch to my household tasks. I don’t generally keep a list for my household tasks as it is the same each day – put Jack’s lunch in his bag, make his breakfast, iron uniform, dress us both. And then at 9:15 when he is at school, I switch to the green list for my client. And so on!

Sometimes it can help to subdivide your lists if you have a lot of similar tasks. Next week, I’ll also teach you different ways to batch your tasks for optimum success.

Please note, this blog contains a few affiliate links to products I use and love. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. It helps me keep the lights on and provide for my family. I would never endorse a product I have not personally tried and loved.