How to Batch Your Tasks for Maximum Productivity

I’m a self-professed organization junkie. I both admit it and embrace it. To-do lists, color-coded schedules, and calendars make me …

I’m a self-professed organization junkie. I both admit it and embrace it. To-do lists, color-coded schedules, and calendars make me feel insanely satisfied and put-together!

Part of my “guilty-organizational-pleasure” is scheduling my day. As a freelancer, I consider it one of the most critical tasks (outside of actually writing).

When you’re working for yourself, it can be all too easy to lose focus while struggling to juggle all the proverbial balls in the air. While one of the perks of freelancing is being your own boss, it also means you’re ultimately responsible for how, where, and when you work.

At first glance, that sounds amazing, right?

Well, it’s a lot less “amazing” when forgotten deadlines come zooming at you like comets, or you’re missing client payments because you’re behind on administrative duties.

If you’re freelancing part-time, the time crunch becomes even more pronounced.

All of these (and there are indeed plenty more) are strong reasons why productivity and organization should be a freelancer’s top priority.

Hopefully, you’re already implementing some sort of schedule for yourself and employing productivity hacks. If not, now is the time to do so!

Even if you’ve got a tried-and-true method in place, there’s always room for improvement.

“Being busy does NOT equate with being productive.”

When I started out, I was a big fan of time blocking, the process of blocking out specific amounts of time for individual tasks.

I would set a schedule and do the best I could to stick to it. For a while, it worked quite well for me.

However, as my business grew, I found myself busy all the time, but my to-do list never seemed to shrink, at least not at the rate I’d expected.

Possibly one of my favorite and most useful additions to my scheduling toolbox is task batching.

Task batching appears to be what was the missing piece in crafting the most productive workday schedule possible.

So, What is Task Batching?

Task-batching is very similar to time blocking but takes the method a giant, more efficient step further.

Batching involves completing similar tasks in a scheduled block, avoiding the need for switching back and forth between skills and concentrations.

Research shows that task switching is hugely detrimental to productivity. When we change our focus, it can take, on average, 15-23 minutes for your brain to “catch up” and re-focus.

Depending on how many different types of tasks you have on your to-do list, that can really add up, leading to a tremendous amount of lost or otherwise wasted time.

How Do I Task Batch?

Right off the bat, I have to tell you that setting up a task-batching schedule does require some prior planning. Trust me, it’ll be worth it in the end!

Imagine that you’re meal prepping. You’ll need to plan out what foods you want to make, create a grocery list, prepare and cook each item, and then assemble your meals.

Task batching follows a very similar process.

Start by creating a mega to-do list. Be sure to include all the things you need to get done, including household duties, things you WANT, not just NEED to do, and even social and/or family responsibilities.

Check out this sample to-do list below. Looks like a long week of work ahead of you, right?

  • Write 2 new blog posts
  • Edit and submit client #1 piece
  • Follow up on cold pitches
  • Write and submit the 1st draft to client #2
  • Invoice client #1
  • Format last week’s blog posts
  • Read 3 chapters of “The Four Hour Workweek” by Tim Ferriss
  • Promote new post and engage on Twitter
  • Drop off Fido at the vet
  • Lunch at Bistro with Sally
  • Complete copywriting project for client #3
  • Quarterly taxes
  • Outline 5x post ideas
  • Email editor about changes to client #4 work
  • Manicure/Pedicure for this weekend’s event
  • Pitch new clients
  • Follow up on unpaid invoices
  • Take the car in for service
  • Complete module 2 of online course
  • Update WordPress plugins/theme
  • Watch the finale of Westworld

Now go through that list (perhaps with different color highlighters, if you’re anything like me) and classify each item by the skill or concentration needed to complete the task.

Take a look at how that same to-do list looks now that it’s been “batched.”

Writing

  • Write 2 new blog posts
  • Write and submit the 1st draft to client #2
  • Complete copywriting project for client #3

Editing/Formatting

  • Edit and submit client #1 piece
  • Format last week’s blog posts

Administrative

  • Invoice client #1
  • Quarterly taxes
  • Follow up on unpaid invoices
  • Update WordPress plugins/theme

Communication

  • Follow up on cold pitches
  • Promote new post and engage on Twitter
  • Email editor about changes to client #4 work
  • Pitch new clients

Travel

  • Drop off Fido at the vet
  • Take the car in for service

Personal Development

  • Read 3 chapters of “The Four Hour Workweek” by Tim Ferriss
  • Complete module 2 of online course
  • Outline 5x post ideas

Rewards

  • Watch the finale of Westworld
  • Manicure/Pedicure for this weekends’ event
  • Lunch at Bistro with Sally

Somehow it seems a bit more manageable now, right? Instead of blocking out tasks by client or project, you’re ensuring you make the most out of your working hours, whatever they may be, without excess time wasting.

What batching can do for you

So why put in the extra time batching your to-do list? The simple answer is because it can revolutionize the way you work.

Boost Your Output and Productivity

Using this method allows you to maximize work-block productivity, keeps you working once you hit your “flow,” and overall helps you concentrate on the task at hand.

With the list batched, you can focus on one skill at a time avoiding the dreaded task-switch time drain altogether.

One study shows that you can lose up to 40% of your daily productivity output when you utilize a multitasking approach.

That’s the beauty of task batching. There’s no lost time between projects as once you’ve hit your stride, you continue on using the same skill at maximum efficiency.

Fit Your Schedule

For full-time freelancers, this is an excellent method to use on a weekly or even longer-term basis. The above task-batched to-do list could easily be completed within two days.

Part-timers also reap the benefits as it helps maximize your output in smaller blocks. If you only have few hours to work on your business a day, batching is a great way to make the most of a tight schedule.

A part-time freelancer can break up the batched to-do list over a few days to a week, depending on what kind of time you have to devote to your freelancing business.

Incentivize Yourself

According to a recent study, it can take over 20 minutes to refocus on a new task after a distraction.

By including things you actually want to do onto your list, you can change their designation from “distraction” to “reward” with ease. Just imagine how much more you could get done with fewer distractions!

Additionally, when you implement task batching, you’ve incorporated these newly renamed distractions, as a reward system. Let’s be honest, rewards can be a highly motivating system, even outside of the preschool realm.

Create A Personalized Plan

Another reason I’m a big supporter of task batching is that it’s wholly individualized. You can sort tasks according to your work style, needs, or preferences. After all, who knows you better than you?

What’s more is that batching can effortlessly improve any freelancers’ schedule, regardless of personal or professional time constraints.

Considerations

Stay mindful that even the best plans go awry. Things will come up unexpectedly, and you may get off course a bit. No worries. Just get back on track when you can.

The method may take some getting used to or feel counterintuitive at first (it sure did for me). However, the longer I used the system, the faster I found myself zipping through my to-do lists.

Helpful Hint: I started to keep a notebook next to me so if a thought or idea struck me while working on another “skill area,” I could quickly write it down and add it to my batched list later.

As we’ve mentioned, task batching can be considered an improvement on time blocking. It’s easy to implement, even if you currently have a working scheduling system in place.

By leveling up your scheduling process or adopting a brand new one, you may just find yourself more productive, creative, and even more focused.

After all, who doesn’t want to do more with less?

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