Secret #6 Batching
Set up, do task, clean up.
Set up, do task, clean up.
Over and over.
What is the secret of batching?
Collecting tasks that are similar and knocking them out all at once.
Setting up and putting away are a big percentage of any job. Doing an action more than once capitalizes on time and mental attention.
Batching is something that’s batted around ad nauseam in the business world. It’s the golden goose of time management gurus.
I’ve observed that moms may use the technique naturally at work but not so much at home.
Maybe it’s the interruption-rich environment we live in (children, hello!) but I think it’s mainly because we don’t think of our home management as a profession.
5 Brilliant reasons to batch tasks
Finding the tools and supplies to accomplish a task takes time. Putting it all away takes time.
Imagine preparing a bill. You need to find an envelope, a stamp, a pen, the checkbook, the address. You prep the bill, record it, and walk it to the mailbox; come back and put the supplies away – or not – because you got distracted on the way.
You can mail five bills over five days or mail them all in one session.
The setup and put away time is the same no matter how many items you mail.
Some tasks take practice. When I haven’t used my Cricut in awhile or attempt something unfamiliar on the computer it takes FOREVER. With practice things that seemed hard, become easy. Batching takes advantage of this.
Batching mindless tasks also opens up possibilities to double-time. As a rule, multi-tasking is inefficient, but that’s a discussion for another day.
However, double-timing certain tasks is smart and batching gives you a bigger chunk to double-time.
For example, if I’m cutting up one bell pepper, I just do it. If I’m cutting up a crisper of vegetables I turn on a podcast or book-on-tape.
A big basket of ironing means an episode of Netflix. Yeah!
Takes advantage of momentum
We dilly dally.
Well, I dilly dally, I shouldn’t speak for you.
If you do twenty tasks a day and add 1 extra minute in wool gathering to each task, that’s twenty wasted minutes.
Or to put it in perspective, ten hours a month!
What fun could you have with ten extra hours?
Spending a five or ten unnecessary minutes on a phone call, wandering around the house “cleaning”, and going down every aisle at Costco to see what’s new are some of my time wasters.
When I batch tasks together I’m more aware of time and motion.
Excellent technique combined with getting two-ahead
All the “two-ahead” ideas work great as batching tasks.
Ask yourself if there’s something you can do, while you are at the current task, that will smooth your way in – 2 hours, 2 days, 2 weeks, 2 months…
Reduces decision stress
Making decisions is exhausting. Current research claims that we only have a certain amount of decision-making juice a day.
It stands to reason that the more minutia we take out of the equation the better we will be making important, life-affecting choices.
Systems, habits, and routines are good at removing the need for constant decision making.
So is batching.
I decide to vacuum the entire house, or sort all the papers in my office or wrap all the presents – and then I do it. And cross off six or a dozen tasks on the to-do list with one choice.
Batching also allows you to do one type of task at a time – allowing for focus.
Focus is our most scarce resource.
Completing a satisfying number of tasks signals our brains to clean up.
Remember that one bill we took to the mailbox. Well, there are other bills to be paid, so why not leave the stuff on the counter?
Multiply this “I’m going to get back to that…” by a dozen jobs a day and here comes a clutter avalanche!
Put batching into practice
Using a tool
Anytime you have to get out a tool, consider what else you can tackle.
A few ideas that come to mind:
Tools that need to warm up – laminator, wax pot, glue gun, the iron – can you get more than one job done at a time?
Gift wrapping requires gathering up a bunch of small tools. How many gifts can you wrap in one session?
Tools that require effort to set up, like a food processor or sewing machine.
Get the most from your effort by batching around tools.
Meal preparation makes a mess.
Batching meals still makes a mess but it’s a 2 for 1 mess.
Making two batches of tonight’s dinner takes a fraction of extra time, but having that meal in the freezer will save your life (exaggerating) some night next week.
There are a lot of dips and sauces and dressings if you eat paleo or keto. Most of them use similar ingredients and tools. Batching is making the weeks recipes in one cooking session.
Line up the meat you will be using in the next 3-4 days. Marinate, season, prep and store in the meat drawer of the fridge. One mess, one blast of disinfectant.
Chop all the vegetables for the week. You will eat more produce, and waste less food.
Making as many phone calls as you can in one session will make you lean and mean – time wise. I like to have a repetitive task to do while I make calls.
Scanning and filing get done faster in batches.
My favorite desk tool is my action files. Sitting next to my desk is a file box like this:
Every paper that comes my way is routed through this system. When it’s time to batch I pull out the related file, stack up the work and ratchet down the pile.
Running around town can be a major time and energy waster. I’ve already mentioned (several times) how much I despise running errands…
Besides eliminating them completely – we will talk about that in Secret #19 – the best thing to do with errands is batch them.
Line up everything you need to do for the week. (As you fine-tune your batching skills, look ahead for a month or more.)
Pick a part of town with the best options – locations, stores – for this week’s errands and go to it.
Getting a lot of errands done always deserves a treat in my book.
If you’re taking small children on errands think of batching in terms of location, instead of quantity. Pick the one stop you can make that will tackle the most number of items.
Make the most of that one stop.
Some super grocery stores are like mini-malls with a variety of services. Get your tires rotated while having your child’s haircut and picking up party supplies!
There’s one small grocery store a distance from my house that offers 50% produce on Tuesday’s. They also have an auto licensing and shipping service. You can bet if I ever have to ship something FedEx it will be on a Tuesday.
Treading on a sacred cow here…
How many times a day do you grab your phone and check social media?
Now maybe that’s your happy place and I should mind my own business. OK, I’m not talking to you.
But the rest of us, that don’t want to check social media as a knee jerk reaction to every moment of repose…
Pick a time or place, make it the “social media” time and enjoy it, guilt free.
Sunday morning on the way to and from church is my Pinterest scrolling time. Waiting for an appointment is designated Instagram catch-up time.
Similar to social media it’s easy to be chained to email.
The best part of batching email (3x a day at most) is that you can crank down pretty fast.
Somewhere I read a statistic that every email you process costs about ninety cents.
At home, that’s kind of a false metric, but I grabbed hold of it anyway.
When I see an email from a car rental company we used six months ago and consider if I would pay ninety cents for it, unsubscribing is a no-brainer.
It’s easier to realize the time cost of email when you have to get through a lot of it.
Schedule your family for dental, eye appointments, and annual physicals back-to-back.
If the practice is big enough they may fit you in at the same time.
The first time you ask, your medical person may balk at this. They don’t like to block out big chunks of the day for one family – in case you no-show.
Be politely firm – and move heaven and earth to get to your appointment on time. Build a reputation of dependability and you won’t have to ask twice for this special treatment.
Until your kids are older you won’t be able to schedule your appointments the same day. Imagine holding your two-year-old while getting your teeth cleaned!
Instead, group all of your appointments together. Include something fun, like lunch with a friend and think of it as a self-care day.
Consider batching social events and guests.
You will only have to shop once, clean once and even cook once.
If you can keep your family quiet, you can even double up and make the same meal.
When we have overnight guests, we like to invite mutual friends over for dinner.
Guests already disrupt the routine (in a good way) so make the most of it.
Make a go-bag for paper-related tasks. See Secret #4 Be Early.
Toss in mail (not time-sensitive), brochures to look over, newsletters, magazines, and catalogs and all the other paper clutter that comes your way.
Use a Ziploc bag to stock thank you note supplies.
When you’ve got time to kill or want to watch some mindless TV, grab your go-bag and plow through.
Batching cleaning tasks is ultra-efficient.
I’ve been testing cleaning routines this year – see Cleaning Test Dummy.
The most efficient routine hands-down has been picking a type of task for the day and doing it to the entire house.
Cleaning involves getting something out – a tool, supply, or cleaner. Pick one task, like vacuuming and you will only have to wrestle that cord once this week.
Cleaning involves a certain grove – master the meditative art of dusting by going over your entire house.
Cleaning involves motion – be motion minded like I suggest in Clutter Bust Like a Basket Case.
Many tasks give you a bonus workout when done with zeal.
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Get ready to crank some widgets!
What tasks do you batch? Leave a comment so we can learn from each other.
20 Secrets to Multiply Your Time Series:
Saturday Morning Goodness
A weekly note of encouragement and 5 ideas to build your home.
Plus fun dinner table conversation starters.