Work Smarter Not Harder, With Task Batching and Time Blocking

Task Batching and Time Blocking

Have you heard about task batching and time blocking before? It’s a great productivity hack that helps you get more done in less time. If you are a procrastinator or get easily distracted by ‘Shiny Object Syndrome’… then this is going to be a game changer for you!

Being ‘busy’ isn’t the same as being ‘productive’. So you’ve got to work smarter not harder, right?

As a busy solopreneur you are like ‘Wonder Woman’, juggling multiple tasks and switching business hats constantly throughout the day. To add to the mix, a lot of small business owners get easily distracted by too many ideas or the latest fad, going off in a million directions but never completing anything. This loss of focus is costing you hundreds of hours a year in lost productivity, lost time, and lost dollars which slows down your business progress.

What is task batching and time blocking?

Task batching is a productivity strategy that involves grouping similar tasks together to complete in one time period. The main purpose of this strategy is to avoid context switching—aka mentally jumping back and forth between tasks.

Think of it like clicking into two different apps on your phone and switching back and forth between them. Your brain does a similar process when it focuses on two different tasks. But because we’re humans and not computers, it takes time and mental effort for us to context switch, which leads to brain fatigue.

Task batching helps reduce the amount of context switching you have to do during the day. Instead of tackling your to-dos as they come, the task batching strategy encourages you to group like-tasks so you can complete all of the tasks for a similar project or work stream at once. Let’s look at an example:

  • TASK BATCHING: For example, you can choose to answer your emails in a batch as opposed to when they come in.
  • TIME BLOCKING: Using the email example previously mentioned, you can block off one hour everyday solely dedicated to reading and replying to emails.

What are the benefits of batch tasking?

I know us women are great at multi-tasking but is it a great skill to have? The truth is that it can actually slow us down. And you aren’t doing any task well if you keep switching from one thing to the next and back again.

“The human brain works best when it focuses on one thing at a time. We have a certain amount of cognitive capacity and a certain amount of attention.” —Dr. Sahar Yousef, Cognitive Neuroscientist, UC Berkeley

For example, in my schedule I allocate a full day each month to prepare all my social media posts, blog content and email campaigns, rather than doing it sporadically on a daily or weekly basis. This way I can plan out my content with a big picture view of the month ahead and with consideration to the types of products to focus on, sales promotions and marketing goals. Task batching and time blocking really helps me to get in a creative zone and to enjoy the process.

As you work through a group of batched tasks, you can avoid thinking about or working on any other task that’s not in that group. This helps you work more efficiently because your brain takes time and energy to switch between different tasks. It can take an average of 23 minutes to focus back in after a distraction, and task batching prevents this so-called “switching tax.”

If you want to become even more productive and experience less brain fatigue, you can take it up another notch and work on similar tasks that best suited to left brain or right brain function.

Did you know your left brain is considered to be more analytical or logical, and your right brain is more creative, big picture thinking?

The theory behind left brain versus right brain, is rooted in the notion that the two halves of the brain control very different functions of our minds. The left brain is believed to control reading, writing, and calculations, as it is driven by the rational – such as objectivity, evidence and quantifying results.

While the right side of the brain is the more visual and creative side, where feelings, imagination, intuition and artistic abilities reside.

Tips for task batching

If you’re not used to task batching, getting started may be a little tricky. Here are a few tips you can use to get the most out of the task batching strategy.

Categorise your tasks

Look at everything you need to do for the day, week and month ahead, then categorise tasks into similar groups. You can organise your tasks by the level of effort, by project, whether they are left or right brain tasks, or by the type of actions needed to complete a task.

To help you get started, I have created daily, weekly and monthly eCommerce task lists which you can download HERE.

Block off time in your calendar

Once you’ve grouped similar tasks together, give yourself ample time to complete those tasks all at once. Ideally, block out this time in your calendar. For example, let’s say answering emails and responding to social post comments takes you about 30 minutes. To use the task batching technique, simply block out 30 minutes at the beginning, middle, or end of your day to go through these tasks.

TIP:  When creating your time blocks, don’t forget to account for meal breaks and picking the kids up from school!

Colour code your blocks of time

While this step is entirely optional, colour coding blocks of time on your calendar can help you better understand how you’re spending your day, weeks and the month ahead at a glance. For example, use a different colour for creative tasks, admin tasks, analytic tasks and ecommerce tasks so you can see what your day looks like quickly.

Schedule challenging tasks during your peak time

Every person has different periods of time in which they are at their peak mental state. Some people are able to work better early in the morning and others may get a burst of energy after lunch. Whatever that period of time is for you, schedule your more mentally challenging tasks, or the tasks you normally procrastinate over during those hours.

Minimise your distractions

Before you start working on your batch tasks, disable notifications on your computer, close any extraneous tabs on your browser or apps on your desktop. Turn off your phone notifications and log out of social media. A small notification blip on your screen is enough of a distraction to pull you out of focus, and you want to prevent that as much as possible to promote deep work. I actually put my phone in another room during my focus hours!

If you get distracted by your physical workspace, take the time to clear any clutter on your desk and set up your workstation in a way that allows you to work most effectively.

Final tips…

Lastly, remember that flexibility is key. You can switch around your day, or adjust the hours to suit your life and family schedules. It’s sticking to keeping your tasks in batches that’s the important bit. I hope this article was helpful for you and helps you re-think how you tackle the tasks for your ecommerce store.

Happy batching!

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