Those Batchers! The Art of Getting More Done.
October 30, 2007
It’s a proven fact, batchers get more done then non-batchers! So just what is a “batcher”? Ok it’s just a fun word I use to refer to people who group (batch) similar activities together to be more efficient. It’s like the art of killing two birds with one stone (Please note: No birds were harmed during the writing of this post!).
Batching is mastering the art of killing 2 birds with 1 stone.
Batching makes you more productive because it gets you into a rhythm. Constantly switching from one activity to the next throws off your cadence. That’s because it takes time to acclimate to each new activity. A more productive approach is to group as many similar activities together as possible, and then knock them all out at once.
So what are some good activities to batch?
1. Paying bills: Paying bills every two weeks is more efficient than paying each bill individually throughout the month. A good way to make this work is by creating a “bills to pay” folder. Then as bills come in, just add them to the folder. Then on the first and fifteenth, open the folder and pay your bills. Once paid, file the paid bill as a record. I file my bills in an accordion type folder by month. That way, I don’t have to maintain a separate folder for each kind of bill (i.e. Utilities, Mortgage, Mobile phone, etc.) I just need to remember what month it is.
2. Processing email: Jumping on email ever time you receive a new message is a huge waste of time. With the average knowledge working receiving 60 messages per day - that could mean up to 60 self imposed interruptions every single day! Just because something is new doesn’t mean it’s more important. A better approach is what I call the “proactive rhythmic ” processing schedule. Rather than reactively jumping on email ever time a new message arrives, develop a more proactive rhythm of checking it twice per day or once per hour (depending on your volume, the more you receive the more often you should check it). Proactive processing is always more productive than reactive processing. You’ll find that batching email processing into several sessions throughout the day will save you about 30 minutes on average.
3. Shopping: Making two or more trips in the same week to the same store is completely unnecessary. This is where creating a system, and planning ahead can really help you out. try keep a shopping list in an easily accessible place as a target for needed items. For groceries and household supplies, the refrigerator is the perfect place. Simply keep a “stuff to buy” list with a pencil attached. When you finish off the last of the milk, add it to the list. Then when it’s time to head to the store, you don’t have to think about what’s needed. This minimizes the number of forgotten items, and thus extra trips to the store. If you’re a total geek like me, you can even create a spreadsheet or word doc as a template with all your “staple items” listed in advance.
4. Filing: Now, I very hesitantly list “filing” as a good batching type activity, because without discipline filing can get backed log rather quickly. Then it becomes such a daunting task that we just keep putting it off. Here’s a good rule of thumb, if we’re talking about filing into a drawer that you can get at without standing up - file it right away! If you have to get up, because the file “home” is on the other side of the room or in another room entirely, then batching is a better approach. However, I would recommend filing at least once per day, keeping in mind how easy bottlenecking occurs.
5. Communicating: Especially between team members that interact frequently. Remember that every interruption costs valuable productivity. So rather than impulsively interrupting your teammate (or manager) 10 times per day, keep a dedicated notebook as a “communication log”. That way you just plan for one big interruption, rather than 10 little annoyances throughout the day. Planning a 5-15 minute time once per day is even better, so you’re both ready and engaged to communicate. For more on how to use a Communication Log click here.
6. Shredding is a great batching activity. These days, many of us work with proprietary and/or other information that needs to be shredded rather than tossed out with the regular garbage. To make this work, keep a “to be shredded” tray near your desk. Place the items in the tray when you’re ready to discard them. Key: definitely empty it every time you get up, keeping in mind the sensitivity of the information. That said, it’s always a good idea to put things that you want to remember to take with you when leaving between you and the door. If you keep the tray behind you, you’re more likely to forget to empty it when leaving.