This article is inspired by one of Matt D’Avella’s recent videos. I find what he says in this video really interesting and motivating. As always, take what you need and leave out the parts you don’t, always strive to do what you know is best for yourself. What matters is the results.
How we schedule our days and how we manage our time is one of the keys to productivity. The more you structure your time, the more you’ll be able to get done, because each activity will have its own spot in the schedule. Structuring your day as much as possible also helps handling the unexpected.
In this article, I want to talk about a specific time-management method: batching.
Most office jobs are not really batching friendly. The main reason for that is that you’re not fully in control of your schedule. You’re likely to get interrupted by meetings, phone calls, requests… Unless you have the possibility of locking yourself up in your own bubble for long periods of time, batching is probably not the best way to go at your office job. But I want to talk about batching in your personal work, the creative stuff you do on the side. A blog, a video channel, a website… That’s where the power of batching lies.
What is batching?
When it comes to some things in life, batching tasks comes naturally. We wait for a specific time-consuming item to pile up enough, and then we do it all at once, which actually ends up taking less time than scattering it throughout our schedule. Most of the natural batching in our lives comes from practical, everyday stuff:
- We wait for the dishwasher to fill up before starting it
- We wait until we have enough laundry to put in the washing machine
- We vacuum all the rooms at once
- We water all of our plants at the same time
- We do groceries for the week
It would be pretty crazy to wash our shirt right after we wore it, or to do the dishes right after every single time we use a plate, a glass or a bowl. Having the same way of thinking for your work can help you save tons of time.
It takes a hell lot of time to generate ideas, to make content, to put it out there. There is so much to do. It’s not about turning the creative work into an assembly line. It’s about using batching to create creative momentum. The energy you build up from batching can be used exponentially to maintain the mindset and the creative process.
Batching and Flow
Batching also help with getting in Flow. Anyone doing creative work knows it’s not always easy to get started. Whether it’s drawing, writing, taking photos… Inspiration doesn’t always come right away. But the more you stay at it and focus on the same task, the more you brain will fire up and start recognising patterns.
Pattern recognition is one of the main Flow triggers. It removes the pressure of having to come up with something right now. Every time you notice patterns and see what works, your motivation and clarity of mind will increase. Step by step you’ll reach Flow, and work will get done much more easily. Flow can be used both for batching but also for pure creativity, starting from nothing.
Here are a few example of things you can batch in your creative activities. Most of the examples are from my own experience with blogging.
The number one activity you should batch, which will literally save you hours. Your inbox is a trap. When you get to think about it, 90% of your emails don’t need your direct attention, or any attention at all. The remaining 10% might need your attention, but can definetly wait. Allocate a time slot for emails every day or every 2 days. Work on them 1 or 2 hours, and forget about them. It will bring so much more structure to your day and will free up so much of your time. Treat email like laundry.
I used to write whenever I felt like it, throughout the day. Now, I make sure to write at least one full article in the morning, before I head to work. It doesn’t matter if it’s poorly written, if it’s just a draft, if it’s lacking structure. Editing and proofreading will come later. What matters is to get this one article done. By doing this everyday, I train my brain to switch to creative mode in the morning, and it becomes easier and easier as I write more and more.
I edit everyday after my office job, and the same methodology applies. The more I do it, the easier it gets. Because it’s batching, when I’m in the Flow I can do 2 or 3 in a row.
I batch-brainstorm ideas once a week, in my notepad. Again, the brain gets into a Flow. The first ideas are hard to get, but the more I brainstorm the more great ideas I get. Once I’ve selected a few of my best ideas, I have my whole content lined up for a week or 2, and I don’t have to think about it anymore. I can focus on other important stuff, like actually writing this content. The idea problem is out of the way.
Back when I was writing my weekly interview series The People Who Do, I had a big batching process in place.
First, I would batch the research and the reach-out to the people I wanted to interview. I made it a point to have each email personalised, but the format was the same for every email. A presentation of the project, a reason why I thought the person’s work related to the theme of my project, and an outro with the next steps to follow if they were interested in participating.
Second, I would batch the transcription of the interview. A lot of the interview answers I would get were audio files. Because it didn’t require any creative brain power, it was super easy to batch.
Third, I would batch the editing of the copy. For the few authors who would send me their answers in the written form, I quickly proofread their document. For the transcripts, it would take a bit longer to put in form and to proofread. Again, not a lot of brain power needed here, just execution.
I often create my own visuals for my articles. I list down all the images I need, and batch all of them in 1 or 2 hours. Then, I work based on a template I have, with always the same font sizes and colors, which makes the whole process even more efficient.
More batching ideas
Here are other ideas for things you can batch, in many different creative domains.
- video editing
- photo editing
- sending orders as a creative
- t-shirt printing for a small business
- picture taking
- idea generation
- draft writing