Batch it (secrets of the most productive people series — installment 2)

photo-244Note: This week I am looking at a few of my favorite productivity techniques, with stories and explanations.

Lolly Daskal is a leadership coach. She spends much of her time meeting with clients and dealing with their needs. However, to maintain the Lolly Brand — so potential clients can see her and think of her as a thought leader — she also writes for a number of business publications. She is quite prolific. We are talking dozens of articles per month here.

Where does she find the time to write all this? “I always try to find the best solution that takes the least amount of time with the most results,” she says. “I teach batching to my clients,” so that is what she does too.

Once a month, she carves out a long weekend: Friday, Saturday, Sunday. “I think about all the things my clients are talking about, what they have spoken with me about,” she says. “What were the problems presented? I make a list. What were some of the solutions we came up with? What really worked, what did not work?” She creates an Excel spreadsheet with these problems and solutions.

Then she gets to work writing “short and concise” pieces that fit with her brand. “My motto is be of service,” she says. Sometimes she is able to crank things out in a few minutes. Sometimes she is not. But the good news about batching is that you are never really stuck. “If one is not working, I will move on to the next,” she says. Or she will go for a walk or a run and then get back on track.

Since she is in a writing mindset all weekend, she does not spend a lot of time getting in and out of writing mode. And since she is working on all her posts for the month at once, she can explore themes. “It comes out as a very unified message,” she says. The batching method is not always easy, but “by Monday morning, they are done,” she says. “The rest of the month is being there for my clients.”

I have been exploring how to do some more batching in my life. Daskal has three kids, but they are now grown. She knows that carving out a long solo weekend would not have been so easy when they were little. That said, I wrote this post on Monday while the three big kids were on a trip with Daddy and the baby was with our nanny. I wrote a number of other posts at the same time. My editors often approve batches of article ideas at once, so there is no reason not to write all the pieces one week, and then leave open space for bigger projects. Of course, first I need to figure out what the bigger project is in order to feel motivated to do that!

Do you batch tasks in your life? Which tasks?

In other news: My post on how parents work and homeschool is up at Fast Company. I would appreciate a read and a share! Something like this is never going to click as well as, oh, secrets of the most productive people. But I hope to keep writing such pieces, so I need to show some traffic.

In other other news: Lolly has a newsletter with many of her leadership insights. You can subscribe from her website.

Photo: It is more efficient to make a batch of cookies than one at a time!

12 thoughts on “Batch it (secrets of the most productive people series — installment 2)

  1. I hadn’t realized it, but I do this with my teaching. I prep homework assignments on a monthly basis. Within a few hours, I should have assignments up through the end of February. Grading, on the other hand, is best done regularly. If I wait to batch grade, I dread the mounting (digital) pile and put it off longer.

    1. @Katy- The “batch it” vs. “bit at a time” approaches are probably better for different types of tasks. Part of personal productivity is figuring out which category a particular task falls in for you.

  2. I really like this concept, but hadn’t thought about it in this way before. A company just sent me several ideas for writing projects, and I like having the “batch” of them to work on. When I grow bored or hit a dead-end on one topic for the day, I can start on the other while I’m still in the zone. I think I’d to explore this more for my own blog writing, or pitching guest posts for other sites – carving out a chunk of time to explore related topics or write on similar subjects while my mind is focused on that…

    1. @Courtney – I’ve definitely been thinking about doing this more frequently with blog posts. I can’t usually score a whole long weekend but I could take 2 hours during a weekend nap and get a lot done.

      1. I think I would get burned out with a whole weekend! But I did try that with blog posts this morning, and I finished 2, with 3 more half done with most of the core idea developed. Feeling good about that – and enabling me to focus on a couple of related freelance assignments for my next chunk of time!

  3. I tried this with cooking one weekend – there was a “40 meals in 4 hours” plan where you assemble the ingredients for 40 crockpot meals and throw them all in the freezer. It was pretty amazing, though several of the meals were duds. Next time I’d probably do 20 and repeat the ones we really liked. But it was a great way to NOT have to spend much time cooking during the week.

    I also try to do this with business phone calls. I hate making phone calls but sometimes I just have to pay bills, inquire about weird charges, etc. so I batch these and do at least 3 together.

    I guess I find it easier to batch *unpleasant* tasks to get them over with quickly.

    Oh – and when I scrapbook, I tend to do the “computer stuff” all together – print photos for several layouts, type up the stories and print those, etc. so I can focus on the “crafty” stuff without being interrupted and having to go back to my computer.

    1. @ARC – I certainly try to batch business admin tasks (paying bills). And I batch email to a degree. I’ll schedule “triage” times where I go through my inbox back to the point where I lost control.

    2. Definitely cooking for me too. I have been pulling meals from the freezer for a week and a half now because of batch cooking.

      That one feels too obvious, but I can’t really think of anything else I do that is similar. I binge on plenty of things…but that’s not the question:)

      1. @Katherine – I get the idea of batch-cooking, but as posted here before, I can’t get into it. I don’t like the idea of devoting big chunks of my weekend to cooking. I’ll double a recipe I’m already making on the weekend and eat that during the week. But I’m all about the time-saving, and I don’t mind eating simple or prepared meals.

        1. Actually, the batch cooking prep was more like 2 hours because I bought a lot of stuff already prepped, like chopped veggies, the exact cuts of meat I wanted, etc. I think the original plan was posted online as a money saving thing (buy meat cheaply in bulk, then use it up over time) but I did it more as a timesaver and it worked really well.

  4. I still remember 4 articles I batch-wrote and they are 4 of my favourite time management articles – maybe because I was in the zone?

    Other things I batch are phone calls, photo editing for about 3 -4 blog posts at a time, writing of blog posts, etc.

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