Switching off to switch on – batching your work for better productivity (and quality)

There is no better way that I know to batch the writing of blog posts than to get on an aeroplane, alone, resist the temptation to talk to the woman next to you who looks like she is probably interesting to talk to, get out your laptop as soon as they switch off the “No electronic devices” light (since when do they have this specific light? It’s new to me!) and then just write. There is no internet (and it’ll be almost a shame when all flights have WiFi – I know some airlines offer this already) and there is no toddler, there is no ringing phone and no tempting kitchen cupboard (fellow work-at-homers will understand that). There is just you, a big sky and lots of clouds out the window, your laptop and your thoughts. So you blog.

I’ve talked about batching before in various courses and posts but it is seriously one of the best secrets to being an efficient worker that I have ever come across. To summarise: batching means grouping similar tasks together and doing a lot of them at once. In other words, if your work involves a lot of phone calls, don’t make them ad hoc but set aside some time to make them all at once. If your work (as mine does) involves a lot of writing blog posts, sit down at a time and place when you know (or hope really fervently) that you won’t be interrupted and write, write, write.

Those annoying moments on the tarmac when you can’t use your computer …

The theory behind batching is simple and logical – once you are doing a particular task, and continue it, you will be much more effective both in terms of time and quality. You will be “in the zone” as they say, which will mean different things for different tasks, but as I sit on a plane above the middle of Australia writing blog post after blog post, it means that I have got my “blog voice” in my mind, I have got my text editor open (no extra time needed to open the right software or turn my computer on, compared to writing the posts one at a time on different days), I am really just ready to blog and keep blogging. (A bonus tactic which I may utilise again in the future: the nice white wine provided by the airline just before I started writing blog posts seems to help as well!)

Batching is made easier when you only allow yourself access to the stuff you really need to get the job done. I batch Facebook and Twitter posts, especially for organisations whose accounts I manage, which means I will have Facebook, Twitter, Hootsuite, bit.ly and the organisation’s home page all open, but I won’t let my email notify me of new messages or allow any other distractions. Right now, the beauty of no internet means I’m not tempted to “quickly” check on other posts I might reference or link to here – I can do that later, when I’m editing my post, rather than distract the flow of the writing. I know what I’m like – once I go to “check” something the whole internet opens up before me and the focus is lost.

So to summarise: switch off anything that’s not essential to the task at hand, switch on everything essential, and get to work. Obviously I can’t take a plane trip every time I need to write a bunch of blog posts (although that does sound like a rather enticing reason to “have to” travel more regularly – alone!) but when I’m at home, I usually pick a good evening, one when I’m not too tired by the events of the day (curiously, this is usually a working day, rather than a being-a-mum day) and set myself up at my desk with something nice – a chocolate or a wine – and get blogging. Or I settle down first thing on a Monday morning, perhaps after a run or walk, and pound out the social media posts for the week. It’s such a satisfying feeling to get such a lot of work done in a short time. It just takes a bit of discipline, but is so worth it.

Do you “batch” any kinds of work you need to do? Let me know in the comments.

3 Replies to “Switching off to switch on – batching your work for better productivity (and quality)”

  1. After Wednesday's blogging workshop on Wednesday, Amanda, I tried a several of your suggestions. First I set up an Editorial Calendar in WordPress and started to play with how I could use it. Fabulous tool, thank you for suggesting it. Using the calendar made it really easy to write a batch of blogs that I'm pleased with. I've scheduled them to post later.

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