A big thank you to Dani Fairhurst of Flourishing Freelancer for these proactive suggestions for productivity. The ideas work for blogging as well as other kinds of writing, a myriad of arts, and, really, any tasks at all.
I’m not even sure if “batching” is the technical term but whatever it’s called, it definitely increases productivity. I’m fairly confident I’ve read other blog posts that refer to batching as a thing so we’ll go with that word.
I am usually good when it comes to batching but things are pretty busy for me right now what with working full time, running two blogs and trying to train for a half marathon (I’m massively unfit right now so this actually a big challenge!). And so I’ve let myself slip into a habit of writing when I need to hit publish on a post. I always plan to be ahead on posts and social media but I’m just treading water right now, which I need to get sorted.
Anyway, one of my favourite ways to stay ahead of the game when I am actually getting stuff done is batching.
WHY DOES IT WORK?
The theory behind why batching can help your productivity is that your brain loves repetition. Repeating a task over and over again allows your brain to create neural pathways and, as a result, become more efficient. Well, that’s the theory anyway. Obviously, everyone works slightly differently so don’t panic if batching doesn’t work for you.
Batching helps with efficiency and productivity on a practical level too. If you’re sitting down to batch write blog posts or edit photos, you’ll have all the relevant software etc. open on your computer. I know that if I try to write a blog post and create the images and do my research all in one sitting, that I waste hours flicking between websites, tabs, programmes. It’s just not an efficient way of doing things. You’ll also probably find that you’ll work out the best order to do things in to complete a task quickly if you repeat it over and over again in one sitting. Bonus!
SO, HOW DO I BATCH?
Here’s how I set up an effective batching process that works for me and my blog:
1. CHOOSE WHAT YOU WANT TO BATCH
You can batch whatever you like! Sit down for a few minutes and write a list of tasks that you do regularly for your blog. Here’s a list of things that I like to batch to get you started:
- Content planning
- Researching new content/ideas
- Blog writing
- Taking or finding suitable stock photos
- Editing photos
- Scheduling social media updates
- Reading and replying to emails
- Looking for and applying for freelance work
- Blog maintenance
- Reading and replying to comments on my blog
- Reading and leaving comments on other blogs
- Stats and data analysis
- Invoicing/income tracking
There are certain things that you can’t batch such as impromptu blog posts and Twitter chats. But if you start batching other tasks, you should find that you’ll have more time for those other things that can’t be batched.
2. DECIDE ON HOW OFTEN
How often you do a certain task will depend on the nature of the task. For example, I schedule social media posts once a week but only work on blog maintenance once a month. Here’s the same list from above with how often I do things:
- Content planning – once a week
- Researching new content/ideas – once a week (sometimes twice if I’m struggling)
- Blog writing – 2-3 times a week
- Taking or finding suitable stock photos – once a fortnight
- Editing photos – once a fortnight
- Scheduling social media updates – once a week
- Reading and replying to emails – twice a day (am and pm)
- Looking for and applying for freelance work – twice a week at the moment
- Blog maintenance – once a month
- Reading and replying to comments on my blog – once a day
- Reading and leaving comments on other blogs – 3-4 times a week
- Stats and data analysis – generally once a month unless I’m trying a new approach to something then I like to keep a closer eye on the impact it’s having
- Invoicing/income tracking – once a month
Have a think about how often you want to do tasks and don’t be afraid to change it after a week or month of trying it if things aren’t working.
One of the best ways to decide on how long to set for a task is to time yourself. Do each task and time how long it takes you on average. Then set yourself realistic time limits based on that. Now, if you’ve read my post on being an organised blogger you’ll know that I don’t personally like to set time limits. So, how do I deal with this element of batching? I think about roughly how long tasks might take me and use that to decide which tasks to allocate to specific days. So if I know that the posts I’m going to batch draft are going to be time-consuming, I won’t schedule anything else for that day. But if I know that taking and editing photos won’t take long as I already have a lot of unused images, I’ll schedule something else in on the same evening.
This is just how I like to work – I don’t like having exact time constraints because I panic! Haha! Some of you might work better with time-specific deadlines so just do what works for you.
Another factor to consider when deciding how long to spend on each “batch” is how often you plan on doing it (see number 2). It might be that you want to several smaller batches throughout the week or just all in one go, once a week.
As with number 2, don’t be afraid to make a decision and then change your mind later if it’s not working well. It’s all about learning and progressing.
4. SCHEDULE AND STICK TO IT
Think carefully about when you’re going to batch, both in terms of time of day and in terms of order of the tasks. It’s all well and good scheduling “blog writing” for Monday morning but you won’t get very far if you’ve not scheduled “researching new post ideas” until Thursday afternoon. Unless of course, you’re writing up last week’s research. But you get my point. Make sure your tasks are scheduled out in a logical order.
Try working at different times of day too and see when you work best. For me, I write better in the morning and like to save things like photo editing for the evening when I’m watching TV.
5. KEEP YOUR FOCUS
When it’s time to schedule your social media posts, close down your emails and everything else that’s not related. Focus solely on the task that you’re batching for the whole allocated time slot. The only time I deviate from this rule, as you’ve seen, is when I’m editing photos when I’ll sometimes have the TV on in the background. Cropping 100 images to the right size is pretty boring if there’s nothing else going on!
I’ve mentioned it before, but now seems a good time to talk about the Pomodoro technique. This is a technique where you work for 25 minutes with no distractions at all and then take a 5-minute break. This is a really great way to stay focused on big tasks, such as batching posts if you’ve set aside a whole day.
Remember to keep your blogging goals in mind the whole time too!
So, that’s how I batch. If you’re looking to become more productive and blog more efficiently, I’d definitely recommend batching. Let me know how you get on in the comments below!