Time is one of your most precious nonrenewable resources. And it’s something that every human gets the same amount of each day. Of those 24 hours, we all spend varying amounts of time on tasks that are essential to our survival: working, eating, sleeping, and self-care. What’s left is discretionary time that we get to use on activities that bring joy and value to our lives.
We all spend this discretionary time uniquely. Some people devote this time to friends and family. Others enjoy spending it on fitness and hobbies. And some of us enjoy reading, learning, and travel. For those of us fortunate enough to have the time and devices to be reading this post, the options are limitless.
In addition to all of the fun things I listed, we all have tasks that aren’t as enjoyable. Most of us have daily chores that need to happen such as laundry, dishes, cooking, and shopping. Beyond these basics, tasks like budgeting, cleaning, and gardening can easily fill our weekends, leaving little time to do the things we truly love.
But what if I told you that there was one simple way to gain some of that time back? What if you could cut hours from your weekly task list and could spend that time doing things you enjoy? Keep reading and I’ll show you how.
If you asked my husband, Jer, about me, he’d likely tell you how I’m obsessed with creating systems and finding ways to optimize every task and activity. He especially loves it when I find ways for him to optimize his duties. Just kidding, it drives him nuts. But I love optimizing so much, I want to share the joy with the world. 🙂
Here’s one way I optimize my time to make space for the things that are important to me. It’s called batching.
My Need to Batch Tasks
In a former life, I spent 15 years working in the corporate world. Most of these years I traveled four days per week. It was really simple to arrange my errands and tasks around my travel to make the most of the very little free time I had available.
When I stopped traveling daily, I was floored by how much time it took to do simple things like a trip to Costco, a grocery run, or a trip to the post office. Getting dressed, warming up the car, driving to the post office, standing in line, and driving back home could easily take an hour. And bigger tasks like Costco could suck up more than half a day after sitting in traffic and unloading the car. It didn’t take long for me to calculate how many precious hours I was losing to these basic tasks.
Around that time I heard someone rave about how batching had changed their life. They were talking in terms of their business: checking emails, writing, meetings, and the like. But I immediately thought that batching should be applied to everything. Especially this problem I was having with errands and tasks.
What is Batching?
First off, if you’re not familiar with batching, let me provide a simple definition. Batching is grouping similar tasks to be completed together during a set time period. Batching can apply to both your business and personal life.
In my personal life, I typically choose one day a week to do all of my errands. I usually do them on a day when I’m out for a meeting or connecting with friends. When meal planning, I often prepare large batches of dishes that can be frozen or used in a variety of different meals. One day each month Jer and I work together to do a thorough deep clean of the house. And for the most part, I’ve consolidated all of my budgeting and bill paying to one day each month.
In my business life, I dedicate certain days to certain tasks. I tend to create all of my content during the first part of the week. I focus on another business during the last half. And I schedule meetings and coaching clients right in the middle.
Changing the way I organized my tasks has allowed me more discretionary time indeed. But I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t always spend that time well. On the bright side, at least I always have something to work toward.
Why Batch Tasks?
The idea behind batching is that you save time by streamlining your tasks. When you streamline these jobs, you increase efficiency and improve results by focusing on a single task. I’ve also found that batching reduces stress and gives me a greater sense of accomplishment by completing task after task rather than jumping from one unfinished task to the next.
How to Batch
My brain loves systems so batching was simple for me to implement. But we’re all uniquely wired and gifted and thus, batching might not seem as simple to you. And that’s totally okay because if this is you, I know for a fact that you have traits I’d love to emulate. Let me help you with these five simple steps to help you get started.
1 – Make a List
Make a list of everything you need to do during the upcoming week. The key is not to list too much, nor too little. Start with the things that absolutely need to happen and if there’s margin, add more. I like to create a plan that I know is attainable and add bonus items that would be nice to complete.
2 – Check it twice
Now go through your list and group all similar activities together. If certain tasks need to be completed at specific dates and times, make a note of that. At times I use Evernote so I can copy, paste, and carry it across all my devices. But right now I’m really loving pen and paper.
3 – Time It
Figure out how much time you’ll need to complete each task. And do yourself a favor and be realistic. While I’d love to write and upload blog posts in an hour, new posts usually take four hours to write, proof, make graphics, and upload.
4 – Schedule It
I’ve been known to say, “If it’s not scheduled, it won’t happen.” Not only does this apply to our work lives, but our personal lives as well. Scheduling time to take care of your needs so you can serve from a full cup is just as important as scheduling an important meeting. Check your calendar to find time slots where each group of activities makes sense. Then schedule it and remember to be realistic.
5 – Enjoy
Use your new-found free time to do something for you. Finish that book that’s been sitting next to your bed since the beginning of the year. Go for a walk in the woods or plan a date night with your spouse. While we all have undeniably important tasks, it’s the simple things that often bring us the most joy.
What other ways have you made time in your busy schedule to do more of what you love? Share in the comment below or come tell me about it on Facebook.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in January of 2016. It has been completely revamped for accuracy, comprehensiveness, and readability. Please enjoy and feel free to share this newly revised content.