One of the most exciting parts of starting and growing a business for most of us is the freedom that comes with being an entrepreneur. No one else dictating our schedule, how we work, or even what we’re working on. I remember those first days after I walked out of my last real job in NYC, practically singing “Born Free”!
But then the following week, I was humming a different tune… something like “Freak Out”… I realized I had jumped from a predictable pool into a vast ocean of freedom, and I had no idea how to structure my time. Each day I’d wake up and go from task to task and not have any organized way to do it, or a way to rank my priorities.
The bottom line: Structure gives you more freedom… when you do it right.
And I desperately needed some structure. But how to set it up? And in what way?
As I committed to learn more about business and success, I was lucky enough to come across many good ideas I use and teach today. But the most powerful one I’ve used is the concept of “batching”.
Basically, batching is ploughing through a bunch of similar tasks at once… looking at all your tasks that you have during a certain week or span of time that are similar in nature and batching them altogether.
Have you ever noticed when you get into the groove with a certain task, you become more efficient as you go? But if you stop and start different things, you lose momentum by switching gears.
Once I learned about batching, I became enamored with it! And here are my five favorite tasks to batch:
1. Email. Instead of jumping like Pavlov’s dog every time your e-mail bell goes off, take care of email in batches. To ensure success with this, please (I beg you)… turn off e-mail notification on your computer and smart phone. You do not need to know instantly when an e-mail comes in. It’s not designed to be urgent communication. The e-mail will still be there later, and you can write back to them at that time.
I will note that while most productivity experts don’t recommend checking email first thing in the morning, I do. Why? I have several team members on the East Coast who, by the time I am out of my pre-coffee brain fog, are waiting for answers on things to allow them to move forward and have a productive day themselves. So I allow about an hour in the a.m. to address the quick answers, and then save emails that require more thought for later on.
2. Phone calls. If you need to schedule or make several calls this week, then set aside some time to do all your calls in one sitting. You may end up leaving a few messages, but as long as you’re in a phone-calling mindset and have all the numbers in front of you, you’ll ultimately save time.
In my Elevate online business training program, I teach members to batch their coaching calls with clients as well – condensing all calls into just two or three days a week frees up your other days for project work.
A few years ago I was managing a lot, so I had to be intense about this. When I was running my $100,000 Diamond group, each member had a monthly private 30-minute call with me, and I scheduled them all on one day a month. At the beginning of the year, we made clear to clients that our 1:1 coaching calls were always on the second Tuesday of the month, and to block it out for the entire year in their calendars.
Handling 8-10 focused calls into one day required some energy, but it freed up so much of my time otherwise, it was wonderful.
3. Out-of-office appointments. If I have to get dressed, do my hair and makeup, and get in my car here in L.A., you can be sure I’m not just going to run out for one appointment! (Ladies, you know how long it can take to get out of the house, especially when we’re more used to rolling out of bed and working at home in our Ugg boots.)
It could be a day of client meetings, a day of various doctor appointments, or a blitz beauty day where you get your hair, nails, and waxing done all over town in one fell swoop. For those of you with kids, this is also a great way to maximize your childcare as you get more done in less time. On a day you have a sitter, you should make the most of that time and get as much done out of the house as you can.
There have also been days where if I’m doing hair and makeup for some videos I’m shooting at home, I’ll also add on a meeting or dinner date after, while I’m looking great! See where I’m going with this? Start thinking this way and it will change your life.
4. Blogging and social media. If you use blogs and social media to promote your business (and I hope you do), then batching can be a huge help. Spend a few hours at the beginning of the week writing up several blog posts at once and schedule them to publish throughout the week. For Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, use apps like Hootsuite to pre-schedule updates to automatically publish for you throughout the week. I have my team do the business updates for me, and then jump in myself when I have time, peppering in personal updates and fun shares.
For maintaining social media, set aside some time to check in on your pages and responses instead of jumping in there every ten minutes. I usually like to do this in the morning, during or after lunch, and at the end of day, if I have time and feel like it. Otherwise I have my team help monitor whenever possible.
(And please stop getting instant Facebook updates on your phone like you’re in high school! You don’t need to know immediately that your colleague just posted a new video, Aunt Myrtle baked a fresh pie, or your old college friend just invited you to play FarmVille2. These stimulating bits of news will still be there later. You’re running a business, remember? Business… )
5. Other admin or housekeeping tasks. Consider batching your invoicing, bill paying, time with colleagues, organizing the office… the possibilities are endless! And don’t discount doing this for your personal life. For instance, if you need to write thank you notes, sit down with everything you need and write several at once. If you don’t have time to cook for your family each night, make a large batch of food on Sunday and reheat it (or re-disguise it ;)) throughout the week. If you miss your friends from back home, schedule a trip to see several at once.
By batching similar tasks together, you’ll be amazed by how much more you can accomplish without working longer hours. And that means more time for the important strategies. Or heck, how about just working less?© Copyright 2013 Ali Brown