As a creative or online entrepreneur, you may find it hard to finish daily tasks more often than not. This can lead to feeling frustrated and over-stretched and can result in exhaustion or burnout.
Many times, the biggest reason for falling behind is multi-tasking or getting distracted with notifications, kiddos, pets, etc. I get it — it’s hard to power through one project non-stop and finish it without interruptions! But a strategic weekly plan can help you stay on track and get more done without necessarily working longer hours. In fact, you can probably shave some time off your workday if you batch work and plan ahead.
What is Batching work, and Why Does it Matter?
Batching work means planning your work around specific tasks and setting a fixed time to work through them. For example, to batch marketing content, you can block two hours a week for graphics and two hours for writing.
One key element of batching work is blocking interruptions so you’re truly focused on the task for the allotted time. Many creatives use the famous Pomodoro Technique. This technique requires setting a timer for 25 minutes and powering through this time uninterrupted.
The reason this simple technique works is that in general, it takes your brain some time to switch between tasks. So any time you “multi-task,” you’re really just interrupting a thought process and starting a new one. To prevent this, working on a single thing for a fixed period of time helps keep you sharp and focused.
To practice the Pomodoro Technique, your smartphone’s timer works perfectly. You can also use your kitchen timer — that’s where the name comes from — or download an app that’s specific for this purpose, like Pomodor, pictured above.
3 ways to batch work and increase your productivity
Find work themes and plan your week with them in mind
If you’re like me, you’re mostly doing the same or similar projects on a weekly basis. This makes it easy to create a workflow you can recreate and build a weekly routine.
To batch work, it helps to cluster together similar tasks and work on them around the same time. This way, you avoid logging in and out of software or apps. And you can tune into your creative or analytical side and take advantage of it. Plus, this way, you avoid procrastination. Every task has a set time and you’re no longer guessing what you’re doing or when.
Depending on your preference, you can plan your week by:
- Setting a fixed day for each task. For example, Mondays are for reporting, Tuesdays are dedicated to internal tasks. Wednesdays and Thursdays are for client projects including meetings, and Fridays are for planning.
- Dividing your day into blocks instead of your week. To do this, set 2-3 hour blocks for communications in the morning to respond to emails and schedule calls. Your afternoon could be divided into two blocks and each could be devoted to internal marketing and client work.
- If you work with multiple clients, you may want to assign a fixed block of time (or even a fixed day) to each to standardize communication and remove guessing from your workday. This way, clients come to expect you to respond at a specific time and make progress on their projects in a timely manner.
Think about when you’re most efficient or creative — and plan around that
In line with the point above, with batching work, the goal is to find your best times for each task — and schedule accordingly. If you’re most creative in the mornings, why spend the first few hours replying to emails instead of working on design projects?
Similarly, if you’re a night owl, it’s ok to stay up late if you work better this way. Part of being a creative or business owner is setting your own rules.
Use slower times or times when you know you’re not your sharpest to work on simpler, more automatic tasks like replying to emails or interacting on LinkedIn or networking groups. Doing this helps prevent exhaustion and keeps you consistently producing high-quality work.
Block time in your calendar and/or set a timer
A key element of batching work is actually blocking off the time for each task and removing outside interruptions. To do this, you can use something as simple as Google Calendar to plan out your week and assign a specific time for every task.
In time, I’ve noticed that my problem with to-do lists was that yes, I knew what needed to be done. But I spent a lot of time arranging the list and figuring out what to do instead of actually doing anything. This was a big timesuck. Instead, I started writing down the project details into calendar events. That way, I now know when to start something without further guessing.
Using your calendar as a visual planner helps fit everything in; plus, you can set reminders with as detailed instruction as you need for each task.
To start, simply set a 2-hour (or however long you think works) block for client A and either work on a recurring task or a one-time project as needed. But you’ll know that those two hours are for client A regardless, which makes it easy to plan ahead.
In the example above, you’ll find a Google Calendar filled with recurring calls and 1- to 2-hour blocks around the same time every day. Each color represents a project (I’m a sucker for color-coding) and the regular scheduling helps keep the days and workload consistent throughout the week.
Bonus tip: Outsource or delegate work!
As an online entrepreneur, it’s easy to fill up your to-do list with tasks you’ll probably keep pushing off. Many times, this is because you need to stick to a budget and DIYing things seems like the cheap or free option. But trying to DIY everything in your business can end up costing you a lot. This is especially true for tasks outside your comfort zone or those that can be automated.
When it comes to tasks that aren’t in your core skill set, I’d recommend hiring a pro. You can also work with subcontractors or assistants as needed. As a web design agency, we run into a lot of people who tried to DIY their website as a cheap way out and wasted endless hours on it before finally biting the bullet and hiring me for it. So much so that I made a guide to help other business owners decide whether they should DIY their website or hire a professional for it.
If you’re wondering whether you should DIY or hire a contractor or service provider, ask yourself how long it can truly take to DIY it — and how that translated into other work you’re not doing. If it detracts you from client work (and $$), it’s probably best to hire someone.
Batching work helps you stay organized, cross off your to-do list more efficiently, and free up your time
If you’re like me, you probably became a freelancer or online entrepreneur because you needed the freedom and flexibility of this setup. But disorganized schedules and to-do lists can turn into an endless rabbit hole that keeps you chained to your desk for even longer than if you were a 9-5 employee. After all, say what you will about 9-5’s, but in many cases, the nature of these jobs makes it easy to disconnect as soon as the needle hits 5 o’clock.
As an online entrepreneur, it’s up to you to set these boundaries and manage your time efficiently. Batching work means spending less time jumping from one thing to another and more time doing what you love.
What are your tried and true productivity tips for running an online business?
Head over to my IG @justaddmoxie_ and share your top productivity tips as a freelancer or online business owner to get more done and reclaim your freedom. I’d love to hear them!