Home Task Batching - Five Ideas for Better Home Productivity

It’s no joke, learning how to “batch” will improve your efficiency tenfold.  I didn’t believe it at first, then I started tracking my time, in somewhat painstaking detail.

It's been an ongoing experiment on my personal productivity and the results are huge!

So what’s this “batching” thing and what does it have to do with home productivity?

I’ll start by explaining what it means to batch with a comparative illustration.  Consider a college student who locks him- or herself into a small room of the campus library: 4-walls, table, chair, textbook, notebook and paper, that’s it.

No phone, no Internet, just study.  Let’s call her Angela. 

Angela cracks her book open and decides to study for no more than 30-minutes.  She then takes a 5-minute break to do nothing but relax and walk around a bit. 

Angela repeats this cycle two more times.

After 90-minutes, she’s read her entire Chapter, answered 10 practice questions, and had time left to spare to review course content for the following week. 

In contrast another student, let’s call him Brad, decides to study at home in front of his TV at around 6PM.  Text messages, Facebook and Twitter notifications go off about every 10 minutes. 

Every time a notification alarms, Brad’s tempted to check it.  70% of the time he falls victim to his phone’s temptation, the other 30% Brad resists and keeps trying to study (with the latest notification embedded in the back of his mind).  

Keep in mind he has the TV on. 

Consequently, 20% of his time was spent glancing at the latest 2-hour episode of The Voice.  He really gets into the competition.   

By 10PM, Brad hadn’t yet finished the chapter, he started one practice question he hadn’t completed yet.  

On the bright side, Brad sufficient caught up with all his friend’s activities on Facebook, up-to-date on the winner of The Voice’s “head-to-head” competition (Pharrell’s team shocked America…eyes were glued). 

A model for efficient use of his time, by 10PM Brad was also able to complain about the “stupid assignment” his instructor gave him, specifically how he’ll “never use this material in real life.”  

Get a “real life” Brad.

Angela spent 90-minutes killing it; Brad spent 4-hours killing his brain…and he still has plenty to do.

Why was Angela so incredibly successful, and oh by the way, also had time herself to catchup on The Voice and her Facebook updates after studying?

Batching.

Angela completed all of her studying in a single sitting.  In 90-minutes she was done.

How about work?

Do you get your reports done quickly if your email notifications are on?

Are you tempted to check them? 

It makes sense, right?  Doing the same task for a focused period will help get the things you need to complete at work faster with improved quality.

Interestingly enough, the same batching philosophy holds true with our home tasks!  Are you a stay-at-home Mom running around town chasing down groceries and kid’s sporting events?

Here are five unconventional home routine tasks you may not normally think about batching.  Put into practice, just like school and work batching, your productivity can improve at home as well. 

You may even get a few moments to relax with the family!

 

1- Errands

As busy parents, it’s tempting to just “go.”  

“Go” can be effective for emergency situations, but for reoccurring tasks to get done around the house it can be a serious time-suck.

One of the coolest features of “to-do” list technology like Todoist, is the ability to assign a task by location.  

Need to pick up a cleaning supplies on the east side?  Concert tickets for downtown?  That favorite worn-out sponge only found at Quickie-Mart on the way to your in-laws?  

Consider creating a task-list by location, for any of the location-dependent errands you run on a regular basis.  It requires a little planning, but that can be batched as well. 

When setup, you’ll receive notifications to take care of your location-dependent errands when you’re already in the area.  It’s a lot easier to take care of these things when you’re local, rather than running all over town like a crazy person.

One strategy you may find useful is to schedule at least 30-minutes of buffer time when you’re planning errands with the family.  Buffer-time will provide some wiggle room to take care of location tasks you may not think about when you first leave the house.

Don’t want to run around town at all?  I don’t blame you.

Consider outsourcing task services like Task Rabbit or Peapod to pay someone around $35/hr to do these things for you (laundry, grocery delivery, whatever it may be).  

It’s not necessarily batching, but a super-effective alternative if you’re not shy about investing in creating more time for yourself.

 

2 - Bills

There’s a couple ways to handle bills with a “batching” mindset.  If you want to automate bill-paying then batching the time you spend automating all of your bills would be an effective strategy.  

You can setup all your monthly checks for lawn care, electric and water bills, school tuition, whatever it may be.  

Today, payments to any vendor (who'll accept a bank check) can be automatically withdrawn from your checking account. 

If you’re a “rewards-type” person and you insist on using a credit card for points or airline miles, in many cases you can autopay by credit card and then autopay the credit card out of your checking account, depending on your vendor.

Taking the time to setup your bill payments all at once in a focused way is an excellent strategy for batching home tasks.  

If you still have to pay bills by hand, scheduling 15-mins once per week to get this done will allow you to keep on top of them without a huge time commitment, in lieu of paying them as they come in.  

 

3 - Snail Mail

You’ve probably developed your own organic, undocumented process for managing mail that gets delivered every day in your house. 

Maybe it all goes into a pile for you to get to whenever, maybe you put it into nice shiny bins. 

Consider sorting through it all as you walk from the mailbox to the front door and put it into a system that’s easy for you to collate: bills, junk, file (for example) - one bin each.  

A quick 30-seconds of sorting is a great way to setup a relatively painless process for batching snail mail when the time comes to batch. 

Sorting through, processing, and in some cases, filing mail can be onerous if it builds up.  I’ve found that a weekly batching process for processing mail, goes well coupled with a weekly filing of miscellaneous paperwork that comes to a manual (paper) inbox.  I rarely file more than once per week, and I’m able to minimize accumulation without issue.  

There’s just not as much paper we need to hang onto these days; but if we check and file paper ad hoc, or as the spirit moves us it’ll certainly consume unnecessary time.

 

4 - Meal Prep

By far the most beneficial home-batching task on the market (if you can call it that), but also the most difficult to put into practice.  Why?  Because meal prepping is complex. 

There’s excellent services available to takeaway the guess work, but it still requires a dedicated, concentrated effort to setup a process for meal prepping that works for your family.  It’s a temporary concentrated effort, but dedicated no less.

However, once in place and habitual, most meal-preppers never go back!  Much more to come on meal prepping this month on The Make it Snappy Productivity Show.

 

5 - Television

TV batching is especially effective on the weekends, when parents are tempted to plop the little one’s in front of their brand new babysitter, Nick Jr., Big Bird, or worse, Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk.  

Sure TV can be educational these days but keeping it on for our kids (our ourselves) will cause more unrecognized tension in the household than anything else you may encounter throughout the day.  

 

What To Do About it?

The reasons batching works are somewhat hidden.  It’s not a conscious thing for us to add up all the wasted time transitioning from one task or another, or quantifying how long things take because we’re distracted or unfocused. 

We’ve accepted the dysfunction that comes with making extra trips to the store and frankly, participating in tasks that aren’t the best use of our time.

So what are you going to do about it?

Start with picking one thing to batch and see how it works. 

The majority of this productivity game is trying something out and giving it some time to work.  Then, find someone to hold you accountable to sticking to it for a few weeks.  

How do you feel after you experiment?  Not a good fit for you?

It’s cool…try batching something else. 

What do you think? 

Please leave a comment and let us know what task you’re going to commit to start batching.