If you are an entrepreneur, you likely spend your time feeling like a cocktail of inspired and deflated, generative and stuck, or focused and scattered. Sound about right? You may be familiar with the reality that being busy is different than being productive, yes? You want to work smarter, not harder.
So, whether you work for yourself at home in your sweatpants or are part of a high-profile startup hustle (or both!), here is a great way to maximize your productivity and clarity. Time batching. It’s an über-simple technique that can change the way you work. It can help you get more done by helping prevent you from spending twenty minutes deciding what to focus on!
Here are four easy steps to set yourself up for success.
1. Time Batch
Sit down with your week’s commitments, deadlines, tasks, and errands. Use small pieces of paper, and write only one task per paper. Write down everything you can think of. No task is too small. Include everything that you want and need to have happen in your workweek. Once you’ve gathered them, sort them into these three popular categories of work themes (or, make up your own!):
2. Track It
Now that you have three thematic piles of work tasks, automate and log them. Apps are a great way to keep track of your to-do lists, and have them with you and synced throughout all devices. Create the three main lists (M, W, F) and then fill in all tasks from your paper piles. Once you’ve logged everything, look at each item and set deadlines for those that have them. Also, some things are one-offs, while others happen weekly. Set the appropriate repeat settings for weekly tasks.
3. Schedule Time Blocks
Schedule blocks of time to get your batches in. Most successful productivity experts agree that unless it’s on your calendar, it’s basically imaginary and it’s not happening! Ideally, find at least two to three-hour chunks when you can focus on one list. Some choose to batch every day, some prefer a few non-batch workdays. Your other days without time batching can be more organic, perhaps you take the day off, or you let your schedule be more fluid and muse-honoring.
4. Work It
When you sit down to start your batch session, review your list and pick the three most urgent and important tasks. Don’t get distracted by urgent things, important is the key word here. Begin with those. If you have a super-session and power through all three tasks, you can always revisit your list, or go do a handstand and call your mom. Regardless, the feeling of completing your focused three-task list will encourage continued focus wizardry on your next session.
Truth: A massive part of working with time batching is remembering something that is “off-topic” when you are in “batch mode” and adding it to the necessary list, instead of completely switching gears to blog your magical new matcha donut recipe when you should be updating spreadsheets. (Just make sure to post your matcha donut recipe, because that sounds delish.)
An original version of this article appeared Darling magazine, written by Abbi Miller.
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This story was originally published on April 22, 2018, and has since been updated.