If you, like me, are always looking for ways to improve your efficiency, and increase your productivity, you’ll be interested in the concept of batching. Batching is simply the act of grouping similar activities together, and focusing on them exclusively for a set amount of time. It is a time management practice that has been growing in popularity for quite some time, and it can be very effective.
Do Freelance Writers Need Batching?
When I tell friends of family that I am a freelance writer, they often assume that I spend hours per day pounding out articles, stories, sales copy, video scripts or any other type of writing. While they are correct to a point, they are really missing out on what it takes to be a successful freelance writer. In addition to simply writing the content I offer, I also have to do many other ‘supportive’ activities to ensure my success.
Here are a few things that I have to do on a regular basis, in addition to writing for my clients:
- Market myself to find new clients
- Negotiate new jobs with clients
- Respond to emails and other communications from existing or potential writers
- Keep my blog updated
- Edit my writing
- Perform any requested revisions
- Find sites to try to guest post on
- Link building for my blog
And the list could go on and on. The bottom line here is yes, freelance writers (and any type of freelancers) can really benefit from batching different processes together.
Grouping Your Tasks
In order to get the benefits of batching, you need to make sure you’re grouping the right tasks together. I’ve tried to group tasks by client in the past, and this doesn’t work. When attempting to do it this way, I have trouble because a single client might need several different types of work done. For example, I have to negotiate with the client, document in my ‘work log’ what he or she needs, send the invoice, write the content, edit it, deliver it, do any revisions, and most likely several other things.
These activities have almost nothing to do with each other, other than the fact that they are all for one client. It really didn’t make sense to group all of one client’s work together. Instead, I now try to group similar activities together in chunks of time.
For example, I will set aside a set amount of time just for writing. During this time, I’ll write as many articles as I can for any of my clients (or my own blogs). I’m essentially just writing a first draft of the content, and saving it. I then move on to the next thing I need to write. Since my mind is so focused on writing, it is much easier to get a lot done in a short amount of time.
Then, I’ll batch together any article editing or revisions that I need to do, since they are typically very similar in nature. I will go through any completed articles, and edit and improve them as necessary. Even though when I’m done editing an article, it is ready for delivery, I don’t jump on my email to send it. I move right to the next article. If I try to jump in email to send it, my mind is shifting gears to another activity, so it is more difficult and takes more time to switch back to edit/revise the next article. In addition, if I go to my email, I’ll likely get distracted by something I see in the inbox, which will cause an even greater loss of productivity.
How to Group Your Tasks
The easiest way I’ve found to group tasks is to start out with an exhaustive list of all the activities you perform for your freelance business. To start with, each activity is its own group. As you go through the list, try to identify different activities that are very similar in the type thinking or effort involved. For example:
- Editing, revising & Proofreading
- Responding to client emails and responding to comments on your website, and delivering completed work
- Sending invoices and updating your tax records
- Searching for new clients, posting on forums and commenting on blogs
You’ll have to figure out what types of things work best for yourself. Remember, some things won’t be able to be combined with other activities. Don’t try to force it, or you’ll end up losing productivity. Additionally, if you combine activities together, but then find it is not making you more productive after trying it, don’t hesitate to break them apart again.
Planning Your Day
Once you’ve got all your activities batched together, you need to intentionally plan out how you’ll be spending your day. Remember to take advantage of the items of day that you know you’ll be most productive to get your most important work done. To start planning your day, you need to know what work you have to do, so make sure your ‘batches’ are filled out and organized.
When ready, plan out each hour of the day intentionally. For example:
- 8AM-8:25 – planning my day
- 8:25 – 9AM – Batch one, replying to emails
- 9AM-9:15 – break
- 9:15 – 1100 – Write articles
- 11-noon – Search for new clients
Of course, go through your entire work day and fill out exactly what you would like to be spending time on. If you split up your work day, that is fine. Just make sure you are accounting for all the time that you would like to be working, so you’re doing it intentionally.
Keep in mind that when you’re working on one batch, you should not be looking at or even thinking about anything from the other batches. This means minimizing any other browser tabs, ignoring your smart phone, setting your Skype or other messenger apps to ‘do not disturb’ and anything else you need to do in order to remain focused.
When done properly, batching can help you to become dramatically more productive than you might have otherwise believed possible. Give it a try, experiment with it to see just how much it can benefit you. I’d love to hear about your experiences or ideas with batching in the comments below!