To Batch or Not to Batch. . .

Mar 4, 2016

Many a productivity guru (or, as I like to fancy myself, an educator-who-wants-to-get-a-life guru), advocate for batch processing: grouping alike To-Do’s and doing them all at one time. You know, like during my teaching days when I would make 5 peanut butter and jellys all at once and throw them in the freezer. Or ironing all my clothes for the week ahead at one time. That was, ahem, before I gave up ironing all together. Okay, back to the story here. Here’s my thoughts on the “batch.”

I tend to batch enough to get the week off to a strong start, and then wing it a bit from Thursday – Sunday. Let’s call it “half-batch.”

For example:

Batch – Vegetable and nut bags for my husband and me. I have found that if I don’t batch these, I will not do it in the morning or the night before because it doesn’t feel like a necessity. But when we have them, we’re always happier—and healthier.

Please pay no attention to the bottle of wine on the counter!


Not batch – Phone calls. I really don’t have many extended pockets of time to make phone calls, so except for the ones that have to be during business hours, I call people when I feel like it.

Batch – Errands. I really hate errands. I keep an errand section on my Later List and try to do one big sweep per month. This means that last week I hit the Post Office, Home Depot, Fed Ex, the bank, and Costco all in one day. Yes, I know many of these could be handled online, and trust me, I take advantage, but these particular errands all had to be done by me in the flesh.

Not batch — Cooking. A million people say to batch process your cooking, and as usual, I prefer to be three days ahead whenever I can. But I don’t find it to be a huge time saver AND sometimes I don’t feel like a Greek salad every Thursday.

Batch – Scanning documents. Yes, I know there are MANY iPhone apps to help with this, but the quality is not quite as great as my desktop scanner and I typically have lots of scanning work. I try to pick a low energy time once each week to get it done.

Not batch – Blog posts. I wish I could figure out how to write all blogs at one time, but creativity strikes me differently. I simply cannot sit down and write five blogs at once, even though I wish I could. Instead, I’ve learned to block out time for writing when I know I will feel more inspired, like right after a big workshop or immediately after a coaching session.

Do you batch? How do you determine what’s worth the batching effort?

For me, I batch if:

-It is a very rote or boring task (e.g. scanning, bill paying)

-It is a luxury and would not happen otherwise (e.g. vegetable bags)

-It is a true time-saver (e.g. errands)

As always, common productivity principles should not be applied universally. Instead, be intentional about when you need to apply, and why!

PS In writing this particular blog, I got distracted for an entire hour trying to locate a link I wanted to attach. In doing so, I did some unintentional Pomodoro research. I’m intrigued. More soon. . .

PPS Zach V’s batch planning strategy for lesson plans and Reshma’s Repeatedly-Do for the week