Fundamentals of Less Doing: Batching

By October 28, 2010 Fundamentals One Comment

Fundamentals of Less Doing is a series of articles detailing how we think about productivity from a conceptual level. If you are new to Less Doing, the Fundamentals series is a great place to start.

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Not everything can be outsourced, and even if it can, you might not be able to afford it, or you might just want to do it yourself.

If you’re not outsourcing it, you should probably batch it.

What Is Batching?

Batching is all about “getting in the zone” and minimizing transition time. The problem is that most of us don’t think ahead. You cook every night or do laundry when you run out of underwear.

Think about how often these tasks actually need to be done:

  • Cooking – You really only have to cook once a week. Plan your meals, cook them all at once on the weekend, throw some in the fridge and the rest in the freezer.
  • Errands – If you have to do errands (most of them can be outsourced), never, never go out to do just one. Figure out what else you need to buy and then think about the most efficient way to do it. Try to stop by CVS on your commute back from work. (Google Maps is your friend.)
  • Email – Stop checking email all the time. Close your inbox and check it at most a couple of times a day. Turn off any pop-up notifiers you have.

The list goes on and will be different for every person, but stop and think about how you spend your time and what tasks you find yourself repeating often. I believe most people can save 5-10 hours of time a week by batching.

Warning!

Wait too long to do something, and batching can easily overwhelm you. You need to set a schedule or threshold for batching and stick to it.

For instance, I try to do all of my laundry every Sunday. Laundry once a week is perfect timing. By the end of the week my laundry baskets (whites, cold and hot) are close to full. It takes me a couple of hours at home to throw in three loads of laundry and iron a few things. During the down time, I’ll do other batched tasks such as cook for the week.

Once in a while I will miss a Sunday. That’s why I have plenty of underwear. The next Sunday is a bit unpleasant because I have to stay home for a while to do my laundry, but it’s manageable.

Miss that second Sunday though, and the world feels like it’s ending. The amount of laundry becomes unmanageable, and I often get stuck in a cycle of doing one load in the middle of the night when I realize I need dress socks for tomorrow.

If You Only Walk Away With One Thing

Start to think in terms of batching everything. Every time you go to do a task, think, “Do I need to do this now, or could I wait until I have more similar tasks and do them all at once?”

1 comments
mfishbein
mfishbein

Batching Laundry: I own over 20 pairs of boxers (the item most necessary to wash)  so I can go about three weeks without doing laundry then batch it all. It's a small investment that saves money over time through reduced total laundry spend.