Bump. A new email has just arrived. Have to check it. Now. I might reply to it earlier, but need to read it now.

Seriously, why?

While being on top of every single thing might sound super productive, it’s not. Being busy doesn’t mean that you’re productive. Being busy means you’re busy, got nothing to do with effectiveness.

This is the reason why you’d like to play it smart, and to organise your job into batches.

Why batching your job is cool

To get the idea of batching we need to see how it is usually done. I’ll use the email as the example, but it can really apply to anything what we do on regular basis.

Now, honestly, answer to yourself how many times a day:

  • You check email. On your phone, computer, laptop, tablet.
  • You come back to email once read, to reply/delete/archive it
  • How long does it take you each time

More than couple of times a day, isn’t it? Probably more than a couple of minutes each time, isn’t it? Now simply do the maths, and see how long it takes you. Even if it’s 20 minutes a day, that’s 140 minutes a week!

Even if you can recover only half of this time by a method I’ll shortly show you, that would be still more than 1 hour of your life weekly. Extra 52 hours a year, and we are only talking about emails.

Small numbers are impressive when they are actually accumulated, eh?.

How can you batch your tasks?

I know it might sound crazy (especially when you are in customer handling job) but… check your emails on regular times. It might be twice a day, or every other hour. The main idea is to check the email when actually you’d like to, rather than when the sender wants you to.

This benefits you in a few ways:

  • You have a better planning ability, knowing that you’re not hooked up constantly to the email.
  • You won’t get distracted by checking each email coming to your inbox.
  • By not jumping instantly on your email, others might start respecting your time more.

While checking the email, say, every other hour everything will accumulate and wait for you. It shouldn’t take too long to quickly go through emails which are junk and get rid of them.

Now the goal is pretty simple – action all emails so that you won’t need to come back to them. Reply, archive, delete, ignore – do whatever it takes to go through your inbox. And if there is something that you really cannot act straight away – mark/flash/categorise it so it will stand out of other emails and be easily searchable.

Work in this pattern for at least few days to get the idea of any time improvement.

How come this method works?

You don’t get distracted for one – and we all know how bad it is when we’d need to focus and/or prioritise one task and are constantly distracted by something. This is a big win.

You don’t need to waste time to open and close the email application and the actual email. I know, it might be as short as 10 seconds, but multiply 10 second by 30 emails and it’s simply time wasted.

It’s like buying a coffee every morning in the coffee shop. £3 pounds isn’t much, but if we do quick maths: £3 * 5 times a week * 4 weeks = £60. This is a dinner for 2, rather than a morning coffee in rush.

Some tips about batching:

  • If you’re afraid of applying this method, simply talk to your manager. Explain that you want to be more focused and productive, and this way will not destroy your business. You can agree to trial this method for a couple of weeks.
  • If you’re using the email application which you cannot turn off, use function to “Work offline”, so that new emails will not come to your inbox.
  • If you’re worried about upsetting your sender, you can set out of office message stating that you check your email at certain times and if your attention is needed immediately to call your mobile/landline.

You can extend batching beyond the email

While email is great example, here are some ideas how to regain even more time:

  • Reading news on many websites – rather than checking all of them, you can sign up for some news aggregator e.g. feedly which will collect all the news from the websites of your choice. Whenever convenient, you open feedly and all your news are waiting for you. Like said emails.
  • Social media, it’s a massive time eater. Certainly, you can switch off all notifications so that your phone/browser will stop bombarding you about comments and other likes. While it’s super tempting for the first few days to see if you not missing out, after a while that feeling will go away.