If you’ve been following Paper + Oats anytime in the last month or so, you’ve probably heard of Batch Day – it’s a quick little idea I had to create community around productivity. In a nutshell, Batch Day is a one-day productivity challenge for creative entrepreneurs. Here's the plan: you’ll dedicate an entire day's work to one topic, eliminating all distractions so you can make the most of this hyper-focused time. Hold yourself accountable, learn from your peers, and get a healthy dose of motivation throughout the day with other creative business owners using #POBatchDay on social media. Each month, Paper + Oats will host a Batch Day focused on a different topic. In the past few months, we've covered topics like email marketing, social media, back burner projects, and blogging. Keep reading to hear more about how batching similar tasks together can help you be more productive, why and how I created Batch Day, and how you can get involved in the next one.
Where did Batch Day come from?
For me, task batching started with my website. I realized one day that several times a week, I would go into my Squarespace account and make a small tweak here or there on my website. No big deal, right? Kind of. Each time I did one small task, I had to login to my account, find the place on my site for the adjustment (remember what I was wanting to adjust in the first place!), make the change, check it, test it out, and 9 times out of 10 I would think of another quick improvement I could make. And sometimes another. A simple task would turn into a few simple tasks, and it would end up eating an hour of my limited work day, when it should have only taken a few minutes.
So I did what I do best – I started a list. I jumped in Evernote, and started a list called “Website Updates.” I decided I would do all these little tweaks and updates on one day, so I could just knock them all out while I was in website mode. I looked at my calendar, picked a random day a couple weeks out, and wrote in "Website Updates Day.” Little did I know, that was the very very first Batch Day! Every time I noticed something small on my website I needed to change, or even bigger ideas I wanted to implement, I would add them to my batch list.
It worked out that my daughter was going to be with her dad for 8 straight hours that day, so I would have zero distractions. Seriously, the thought of spending an entire day, by myself, making minor tweaks to my website made me giddy. I’m weird like that. As my Website Updates Day got closer, it was hard to keep that date clear of any other work, meetings or appointments. I had to literally pretend like that day didn’t even exist. I trained myself to skip over it when I was scanning my calendar to plan out projects.
When Website Updates Day arrived, I made a big pot of coffee, and got to work. These are all the things I managed to accomplish that day:
- update my entire About page, including text, photo, layout, and adding call to action buttons
- create an FAQ page with a link in my footer and design headers to separate service and shop questions
- revamp my Contact page by adding an email signup, social icons, a more detailed contact form, and more calls to action
- completely redo my Design Services page by adding a list of services, general pricing, portfolio images, and breaking up the content to make it easier to read and skim
- refine the design of my Signup page to be a little cleaner and easier to read
- add more signup forms throughout my entire site
- make minor layout changes on my home page, and add new slider images
- create the entire page for P+O Gives Back, including a nomination form for the May recipient, and add a link to my footer
- setup Google Analytics (I know, how the heck did I not have this yet?!)
- update Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Gmail profile images to all match
- update my favicon that appears in the browser tab
At the end of the day, I shared my day of task batching in a couple Facebook groups and on my Instagram. And it kind of blew up. I was SO not expecting anything from it except a couple likes, and maybe a comment if I was lucky. But instead, I was flooded with fellow creative entrepreneurs saying they needed to do the exact same thing. It didn’t hit me until a couple days later – what if I created a one-day challenge and showed other boss ladies how to do their own Batch Day around a specific topic? I put together a quick logo and Squarespace cover page and started gauging interest. Bingo. You people needed a Batch Day . . . and bad!
What is task batching and why do I need to start doing it?
Batching similar tasks together to be more productive is a common practice for many business owners, and it's certainly not a ground-breaking discovery. Completing a bunch of similar tasks at one time is way faster than doing them as they come up. When you clean your house, you don't wash a couple dishes, then go vacuum a room, then come back and wash a plate, and then go clean your toilet, then vacuum another room, etc. It’s more efficient to wash all the dishes, then clean the entire bathroom, then vacuum the whole house. Switching between different types of tasks slows you down and makes you less productive in the long run.
We're all busy boss ladies, so Batch Day is just a way to hold each other accountable once a month to complete a bunch of tasks around a similar topic. Doing this together, we can share resources and ideas around the topic, post encouragement and motivation on social media throughout the day to cheer each other on, and raise our glasses at the end of the day to a long list of to-dos marked complete. The purpose is simply to create community around productivity. Period. The cool thing about Batch Day is there are no strings attached. There's no sales pitch or hidden agenda, and, of course, it's completely free to participate.
How does Batch Day work, and how can I get the most out of it?
There’s no specific formula to a successful Batch Day, and it’s really not even about a particular day. If you can’t commit an entire day’s work, you could just do an hour or two (call it Batch Hour, perhaps?). If you’ve already got meetings scheduled that day, no worries, just pick a different day. There’s nothing special about a date, is all about the purpose – getting little things done without distraction, so you can spend more purposeful time later on the big things.
A few tips to help your task batching go smoothly (even if you're not doing Batch Day!):
1. Keep a running batch list of tasks specific to the topic.
Write down every to-do or idea you have, big or small. Even if you don’t quite have a plan of how to execute it, just write it down. You can narrow down your list later, but right now, just get everything out of your head. Brain dump, we call that. And I have good news! I've created a simple worksheet for you to use for this growing list. When you sign up for Batch Day, it'll be sent straight to your inbox, so click below to get in on it!
2. Keep your schedule clear.
This is a hard one, but you can do it! Try your best not to schedule anything else for that day (or that block of time, if you’re not doing a full day), even small things. Don’t even plan to be in your inbox much that day, it can be a time sucker. Side note: why did I choose a Thursday? Build momentum up to it early in the week, and ride the wave of productivity to finish out the week. This decision was a complete accident, but it worked great for my original Website Updates Day.
3. Get a babysitter.
Mompreneurs. I know you’re out there. I think having childcare was the key to my productivity on my first accidental Batch Day. Not having to stop and start, stop and start, stop and start let me chug through tasks and get stuff done. No diaper changes, no prepping bottles or nursing, no guilty sit-and-watch-this-show-while-mommy-does-this-one-thing feelings. If you can't get a babysitter for Batch Day, no worries, just do your best. Being a mom and a business owner is a constant juggling act, so DO NOT feel guilty if your productivity level is a little lower than you expect. Motherhood comes before business-hood. Businesshood? You know what I mean. For me, I only have a sitter for the first half of the day, so see? No mama is perfect, and no Batch Day is perfect. I'll bust through my list in the morning, and pray hard for that afternoon nap :)
4. Share your progress throughout the day for a quick doses of motivation.
We all know that social media is the biggest time sucker of all, BUT part of the joy of Batch Day is seeing what everyone else is up to and cheering each other on. I’ll be sending out one last email prior to Batch Day (if you’re not signed up, head over here!) that will include a rough schedule to follow for the day. It’s not a time-sensitive schedule, for all you Batch Hour ladies, just a rough "order of events” that you can apply to any block of time. Included in there will be a few social media breaks to allow you to check in with your fellow "Batch Buddies” (literally, my mom just coined that term sitting next to me) – it’ll give you the boost you need to get back to work and finish your list! We’ll be using #POBatchDay, so you can quickly see everyone else who is participating along with you. Even if you're batching your tasks on a different day, scrolling through photos of other inspiring boss ladies hard at work on their creative businesses can be super motivating to do the same for your own business.
Ok, batch lady, I’m in. What can I look forward to down the road?
I’ve had such a great response already to Batch Day, and it’s not even here yet! So I’ve been busy behind the scenes prepping for a Batch Day once per month, and I can’t wait to share these new ideas with you! Here are some topics that we’ll tackle in upcoming Batch Days (hint: I’m already keeping batch lists for each of these topics, so feel free to start your own if you need to get some ideas out of your head):
- Social media (Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, BlogLovin)
- Internal systems + processes (contracts, forms, questionnaires, invoices, surveys, project management systems, accounting / bookkeeping, Google Analytics, etc.)
- Website / Etsy shop updates
- Photography for social media (planning and shooting styled photos of your products or representative of your services to keep on hand for social posts or to use on your website)
- Inventory + products (packaging + shipping options, ordering, creating new products, cleaning out old inventory and planning sales to get them out the door, etc.)
- Blogging (stocking up on posts, linking between posts, updating sidebars, planning content upgrades, brainstorm new ideas, reach out for guest posts, etc.)
Even if you aren’t able to participate in any upcoming Batch Days, try to schedule in some blocks of time periodically to batch similar tasks together. Hyper-focusing your time like this helps you work more efficiently through your to-do lists and makes you more productive in the long run.
So what types of tasks do you find yourself doing over and over, or putting off, or distracting you from your bigger projects? Share them with me, and who knows, it could be the next Batch Day! And who's got their list in hand, ready for Thursday?! I can't wait!