Tranquility By Tuesday #8: Batch the Little Things

Tranquility By Tuesday #8: Batch the Little Things
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One of the biggest time savers you can implement is to group like tasks. This grouping can be by location, piece of equipment, type of work or other common thread. Tranquility By Tuesday* Rule #8: Batch The Little Things explains how batching will work to not only save you time but also add to your peace..

Little Stuff Can Suck Up ALL The Time

Have you ever had a day when you had some big important stuff to do, but decided to clear the decks first? Did you ever get to do the big important things?

It happens to me all the time. I want to sit down to write, but first I need to clean the kitchen. I want to write a blog article, but first I need to look at alternatives for a status light for our office (no kidding, this just happened).

Little stuff can be used as a procrastination tool, like when I find myself scrubbing the grout in the bathroom instead of doing the task I really should be doing.

Little stuff can also expand way beyond the time it should take as well, and that is how I find that the little stuff sucks up all of my free time.

And that means there is no time for the stuff that I want to do – crafting, writing, reading, etc.

Batching Is Powerful


I’ve known since the first time I read Getting Things Done* by David Allen about batching. GTD advocates “contexts” which are places/equipment that you need to do your tasks. The thought is that you only see the tasks that you can do at any given moment with the place/equipment your have on hand. You don’t waste brain cycles thinking about what you need to do at home when you are at the office.

My problem with contexts is that they became outdated as technology advanced. You still can’t do tasks at home when you are at the office, but with smart phones, tablets and laptops, equipment no longer becomes a significant context limiter.

Themed Days

Later time management systems took this a step further and set themes for days. This is particularly advocated by those who work for themselves. Monday for content creation, Tuesday for interviews, Wednesday for administrative tasks, etc.

This worked well in that I was getting a lot of things done, but I found that the tasks would take up my whole evening. I also found that things would slip through the cracks. I was putting things off because they didn’t match the theme of the day, and then lost track of them.

Batching ala Tranquility By Tuesday

The batching put forth in Tranquility By Tuesday* takes the concept of a few small blocks of time and dedicating them to small tasks.

There are two reasons for this, according to the book: 1) it forces you to prioritize your small tasks, keeping them from sucking up all the time; and 2) it removes little tasks as options when you are looking to get things done.

Very Powerful Chapter

For those of you who are interested in productivity, this chapter is worth a read on its own. She covers so many of the issues with getting things completed, from procrastination to rabbit holes to getting the right thing done to matching tasks with energy.

It’s way too much to cover in a single blog article (but I am making a note to consider expanding this in the future)

My Experience With This Form Of Batching

I have to admit that this rule seemed the most likely to give me a better handle on my life. However, I found this was the hardest for me to implement because I was working against prior knowledge.

My batching took a few different forms.

First, I batched my weekly housework to one hour on Friday evening. This placed a time limit on something that I could drag out into 2 to 3 hours. I can easily accomplish it in one, as long as I stay focused.

Next I batched my deep cleaning tasks for the week into an hour, either on Friday evening or Saturday morning. This again encouraged me to get my rear in gear. There were some things that I wasn’t able to get done, but I tried to make sure that I did the tasks that occurred yearly first, then semiannually, then monthly. There were a few of these things that I scheduled bigger blocks for, such as pressure washing the driveway and cleaning the pollen (ick) off of the screened porch, because these tasks take several hours.

I also made smaller batches that can be accomplished during down time when I am working at home. These smaller batches include paying bills, answering email and dealing with the small blog admin tasks. I have a backup block for these schedule for an hour on Thursday (a day I am typically in the office).

Clearing The Decks

Due to a situation beyond my control that has sapped my energy for a couple of months (and included a 5 day period where I needed to be prone or reclined) things piled up. And even though the book specifically warns against “clearing the decks” (a naval term, I learned), I did implement a clearing the decks day.

This day was a Sunday, when I normally have commitments with music, church and friends. But due to a combination of things I found a day that I could do lots of things.

I took my long task list, and divided it onto four pieces of paper.

One piece goes to my husband, who as newly retired from government service, is taking on more of the house stuff. He will be washing all of the valances in the house and cleaning blinds in the next week. He also will be thoroughly vacuuming the upstairs and washing the floors in our suite. (8 items)

The next piece of paper has the deep cleaning tasks for me. This includes cleaning lights in bedroom and kitchen, and deep cleaning the great room (8 tasks).

The next piece of paper is the weekly stuff that didn’t get done last week (or the week before that). This includes menu planning, deep cleaning the kitchen, and some other tasks (15 tasks)

The last list has all the computer tasks I need to do, including blog articles and 7 tasks pertaining to a committee I lead at church.

Will it all get done? Probably not. But I have the lists ready to go and can try and speed through them as quickly as possible.

This will take a day that I would normally not have had and allowed me to make things a lot calmer for the coming week.

I can see that this rule is one that I am going to continue to struggle with over the next few months as I try to break bad habits and limit the amount of time the unimportant stuff takes up in my life.

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