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I'M ASHLYN

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June 22, 2018

How to Batch Work & Organize with Themed Days

Business Tips

Reading time: 7 min.

This past week we put out a survey, and hearing what y’all ACTUALLY want is always my favorite (plus, I lol’d on the couch reading some of your responses).

Something that came up constantly?

“I am amazed at how much you can get done! I love hearing about your processes, schedule, how you got to where you are.”

“I struggle with my insane workload—and my inability to take a break.”

“How do I keep up with everything when I literally have only a few hours a day to do it all?!”

“You’ve talked about how you batch work, but what does that actually look like?”

You asked, I’m providing.

Today, I’m going to walk you through how I batch my work into theme days. 

How to theme batch days

If you’ve ever looked at someone else and wondered how they do it all, this is for you (and I’m not talking about Beyonce’s hours in a day, I hate that meme, honestly—that’s comparing apples to oranges!) I’m talking about those of us who have similar buckets of time, energy, finances, and resources … how do we normal people get more done in a day?

If it seems like you’re always busy and never making any progress … thus burnout happens quickly, this is for you, too.

You’ll learn:

  • My own 7 batch day themes, and a few other ideas to get you started
  • Why it’s not going to be a perfect system, and that’s ok
  • What task switching is, and why it affects your work

 

Let’s go! Oh, and the tool I use to project manage my business is called Trello. We LOVE Trello around here, but Asana is great along with other fabulous project management tools. The trick? Find one you like, and don’t dip a toe in—dive headfirst.

Iif you are interested in snagging a sample board of mine, grab it here.



What is Task Switching?

So, distractions are actually a BIG reason our productivity gets shot and our time gets lost.

Captian Obvious, I know.

BUT, did you know this is due to something task switching—sometimes called context switching. This is when you flit from one activity to another, forgetting that your brain has to play catch-up and get itself re-aligned contextually every how totime.

You know when you’re working on something and it feels good, you’ve hit your stride … when all of a sudden you get distracted?

Maybe your phone goes off and you check it, or your dog comes in and you stop to throw the ball a few times, or maybe you realize you haven’t put in the Instacart order for the day and you’re out of milk and bread.  

A study by Dr. Gloria Mark cited in Inc. magazine found that It takes an average of 25 minutes to resume a task after being interrupted and get back in that state of flow.

Crazy, right?

That same study showed we are usually working for about 1 minutes and 15 seconds before we get interrupted.  That feels about right considering we check our phones upwards of 100 times a day.

We get interrupted—on average—once every 1 minute and 15 seconds. Source: https://www.inc.com/laura-montini/infographic/the-high-cost-of-multitasking.html Click To Tweet

I’m not immune. In fact, I really struggle with this. I get new ideas constantly, I love to chat. But (maybe more than all that!) I also love to be OFF the clock and done with work.

So I want to tell you about how I theme my days so I can stay focused, maintain my sanity, and get more done in less time. Caution: this may lead to less burnout. 😉


How to Batch Your Work into Days

What you do is pick one focus for the day, and do most—if not all—things that day. This helps you keep the main thing the main thing.

This concept isn’t new—I first learned it from high-performance coach Todd Herman. Turns out, there’s a lot of research out there on how batching tasks into themed days can reduce that context switching that’s going on in your brain, helping you focus and get more done.

I’m going to tell you what I do on my batch days, but I also want to give you a bunch of ideas—this will be unique to your business and what you do. 

  • Sundays: Personal Growth
    • Church, reading, setting goals for the week, reviewing last week’s goals, resting, rejuvinating time with friends/fam, usually digital detox day
  • Mondays: Marketing
    • Do my #marketingmonday and editorial calendar workflow. Ex. Write the whole week’s Instagram posts, Facebook posts, and blogs; pitch new partnership ideas; record videos; think strategically about our marketing and sales plan
  • Tuesdays: Client Work
    • Literally just client work. I don’t change out of my clothes or ponytail, and I write copy for clients all.livelong.day.
  • Wednesdays: Product
    • Reviewing courses, listening to students/our audience, thinking through new programs and shop items/templates that people have asked for, creating new tools for our audience, tweaking 1:1 service workflows so they give a better client experience
  • Thursdays: Meetings
    • All client calls, potential client calls, coffee dates if I’m doing any, podcast interviews, etc.
  • Fridays: Finances & Admin
    • My #financefriday workflow to check in on our PnL, make sure I’ve gotten payroll stuff to our bookkeeper, clean up any systems, finish up work that’s not been completed
  • Saturdays: Rest
    • Workout, rejuvenating time with friends/fam, no work

Seriously, this will look different for everyone. Make SURE you have 1, maybe 2 days in your zone of genius—the thing you do best. For me, that’s writing and client work.

Here are some other ideas I’ve run across:

  • Writing Day or Content Creation Day
  • Coaching Call Days
  • Money Day
  • Management & Team Day
  • Administrative Days
  • Meeting Days
  • Relationship Building/Networking Day
  • Thinking Days

 

So, what does this look like in action?

Well, batching your work into theme days helps reduce decision fatigue—it takes the guesswork out of any task that comes on my plate … it just goes on the docket for whatever day it fits. For example, when I get a to-do from my bookkeeper, it goes on Friday. If there’s a new blog I have an idea about, I put it on next Monday’s list. If someone wants to meet, I throw out times for the next Thursday that I’m available.

Related: How I Deal (& Don’t Deal) with Coffee Dates: 11 Ways to Set Healthy Networking Boundaries

I hope that makes sense—it’s like having a bunch of buckets or bins on your desk, and you just drop off the task in the bucket instead of stopping everything to do it.


3 Tips to Implement Your Own Batch Theme Days

First, it is not a perfect system—be okay with that!

Days are going to bleed into the next day. Client work won’t all fit neatly each week into the 4, 8, or 9 hours you’ve set aside each week. Calls—obviously—can’t be held by everyone everywhere on one day of the week, so you have to be flexible.

This is just a framework, albeit a really good one!

It does mean you say no more.

Another side effect of this: you can’t do everything, which you learn quickly. Once I really realized what all I needed to get done as I transitioned out of a corporate, 9-to-5 job and into being a small business owner, I realized I wore all the hats … which means I can’t do it all.

If I only have a certain amount of hours each month on the clock, that means I can only take on so many clients.

That means I can’t write a new blog post every day of the week (phew!).

That means I can’t meet for coffee with every single person who asks in our inbox.

You just learn better to see how much time you REALLY have, and how to prioritize that time.

Related: 10 Things I Don’t Do Every Day (& Why I Think That’s Okay)

Surround yourself with things you love

Look for other ways to batch.

I have a friend that does client work one week, her own business work the next week, so on and so forth. I have another friend who batches her weeks—for example, she’ll record all her podcasts for a couple of months in 1 week’s time.

Batching into theme days doesn’t have to look like days—weeks may be better for you!

Also, maybe you’re better at looking at the morning vs. afternoon: You can spend the first 4 hours of the day focused on your BIG task, and post-lunch, do mindless things and admin work like hammer out your inbox (make DARN sure you’re using a template system so you only check your inbox and get in, get out in a tiny timeframe each day … answering emails isn’t the work you’re being paid to do for clients unless you’re a VA!), respond on social media, etc.

Related: How I Wrote 36 Canned Email Templates in One Day: Why They Keep Your Brand Voice Consistent


Our brain is built for focus, and just like perfectionism, multitasking isn’t a virtue. In fact, it doesn’t work! Let your brain stay in one lane at a time, and you’ll find you can focus better on one task at a time.

Here’s my challenge—see how you can implement batching and theme days. Make a list of the big buckets of tasks you do, and for the next week, try scheduling related activities ONLY for the specific days. (You may need to adjust as you go along, and that’s SO okay. You have to start somewhere!).

I would love to know some days that you use for themes and batching, I’m always looking for new pointers and love to hear how your business runs, so share that in the comments below

Don’t forget to sign up for your sample swipe Trello board of the board I use to house my weekly batch theme day info.

That link is available right here!

Okay, now get out there and work form a place of rest—not hustle.

 

11

comments

  1. Glenda

    June 22nd, 2018 at 11:50 pm

    Thank you I love the tips and the board!

  2. Ashlyn Carter

    June 23rd, 2018 at 5:39 pm

    Glenda, you are most welcome! It was fun to get to boil down and write out what I actually do!

  3. Stephanie Meiser

    June 25th, 2018 at 7:29 pm

    Such great advice & tips! I’ve been implementing Batch Work / Time Blocking this year and it is certainly a process to figure out what works best. Still working on that btw 😉 I’ve learned that I have to give myself grace and the freedom to rework as needed. PS I had to stop a rewind a few times to catch all the awesome quotes, as they totally relate to where I’m at right now!! xo

  4. Ashlyn Carter

    June 28th, 2018 at 5:04 pm

    Stephanie, thank you for that sweet feedback. We Southerners tend to talk quick, so I am glad you were able to rewind and catch those quotes. Batching my days changed how I work. Keep at it, girl, because when you find the process that works for you, I promise, you’ll never.turn.back. xo. -Ash

  5. Rebecca Francis

    June 30th, 2018 at 2:44 am

    I love this! Thank you, all your advise has helped me, plus you’re so fun and easy to “hang” with online 🙂 I’m new to Batch Working, at least intentionally, so I swiped your Trello and am trying it this week. Yay!

    I also learend based on reading this that I already do some “batch” working, batched by where I am. This is because I travel a few times a month, so my schedule is never consistent. But I keep an in-my-head list of things I can do without signal (ie writing on an airplane), things I can do from an unusual time zone (working on a product that doesn’t involve communicating with a client), and things I can do in a short period of time (sending invoices during a couple-hour break at the hotel). So anyway, it’s cool to see that I was already “batch” working but this will help me be even more intentional about it, not just feeling pushed into time slots.

    Thank you again!

  6. Ashlyn Carter

    July 1st, 2018 at 10:54 pm

    Well aren’t you the sweetest, Rebecca! Batch working has been so helpful to me in my business, I think it will be great for you as well! Let’s “hang” again soon sometime, mmmkay? xo. Ash

  7. Stephanie Kirkland

    July 6th, 2018 at 5:24 pm

    This was so helpful! Thank you, Ashlyn!

  8. Ashlyn Carter

    July 9th, 2018 at 7:45 pm

    You’re so very welcome Stephanie! Thanks for your kind words… I’m glad you found it helpful. Batching my days changed the way I work, so I’m happy to share it! xo. Ash

  9. Sarah Hayes

    July 9th, 2018 at 11:04 pm

    Yeaaa day batching!! As a business manager, my weeks look a little different than a lot of people’s but generally I do Monday’s for my own business (and the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Mondays of each month have different batched tasks assigned to them which helps reduce that decision fatigue!), Tuesday – Wednesday is client work, Thursday is collaboration/product development/etc. day, and Friday is overflow day. Since I started organizing my days this way, I feel like it’s so much easier to stay on top of everything that’s going on. It’s so great!

  10. Ashlyn Carter

    July 10th, 2018 at 3:10 pm

    Sarah, this is amazing! I love your idea of batching your Mondays by 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th. So smart! Thanks for reaching out and sharing your strategy! xo. Ash

  11. Kristi

    January 10th, 2019 at 12:48 pm

    Thanks Ashlyn. How do you tie this ‘My Week’ board in with your Simplified Planner? Are you writing in the same tasks or how do they work together? Thanks xx

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Hey, y'all! I'm Ashlyn.

Freshly sharpened pencil bouquet ready, I'm here to make sure you stand out as a copywriter and calligraphy. I help women like you steward your story well, so you can work from a place of rest—not hustle.

free mentoring? yes, please

Welcome to the AW blog! I hook up women with words. Grab a cup of coffee or glass of wine, and enjoy a peek behind-the-scenes of my ink stained life. 

LET'S PARTY:

I'M ASHLYN

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