Combine Batching and Pomodoro To Crush Your Workload From Home
Over the next couple of weeks, hopefully, most of us will be huddled safely in our homes in hopes to avoid exposure to the coronavirus. And with changes, we need to apply methods to stay disciplined, productive, and efficient as a way to limit the impact of the virus at an economical level.
So as employees there are many ways to stay on top of our game and make the most of the situation. This is especially the case for those of us lucky enough to work jobs that allow it. As a member of a software company developing tailored healthcare solutions to assist the situation, I work from home and would like to share with you one of the most helpful ways to stay productive.
What Is Batching?
While I have been applying it for a while now, I heard about the term from a Matt D’Avella video that shines a lot of light on the topic, showing how you can take the method to the next level and extract excellent results.
Batching refers to collecting all tasks of the same type with similar requirements and getting them done consecutively until you finish them all. This can relate to how you schedule your time or how you communicate with others. By batching your work, you allow each type of assignment the best chances of being made efficiently, as task switching is actually damaging to your productivity.
For example, I have started to batch the way I personally work, as follows:
Monday and Tuesday: Planning the week; communicating with editors, publishers, colleagues, and superiors; getting down most of what will be done throughout the week; as well as editing any articles I have on my list to finish for publishing.
Wednesday through Friday: I am mostly focused on writing new content, with the exception of anything urgent that comes up and pre-scheduled meetings. I have been able to write up to four articles in the span of three days using this method.
What Is Wrong With Doing Things One at a Time?
Imagine how inefficient it would be to go wash every piece of clothing by hand as soon as it needs washing. Or one dish. Crazy, right?
Then why are we willing to allow for such chaos in other areas of our personal or work life? For example, how many times a day do you stop working and check to see if you have new email? How about when you keep refreshing the page or keep it in the background so you can be easily distracted by notifications?
More often than not, once you get in the groove of working on a type of task, the more you work focused, the more efficient you become, as such distractions throw you off.
This Is Where Batching Comes In
To batch means to group all tasks of similar nature and dedicate sufficient time to take care of all before moving on to another type of work.
For developers, one batch would be researching, another batch would be planning a solution, a third would be writing it out in code, and a fourth would be testing. Then we have other nontechnical batches such as attending meetings and briefings, as well as responding to emails, online calls, etc.
The potential for using batching is vast. There is so much that can be done using this method. Further in the article, I have laid out several ways and examples of how it can be used to improve on work.
Optimize Your Workload by Minimizing Your Distractions
Working from home can be demanding in ways different from the office environment. While in the office, your attention is redirected with taps on the shoulder and long lunches with colleagues, as well as spontaneous meetings and other gatherings such as birthday parties, company breakfasts, etc.
On the flip side, working from home you might have kids, pets, other family members. And then you have household work that is pending and your favourite leisure activities like Netflix or a gaming console whispering in your ear to chill and have some fun.
Managing distractions is always going to be a part of the working process. Below, I have listed some that are valid regardless where you work from but are especially helpful when you are a remote employee.
Email is great. It’s an official channel allowing professional, documented, and efficient communication. So keeping track of and responding to emails is a part of any professional’s workload. However, it is so easy to let it take away from the efficiency of work by providing a constant distraction or even a sense of urgency.
How many times a day do you refresh your mailbox? How many of those times involve an actual urgent email that requires your immediate attention? Hardly ever, right? If something is urgent, then people will reach out to you in person under normal circumstances, of course. Considering that most of us are working remotely, voice communication over the phone becomes the best way to get a hold of someone quickly.
I now check my email only twice a day: once in the morning while I drink my coffee and plan out what I am doing today and once in the afternoon for about 30 minutes where I respond to any emails that need responding to. This allows me to fully focus on what I am working on throughout the rest of the day.
Notifications on Mute
Distracting notifications do not come from email alone. We all carry around a smartphone with all of our little digital pleasures from social media and mobile games to podcasts and audiobooks. Every app on your phone has push notifications designed specifically to redirect your attention to the product.
With all my notifications on, I get a pop up at least five times an hour, not counting messages and calls. This means that I will constantly interrupt my train of thought to read what it says on the little screen. And that is if I don’t pick it up and engage with the notifications. As a writer, you can imagine how problematic this can be.
So I decided to take back control and disabled all notifications except the calendar, my work chat—as I am working from home—my messaging system, and phone calls.
Scheduling and Planning
I know people who have an excellent memory, and when they have a plan, they also seem to have an internal assistant that helps them keep track of everything.
Well, I am not one of those people, and that is OK.
That being said, I am not any less efficient. I have simply created an optimized system that serves as my assistant, helping me stay on top. And so, I am a huge advocate for both scheduling and planning.
I use Google Calendar to manage any set meetings and responsibilities. This goes for repetitive events as well as the as-it-comes-up meeting. And I always use the notifications option. Things are pretty clear here. So I will be a bit more detailed for how I plan all of my work that is not bound to any specific time slot.
For the bulk of the weekly and daily planning, I use a good old journal. I prefer paper to digital, as it is easier for me to make changes on the go. Writing things out by hand helps me remember them.
I always have a long list of all the things I need to get done throughout the week. Then I have daily lists that take a certain number of items from the weekly list. If something comes up—it always does—I add it to the weekly list and then decide which would be the best day to get it done, accounting for deadlines, of course.
On top of being able to get everything done, I also have my workload evenly distributed throughout the week. This way, I do not feel lazy one day and overwhelmed the next because I need to catch up.
Find Your Own Method
Now, the planning system that I use is built to fit my personality, my schedule, and my work requirements. You can use it as a base or branch out to something completely different. It took me around three years of tweaking it to get something that works great for me. So be patient and try to introduce any task planning system that may work for you!
Pomodoro With Batching Is a Winning Combination
Different methods target different aspects of work. And this allows you to choose what to use as you need it. However, some work together better than others. And batching, coupled with the Pomodoro Timer method, works particularly well. All that being said, I should start with …
What Is Pomodoro?
The Pomodoro method is simple. You set up a timer that has dedicated work sessions and dedicated rest sessions. The basic setting is 25 minutes work to five minutes rest. Totalling up to a half-hour period. You finish four 30-minute cycles and then take a long break and start over.
The method is the best for people who have a hard time focusing on their work or are trying to get into a good work pace to meet a deadline, with dedicated rest to avoid burning out. You can completely optimize the time periods to fit your work. I use a 45-minute-work to 15-minute-rest cycle, as writing usually goes better in longer sessions. If you want to get more familiar with the benefits of Pomodoro and how to apply it, you can read this article.
How To Combine It With Batching
Pomodoro relies on dedicated time slots of work and rest. And batching relies on pumping out all similar tasks one after the other before moving on to a different type of work. The two methods together are a winning combination, as they both create a proactive workflow that is easy to follow, easy to stick to, and easy to maintain.
Let’s say you start with a list of 10 tasks of the same nature. You can dedicate one Pomodoro cycle to each task. Ten cycles later you are ready! Let’s say you are using the usual 25-work to 5-rest Pomodoro ratios, with one one-hour break in the middle. If you are able to complete one task per one cycle that means in 10 30-minute cycles, you will be ready with the entire list in the span of five hours, including the breaks.
If the tasks take longer than the 25 cycles, or you slow down your tempo, with the typical eight-hour workday, you will likely be able to get it all done within one workday.
Of course, all of that is a rough estimate. But the beauty of both methods is that you can customize everything, from what types of work you group together to get done one after the other, to tailoring your Pomodoro cycles to fit your assignments’ average duration.
There Are Challenges, but Also Opportunities
Working from anywhere can be challenging; it is just the challenges that vary. However, every challenge is an opportunity to grow as a professional and as an individual. If you have never worked from home before for extended periods of time, this gives you the opportunity to experiment with different ways to manage your time and direct your attention throughout the day.
Try the batching and Pomodoro methods separately, and then try them together. See what works and what does not. Experiment with traditional planning and notekeeping like a bullet journal, or try using organizing tools like Trello or Google Keep.
Take this opportunity to learn about your habits and your needs. When all this is done, you will have a stronger foundation to work with, from the office or anywhere else in the world!