Tips for time batching your calendar – even as a busy parent

Four tips to help you get started with time batching

Parenting as a team

They say time is money, but as a busy parent, you already know that. We get pulled in so many directions as a working mom or dad. The best thing we can do for ourselves is to focus directly on each task at hand and make the most of our time; but, how to do that? We sought out to answer a few questions for you:

1. What does ‘time batching’ really mean?

2. How does it differ from time blocking?

3. All the productivity gurus like Elon Musk and Bill Gates might swear by time batching – but is it actually realistic for a busy parent to implement?

First, let’s start off with some basic definitions:

Time Blocking is scheduling every part of your day, even the fun things. Whether it is reading, waiting in the school pickup line, or leading an important work meeting, it is all on the calendar. Time blocking takes the “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail” mantra into heavy consideration.  

Time blocking is a good starting place because it helps you begin to see what you can realistically accomplish on a daily, weekly or even monthly basis. By actually scheduling in almost everything you're trying to do, you can evaluate whether there are enough hours in the day – or whether you need to deprioritize something. This includes scheduling in things like travel time, email blocks, lunch breaks, or even "down time". Time blocking doesn't mean you'll adhere to the exact plan you set each day – instead, it brings more visibility into where your time is going and allows you to move things around when needed.

Time batching is the art of curating your calendar to work smarter. As a step beyond time blocking, time batching encourages you to group certain tasks together based on their likeness in some way, shape, or form and in turn spend less time jumping from task to task.

Time batching is recommended because we can lose as much as 40% of our productivity when our brain switches between different tasks – and as parents, we don’t have that kind of time to waste! Time blocking and time bathing do not have to exist exclusively. In fact, they can be used together! Our lives are all different, so only you can schedule your day successfully; however, we’ve found time batching to be a great guide that is often more adaptive and flexible than time blocking – especially when so many unexpected things come up through the day for families.  

Now that we understand time batching, let's look at four tips to help you get started:

Take a Bird’s Eye View.
Get away from your day to day. Set aside time to pull back and evaluate your week or even your month. Examine what tasks you are consistently doing and begin thinking about how you might categorize these tasks based on which ones are most similar to one another. 

Consider Your Natural Rhythm.
Is there a certain time or day of the week that typically works better for you to accomplish different types of tasks? Here’s some examples to get you started:
What time of day do you feel most productive?
Do you naturally gravitate toward opening your inbox on Mondays so you can catch up from the weekend?
Do you feel Wednesdays work well for meetings once you’ve already accomplished some administrative tasks earlier in the week?
Do you typically start thinking about bills you need to take care of toward the end of the month?

Map it Out.
 If there are places you visit habitually, you can re-evaluate where you’re going and when to try and increase efficiency in your route. For example, do you have a standing meeting each week on the other side of town that also happens to be by your doctor’s office? Try scheduling your next appointment on the same day you already have that meeting. This allows you to minimize time lost.

Sort and Categorize Tasks and Appointments.
Look at your tasks you’ve laid out and start to organize them by “placing like with like”. Try using a few different categorization systems to see what sticks best for you. For example, you could organize by type (meetings, calls, appointments, paperwork), category (health, errands, school, work, travel, finances) - or both.

Organize by Type

You have to have meetings regardless, so why not schedule them for the same day(s)?

For example, you could reserve Mondays and Tuesdays for calls and/or meetings, while leaving Wednesdays and Thursdays for running errands and  appointments. This leaves Friday as a free day to catch up on miscellaneous items. This helps your brain understand what type of energy to bring into the day.

Organize by Category

Set aside a block of time just focused on administrative tasks like paying the bills, checking in on your budget, and examining your finances (credit cards, subscription payments, etc!). Creating a time-bound window in which you accomplish just tasks related to finances will help your brain focus more efficiently.

Or, create a block of time just for health-related appointments. Think about all the appointments your family might need over the next 6 months – dentist visits, annual check ups, therapy, or even your own facials! Schedule out those appointments all at once. 

Of course something else to help you with your time batching is our Hearth Display. Access your entire schedule when you need it and tweak it to make it work for you and your family. Re-organize and categorize similar tasks, and then hold time on your calendar to make it clear to others you’ve reserved that time to get things done.

Hearth can also help you see if there are overlapping events that you need to rearrange or get additional childcare coverage for. You can also color code tasks of similar likeness to more easily see how they might best fit together.

Family tip: Try time batching with your kiddos! On their own personal profile, point out things they might choose to group together. This could be things like cleaning their room and picking up the playroom. They can sort and organize their tasks so they have ownership over their responsibilities, too.

Neither of these tools (time blocking or time batching) is going to be a perfect system. No one know better than a busy parent how easy it is to plan perfectly and then have life get in the way. That’s okay! Getting in the habit of time batching will become easier over time, but even on days when none of the tasks you thought you’d get done actually get checked off the list, remember the most important thing: time is fleeting, especially with your family. If you spent a few memorable moments with your family that day – the most important thing was accomplished. 

P.S. Remember you can change. We are ever evolving and adaptation is necessary to survive, especially regarding our calendared life. If a certain schedule isn’t working for you, scrap it and try something new. Oh and of course don’t forget to schedule time for fun and relaxing too. You deserve it!

Want to dive deeper in goal setting with your family? Check out some of our other posts on similar topics:
 
Want More Work Life Balance? Use A Family Calendar to Lighten the Load

Establishing rituals with your family

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