Recently I spoke to the Ventura Chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners about Virtual Assistants, and the topic of “batching” tasks for efficiency came up. I found this article I wrote in September of 2009 back when I was still doing Virtual Assistance work myself.
Last week I had a very rude awakening. I woke up early, got right to work and put in a solid 4 hours before lunch. I then added up the hours I’d billed for actual client work and they totaled just one and a half hours!
WHAT?!? I worked all morning and could bill for less than half of my time? How did that happen?
The answer is distractions. I’ve written about this before, with phone calls and emails being the biggest culprits. But after this recent experience, I realized that I needed to upgrade my skills and start “batching” my tasks.
Batching means grouping together similar tasks and doing them all at once, but on a less frequent basis. For instance, instead of checking email constantly, check it just twice a day. Or instead of paying each bill as it arrives, put them aside and pay them twice a month.
- What is the true value of batching?
There is an unavoidable mental lag time that happens when you shift your attention back and forth between different tasks. According to experts*, the cost of distractions is over 25% of your time (in my case, it was over 50%!). When distracted, you may require up to 45 minutes to resume the major task that was interrupted.
I encourage you to make the effort to implement batching in at least one area of your work. Where else can you get a 25% return on your investment?
* The Cost of Not Paying Attention: How Interruptions Impact Knowledge Worker Productivity, Jonathan B. Spira and Joshua B. Feintuch, quoted in The 4-Hour Work Week, Timothy Ferriss