Most nonprofit employees I know are faced with a common problem: too much work to get done, not enough time to do it, and all of it’s important.
I’m betting it does, and these problems are compounded by the fact that most of us don’t exactly do our best work when we’re stressed, limited for time, and/or dread doing that particular task. But as mentioned above, all of it’s important.
If all of it has to get done and it has to get done well, then how do you make that happen without putting in a bajillion hours, cutting corners, or hating your life?
The answer, friends, is batching.
Batching is, in a nutshell, a technique you can use to crank out a ton of work in less time than it would otherwise take you to do it by grouping similar tasks or tasks that require you to use the same tools or resources to complete them. And the best part is that you can batch almost any type of work!
Let me give you two good examples from my world that I think could also apply to you.
Example #1: social media.
My company (CNPS) posts to 5 different social platforms almost every single day. That’s a lot of copy to write, a lot of photos/videos to take and edit, and a lot of graphics to create. In fact, that’s anywhere from 500-750 posts a month if we assume there are 30 days in the month.
And if I didn’t have a strategy + my batching method it might take me a week or more to create and schedule all the content I need for a month’s worth of social posts. But it doesn’t. I can create, edit, and schedule an entire month’s worth of social posts for 5 different platforms in…. (drumroll, please)…..ONE DAY.
That means that I can spend one day paying attention to social media and then mostly forget about it for the rest of the month.
Example #2: Emails & Blog Posts
Each month I write 4-5 blog posts a month plus 2-3 emails to my subscribers a month. Each blog post is typically over 2,000 words and has graphics and sometimes free downloads associated with it. Each email also has graphics and free tools associated with it. This means I can’t just sit down, write a few hundred words, and be done with it. There’s too much involved. Add to that my workload of grants, websites, digital marketing, books, random client projects, and marketing my own business and it’s enough to make a person want to admit defeat and go back to bed.
But as with social media, I get all of my blog posts and emails done in one day, too.
I use batching on lots of other things, also. Grants, website projects, accounting…you name it and I've probably batched it.
And here’s something you should know: I am a one-person shop (at least for right now). I don’t have employees to help me and obviously, the quality of my work is really important to me so I’m not sitting around looking for shortcuts that will allow me to pump out lots of crappy work.
The secret to my high level of work output and quality (not to mention my sanity) is batching, folks.
I use it to get things done and free me up to focus on other work for the remainder of the week or month.
In today’s article, I’m going to walk you through how you can use batching, too. By the end of this article, you should have the tools and insight you need to take your existing workload and shave some serious time off of it without cutting any corners on quality.
Sound good? Then let’s get to it.
Step 1: Make a list
First thing’s first. Make a list of all the time-consuming tasks that you would love to batch. If you wish it took less time, add it to the list. If it’s a recurring task that you have to do each day, week, month, or quarter, add it to the list.
I also want to note here that for our purposes, you can group together similar tasks that require the same tools or resources in order to complete. This is part of what makes batching so efficient.
For example, if you need to write copy for several emails but you also need to write copy for some letters, grants, website updates, or something else, group them together. Writing is writing. Likewise, if you need to create graphics for a bunch of disparate purposes, open your favorite photo/graphic editing program and knock all of it out at once.
Think about what can be grouped together in order to make the best use of time, resources, and the tools you need to have on hand to get it all done.
Step 2: Figure out the time commitments for each list item or group of tasks
Next, we need to find out how much time these tasks could reasonably take you. Put together your best estimate of how long you think you need to complete each item or group of tasks.
Step 3: Get it on the calendar
Next, you’re going to schedule your very first batch day. All important things should go on the calendar, so I want you to look at your calendar, choose a day or a part of a day that you can devote to this first batch session and then schedule it in. This first time, you’ll be estimating how much time is needed so use your best guess.
Once it’s on your calendar, it’s sacred, so no breaking that appointment unless there’s a really good reason!
Step 4: Let bosses and co-workers know what you’re doing
I’m lucky that I work for myself and I don’t have to get buy-in or deal with lots of distractions on any given day. But I certainly remember what it was like to work in a busy nonprofit office where you have co-workers who want to chat, phones ringing, emails coming in every few minutes, etc.
It can get really hard to focus and get in a good workflow, right? Which is why it probably takes you almost twice as long as it should to get any one thing done.
I want you to run interference for yourself. Go to your boss and co-workers. Explain what you’re trying to do. Explain how it will benefit them and the organization if needed. Then tell them that you have scheduled it on the calendar and for the day(s)or hours that are listed as your “batching time”, you will be mostly unavailable.
You may get some resistance to this, but with clear explanations and the understanding that you are not truly unavailable if something critical comes up, you will hopefully be able to assuage any concerns. Plus, once they see the resulting productivity, they’ll probably be asking you to teach them your ways.
Step 5: Set the stage for batch day
When it’s batch day, everything has to be focused in on creating an environment that is conducive to you getting a ton done. Take a moment and really think about what kind of environment that might be.
Do you need complete silence or do you work better with background noise? Do you like dim lighting? Do you want a big pot of coffee or tea? Snacks? Whatever you need – make sure you have it. Then turn down the ringer on your phone, put your cell phone somewhere out of reach, close your email program, and close your office door.
It’s time to batch.
Step 6: Batch it, baby.
You’ve set yourself up for success. Now dive in and start working on the task/task group you need to get done. As much as possible, try to tune out any distractions and allow yourself to really get in the flow of your work.
If you need to take breaks, take them, but then come back to the task at hand. And of course, don’t allow yourself to go off the rails and start working on something that is unrelated to your batch work.
Step 7: Note the time
When you’re done with your first batch session, note the time it took. Were you able to complete everything? Did you have time left over? Did you actually need more time? Whatever the case may be, this will help you plan for next time you need to plan a batch session for these tasks.
Step 8: Rinse and repeat
Now schedule another batch session for a different purpose or schedule in next month’s sessions. Keep noting how much time it takes to complete each type of batch session and look for ways to group similar work together so that you can streamline your process and be as efficient as possible. This will make it easier to schedule things as time goes on as you’ll get better at knowing exactly how much time you need.
You’ll also start to see that you’re getting more done and that you are freeing up other time in your days and weeks which you can now devote to other things. Or you can just go home on time for once.
We’ve come to the end, folks.
But if you read this far then it’s probably safe to assume that you’re fairly dedicated to finding better ways to work. Or you’re just seriously stressed out by your workload and looking for anything that will save you.
Whatever the case may be, batching can definitely help, but it’s by no means the only way to streamline and reduce your workload. I also have a Nonprofit MasterMind Cheat Sheet that gives you an easy, 5-step process to save you time and help you do your best work, plus bonus tools and techniques.
Get it here: