Batching Educational Productivity

Hans AppelBlog, Manage Better, Self Care Better

TL;DR:

  • Batching your tasks can help you to be more productive.
  • This post shares strategies for batching your tasks, such as choosing specific times to engage on email each day, scheduling multiple phone calls in the same sitting, and taking a break to increase productivity later.
“Productivity is never an accident.  It is always the result of commitment to excellence, intelligent planning, and focused effort.” – Paul J Meyer

If the time management police ever came knocking, I might get distracted on the way to answering the front door.  I’m the person who has to mute the TV to think, talk, or write.  I carefully seat myself away from foot traffic at dinner so as not to be the rude guy noticing every shiny object that passes by.  As an incessantly observant individual, completing routine tasks can be challenging.

I’ll bet you already do some batch productivity in your own life. But becoming aware of its effectiveness can help you achieve increased intentionality. This week challenge yourself to reimagine one task through a batch lens. Click To Tweet

On the flip side, I’m highly creative mixed with a touch of obsession.  I can focus and commit to accomplishing something big for long periods of time.  I wrote much of my book, Award Winning Culture, between the hours of 2 a.m-5 a.m. 

As you might guess, I drive my wife a little crazy.  She’s outrageously organized and can knock out any task like nobody’s business.  She wrote 2 picture books at the same time.  However, through the years, she’s come to appreciate my laser focus ability to produce something spectacular when I achieve flow.         

Me giving advice on how to be more efficient feels like a squirrel teaching a fish to swim.  [Ironic Fun Fact: Squirrels are great at swimming, they just don’t like to.

Despite my propensity to fall back into last-minute cramming sessions and procrastinated papers in high school and college, with age, I’ve managed to stumble into a few productivity hacks that truly support my ridiculously high ambition.

I first heard of batch productivity years ago from author and podcaster Tim Ferriss.

He explains that doing laundry once you have a pair of dirty socks would make zero sense.  Washing one pair of socks would result in a set-up cost and task-switching cost that would make laundry very inefficient.  Instead, productivity is realized when we save up enough dirty laundry or “critical mass” for a full load.  Any guesses who does laundry in our home? If you’re following along closely you won’t be surprised to learn it’s…me.  Sadly, I’m less successful at keeping up on the daily grind of dishes.      

This easy-to-understand example of basic batch productivity is logical but it feels like educators often overlook this logic when seeking their own workplace flow.  Beyond eliminating opportunity costs, there is a repetition to reaching flow that increases efficiency.  In other words, you actually improve at the task because you’re performing it more.  

Ever wondered why you’re better at teaching a lesson after multiple class periods?  You’re finding ways to eliminate the fat.  Stand-up comics fine-tune or filter their every word in this micro-editing process to reach the most efficient yet maximum hilarious impact.  Just like in performing or teaching, there’s an art to completing work tasks in an optimal way.      

Here are a few ways to start batching your work.

  • Save up multiple items to drop off in the office and then make a trip all at once.
  • Rather than writing a positive card to a student whenever the inspiration strikes, keep a running list of students and accomplishments. Then write a bunch of cards all at once on a Friday afternoon. 
  • Resist the urge to engage on email all day.  The top efficiency experts suggest only responding to email once or twice a day (ideally picking a time that doesn’t interfere with your peak creativity).  
  • Grading many assignments all at once can feel exhausting.  However, when educators grade the same parts of all students’ work, they become much more efficient as they know exactly what to look for.
  • Multi-tasking might feel like a teacher staple, but it’s an inefficient way of refueling your tank during a lunch break.  Taking even 15 minutes off for a full duty-free lunch can actually increase your afternoon productivity so much more than eating and working for 30 full minutes.  Your body and mind deserve and actually scientifically benefit from a full break—even if it’s short!   
  • Schedule multiple phone calls in the same sitting.  An Award Winning Culture tip is to intentionally arrange 5 brag calls (positive family outreach) for every challenging call you plan to make.  Thus, if you’re calling home on a student concern, budget time to make 5 awesome quick phone calls to celebrate other students who are crushing it.
  • Need to meet with the counselor, psychologist, or librarian? Jot down a couple of names, questions, or follow-ups you have to ensure you’re maximizing your time with the specialist.  
“Time management is really a misnomer.  The challenge is not to manage time but to manage ourselves.” – Stephen Covey    
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How can you start batching every day?

Batch productivity shows up in other parts of my work outside of school.  This piece on time management is part of a half dozen other blogs that I’ve written TODAY.  When putting together episodes of our Award Winning Culture Podcast, we batch all parts of production: planning, recording, editing, social media, and more.  I batch going to the mall, the grocery store, and going to get the mail.  

With a little reflection, I’ll bet you already do some batch productivity in your own life.  But becoming aware of its effectiveness can help you achieve increased intentionality.

This week challenge yourself to reimagine one task through a batch lens.  

Batch Better.  Teach Better.

Many of us receive numerous emails or texts daily. Read and respond to ones that can be answered quickly the first time you read it. It’s the “One Touch” rule. That way, you don’t spend time reading it again later. It’s being efficient with your time! – Livia Chan, 5th grade and Head Teacher, Ambassador and Digital Content Editor for the Teach Better Team (@LiviaChanL)

See the full Time Management 101 blog series here!


About Hans Appel

Hans Appel is an educator, speaker, and writer deeply committed to inspiring the whole child. He’s the author of, Award Winning Culture: Building School-Wide Intentionality and Action Through Character, Excellence, and Community. Additionally, he’s the Director of Culture for the Teach Better Team, co-host of the Award Winning Culture podcast, and the Co-Creator of Award Winning Culture.

Hans is also a member of the Teach Better Speakers Network.