A closer look at batching
A previous post looked at the time-management practice called “batching.” It refers to handling a bunch of similar tasks together, such as preparing the ingredients for a batch of cookies instead of just one. This post gives a “behind the scenes” look at how I use batching to produce the content for the whole month in just a couple of days.
Ideas are ongoing. They arrive at the most unpredictable moments and in the most unpredictable settings. Having a memo pad to trap them and a spreadsheet on which to organize them keeps good ideas from being forgotten.
Titles come first. The reality of today’s world is that people make decisions on what to read and what to skip largely because of the title. My first step is to flesh out titles for the entire month of content. Numerous sources talk about the use of “power” or “emotional” words” in a title. The number of words plays a part. “How to” article and titles containing numbers (“3 Reasons Why…” for example) tend to attract attention. For a few minutes, I’m concentrating on titles for the month’s posts and nothing else.
Now let’s write. I compose my blog posts at the keyboard. It’s easier to edit that way. Before leaving a post, I paste it into Hemingway App and start tackling the suggestions that tool makes. The next step is to proof-read with Read Aloud. I talked about both of these tools in this post. At this point, I write the short description people see when the post comes up in the Google search. When I finish one post, I start writing the text for the next one.
Prepare the newspaper columns. The blog that appears each Tuesday also appears as a column in The Daily Home on Wednesday. But, the post always needs modifications to fit the space allotted. Hyperlinks from the blog must be turned into shortened links pasted in the text.
This batch is complete when the four to five blog posts for the coming month have all been re-written as newspaper articles. I print the set and my wife proofreads.
Create the “featured image” for each post. Pixabay is a great source of photos. I go there one time and select an image for each blog post in one batch. If a post will include other images, I find or create those as well.
The set then goes into PowerPoint where each picture gets the title of the blog post superimposed. All the images go into Optimizilla. There, the site compresses the file size. I then drag the collection into my website’s media library where they will be attached to the appropriate posts.
Handling all the images for the month and sending the entire set through the stages saves time over doing them one-by-one. It also minimizes the chances for skipping a step.
Record the audio. Podcasting is popular because people can listen while doing other things. So, I record an audio version of the text using a free program called “Audacity.” While the microphone is set up and Audacity opened, it makes sense to record all posts back-to-back.
Edit the audio. During the recording phase, I don’t worry about mistakes. Audacity continues to run, and I continue to talk. During the editing phase, tools in Audacity remove pauses and do-overs. A pre-recorded snippet of music gets added to the front as an introduction. I add another snippet at the end and adjust volume levels. When it all sounds good, it’s time to export the finished product as an MP3 file. After editing one episode, I repeat the process with the others.
Upload all recordings. Anchor.fm hosts the podcast. I log in one time and upload all the recordings for the month. That’s also the time to copy and paste the short description of each episode.
Looking back over just a couple of days, four or five ideas have become finished pieces of content for a blog, newspaper column, and podcast. Each piece of writing underwent many steps. Batching allowed me to concentrate on one part of the process at a time. Whether I was writing, recording, editing, or working with photos, I could give my full attention to a single part of the process.
Blog, newspaper, and podcast creation is now done for the month. I can now turn my full attention to another project.
Focused or fragmented. It’s your choice.
Our days can easily become filled with small, unrelated tasks. Out time is spent switching from one thing to another. Soon the day is gone with little to show for it.
The point of this post is to demonstrate there’s a better way, and easier way. You’ve seen an example involving writing with all the small steps that happen with each piece of content. We gathered related items and handled them in one batch.
That’s the secret. Focus on that batch. Yes, other things will accumulate. The phone will ring, and you can let it go to voicemail. Later, handle the phone messages in one batch.
Emails will roll in. Ignore it. Later in the day, batch it. Go from top to bottom until the inbox is empty.
Real progress happens only through focus. Batching is the technique that allows focus to happen.
Now it’s your turn. Look at what’s fragmenting your days. How could you use batching to turn fragmentation into focus?