If you woke up this morning overwhelmed by the very thought of everything you have to get done with your small biz today, then you have landed in the right place! It happens to all of us—there are just sooooooo many tasks that come with running a business that it’s easy to get bogged down by to-do lists that never seem to end.
Running a business is supposed to be fun. Yes, hard work, but fun as well. And driving yourself into the ground just trying to get things done?
That’s definitely the opposite of fun in my book.
So if you’re tired of doing a million tasks a day and still finding things slip through the cracks, then keep reading-- because today I’m talking about kicking overwhelm to the curb and increasing your productivity 100 fold.
Don’t believe it’s possible?
Well, you should! The method I’m sharing below is easily the most effective way I’ve found to beat overwhelm and get excited running my business again.
(It’s also the best way I’ve found to make sure that none of those little nitty-gritty daily business tasks fall between the cracks...I'm looking at you, monthly bookkeeping...)
So without further ado, let me introduce you to my favorite #smallbizhack of all:
Batching is simply a way of organizing similar tasks into “batches” to be done at one time—meaning, instead of trying to do #allthethings everyday, you have a certain batch of tasks that you assign to one day—and you focus only on those tasks.
It’s so ridiculously simple and so ridiculously life-changing.
Why batching is awesome
Still not convinced? Here are 3 reasons why batching is ALL THE RAGE and why you need to hop on the batching bandwagon :)
If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably frantic-hustled your way through more than one social media post, trying to get something—anything—up for the day and settling for a mediocre photo and an even lamer caption (and if we’re being honest, the occasional spelling error, too…), all because you didn’t plan anything in advance.
Batching takes those crazy-frantic social media posts and allows you to create thoughtful, strategic social media one month at a time so you’re never hustling like crazy again—you can simply hit “publish” and be on your way for the day.
All of your social media for a month done in one day? Yes, please!
Batching tasks allows you to instantly become more organized, strategic, and (most importantly!), more profitable—because you’re able to come up with a cohesive, structured marketing plan that works together to bring you even more sales.
Batching is also the key to productivity. I know you’re busy. I am too. And batching is what allows me to focus on one task—just one!—and really hit it home with minimal distractions. You’re not going to have to switch gears over and over again every day because you’ll just have one specific task in front of you—and you’ll be able to stay “in the zone” the entire time
Are you convinced? I hope so!
So let’s do this!
Step 1 | List every single task you have to do
Your first step is something that many people affectionately refer to as brain-dumping, which simply means that we’re going to take every single business task that is floating around in your brain and write them down.
Don’t stress about organization or prioritization yet—your job here in Step 1 is just to get all that crap out there.
And I mean ALL OF IT. We’re writing down everything, so don’t leave anything out, no matter how small and inconsequential it may seem. If it’s part of running your business, it needs to be written down (and yes, even the tasks you hate need to make the cut...).
So for LittleHighbury, a sample of all the tasks I have to do would look something like this (and don’t be fooled-- this isn’t my entire list of tasks, ha ha! I’d probably send both you and me into stress-overload just by showing you LH’s to-do lists!)
Design new fabrics
Place order for new fabrics
Answer all Etsy convos
Coordinate cross-collaborations with other small biz owners
Photograph social media photos
Edit social media photos
Create copy for social media
Post to social media
Update accounting spreadsheet with expenses
Print shipping labels
Type up blog posts
Plan promotional content
Obtain social media photos from customers
Etc. etc. etc.
Step 2 | Create 3-5 general topics for all of your tasks
Now, take a look at the list you just created. Notice any patterns?
Chances are that while there are a heckuva lot of tasks on your list, most of them (if not all) probably can be grouped together into similar “batches.” Based off of the list I jotted down above, I came up with the following group topics:
New Product Development
Again, depending on your business model and what your current promotional strategy is, you may have anywhere from 3-5 different main batch-day topics.
(note-- as an Etsy shop owner, you will more than likely have an "Everyday Tasks" general topic because there are always orders to fill, conversations to reply to, and a bunch of other daily order-fulfillment tasks that need to be taken care of daily)
Step 3 | Assign tasks to specific topics
Now for the fun part—we’re going to assign every single task you listed in Step 1 and assign it to a specific topic, from Step 2. Basically-- take every task you listed and put it in a topic group.
For LittleHighbury, here’s a breakdown of how I might assign different tasks:
(e.g., accounting, budgeting spreadsheets, organizing desktop folders, ordering supplies, tidying up workspace (if I didn’t schedule it out, it would never get done!), etc.
(e.g., working on new designs, researching trends, developing new product prototypes, etc.)
(e.g., writing captions for social media posts, scheduling out my social media on Buffer/Meet Edgar, creating a strategic marketing plan, sharing other shops’ work, networking, replying to comments, etc.)
(e.g., purchase photography props, take photos of products, edit photos, export photo files, etc.)
(e.g., ship new orders, answer conversations, send “thank you!” conversations, etc.)
Step 4 | Schedule out your Batch days
Now it’s time to fill up your calendar :)
Take a quick look at your daily calendar (paper, online-- doesn't matter. Whatever you use will work fine :) and find a day of the week that is the least busy for you. This could be a day where your kiddo heads to preschool, you can take an extra long lunch hour at work, or perhaps you just have one day where you feel most productive (hey, Thursdays are my go-to days, for whatever reason).
So pick a day of the week-- whatever day of the week is your jam--and assign the first batch topic of your list to that day (so, for LittleHighbury, that would be "Business Admin.")
Then, take the next week and assign the next topic on your list.
Above I've included a screenshot of my monthly calendar for morgannield.com -- you'll notice my batch day topics are the ones that fall on Thursday (I have 4 different ones), and you'll also notice that once I went through all 4 topics, I simply started over again.
And that's what I want you to do-- once you've gone through all of your topics, then start again.
Paper Calendar Users: If you're doing your calendar on paper, this means writing each batch topic out multiple times for the next 3 months (at least).
Online Calendar Users: If you're using an online calendar (I tend to like Google Calendar or Asana), then this simply means hitting "edit event" and checking the "Repeat" box, like below:
And viola! You've just created a batch calendar for yourself!
And I know-- it's one of those things that sounds nice, but you're busy with a million other things so you're probably thinking about putting this "batch tasks" calendar creation on the back burner.
This method is a lifesaver and will seriously change the way you think about work if you let it. In fact, I'm typing this blog post up right now as part of my blogging batch day, so yeah-- it works ;)
Have you ever tried batching? Did you like it? Do you use it now? Let me know in the comments below-- I'd love to hear any tips you might have! xoxo Morgan