I'm constantly asked about how I manage my productivity. By learning how to batch your writing, it's possible to take your freelance business to a new level.
Over the years, I've tried just about every productivity trick in the book. I mean, I've been freelancing since 2005 — it's my 15th anniversary of working online — and seen it all. The burnout, the writer's block, the mind-numbing keyword articles.
During the last year, though, I've adopted a new workflow that's helped me stave off the worst of everything and increase the amount of time I have available for the projects I want to work on.
This magical technique is known as batching.
What Does it Mean to Batch Your Writing?
Batching is pretty much what it sounds like. It's about lumping certain tasks together so you can tackle them at once.
This works for writing as well as for other tasks.
In order to make this productivity hack work for me, I recognized that there are days that I feel more like writing. Additionally, there are days that I'm more likely to have more time for writing.
For example, I almost never have meetings or other obligations on Mondays. So, rather than getting bogged down with emails and interviews, I focus on getting my freelance writing done for clients.
On the other hand, Wednesdays are usually a nightmare for writing. It's a day that I often record podcast episodes and I have lunchtime obligations (like attending Rotary Club). By batching my writing on a day like Monday, and setting aside a couple of hours on Tuesday and Friday mornings to do a little more writing, I get more done.
Figure out times when you're more likely to be able to go on a tour de force with your client writing and block that time out. Get as much done during those times, and use other times for other batches of work.
Batching Other Freelance-Related Tasks
In addition to setting up a plan to batch your writing, it can also help to batch other tasks.
Really, it's about blocking out time to do certain things. I block out set times to tackle the email inbox — usually in the late afternoon or evening after I've done my workout or after I'm done with the heavy thinking for the day.
Much of the time, I use Thursday mornings and Tuesdays in the mid- to late-afternoon for interviewing sources. This allows for flexibility for those who have a preference for time of day, and it limits the times I'll be distracted away from writing.
I usually set aside Sunday afternoons for planning-related tasks like figuring out what research I need, deciding when to write articles to meet deadlines and other items that require planning.
These blocks of time are usually set up to allow for plenty of other blocks in between — blocks where I can work on other projects and accomplish other tasks.
Working on Other Things
When you batch your writing, you free up other blocks of time for things that might matter to you outside of client work. A lot of the time on Wednesdays, I have time for other projects. I can:
- Work on a website project
- Write for this website
- Work on ebooks
- Get classwork done (I'm working on an MBA)
- Do politics stuff
I also have a lot of time on Saturdays and Sundays to do things that energize me. There are times blocked off to work out at least five days a week. I can make time to meet friends for lunch. Because I block off mornings for freelance-related tasks, I know that I can make nail appointments in the afternoons.
There's a lot I want time for. Before I started batching, though, I'd have a hard time getting to it. I'd be doing a little freelance client work each day. And then I'd do a little of other types of tasks. I'd never get into a good flow for anything.
Now that I do less task-switching, and now that I have whole days devoted to client work, I've freed up more time. Combined with the fact that I recently hiked my rates and dropped a couple of clients, batching has gone a long way toward helping me take on new projects and challenges.
How to Batch Your Writing — Getting Started
When you're ready to change your schedule and batch your writing, here are the steps to follow to make it happen.
- Review your schedule: Identify days and times when you're most effective. Also, look for patterns when you have large blocks of available time. Get a feel for how you can start batching without making seismic shifts in your routine.
- Figure out which related tasks you can handle together: I often look ahead to what articles are coming up in the next seven to 10 days. Then, I block off time to do all the research. I block off other times for interviews. That way, when it's time to write each piece, I have everything I need, and just need to pull it up and start writing.
- When writing, move from one piece to the next: I like to just write everything at once. I finish a piece, then move on to the next piece. Editing/proofreading and adding fact-checking comments and resources are part of a different batch of tasks. I keep the flow going, which allows me to be more efficient and reduce task-switching. I'll take a brief break between articles to use the bathroom, stretch, or do something else small, but then I'm right back in there.
- Build in flex time: Consider building in flex time. In addition to not scheduling client work on the weekends, I usually have at least one other day during the week where I don't schedule client work. If something unexpected happens, I have that flexible day to catch up or make a schedule shift.
It can feel weird at first to batch your writing like this, but it works well with my own personal style and schedule.
Create a Schedule that Works for You
Batching has allowed me to move forward with projects that I didn't think I had time for.
In fact, I even use batching when I'm traveling or ostensibly on vacation. One of my favorite things to do is choose a day when I just do client work. I get it out of the way, and then don't have to worry about it.
Another way I use batching when I travel is to work on non-client things I want to work on. I'll spend a whole morning working on a project I'm passionate about, and then spend the afternoon and evening sightseeing. To me, part of a good vacation working on non-client passion projects.
However, batching isn't for everyone. I know people who just want to do a little of everything each day because they become overwhelmed otherwise. And that's just fine. The key is reviewing your own needs and situation and figuring out what makes sense for you.
In the end, the most effective schedule is the one that works for you.