The 4 Hour Workweek: Batching

Continuing on with The 4 Hour Workweek, Timothy Ferriss had some great ideas about how to combat time consumers, or repetitive tasks that need to be done that get in the way of “higher level” things. I think of these as “maintenance tasks” — things like responding to email and phone calls, handling customer service, running errands, updating finances, paying bills, doing laundry, etc.

Tim’s main solution is to batch. One of his examples in the book is to check your mail only once a week instead of every day.

“But what if something important comes in the mail?”

Chances are that you will very rarely have something that is really urgent in the mail. And even if you do get something with a deadline (such as a bill), it’s very likely that you won’t have a problem meeting a deadline OR handling any problems occurred by missing a deadline.

Tim encourages you to do some financial and time analysis. Let’s say you spend an average of 20 minutes a day checking your mail (walking out to the mail box, bringing it in, skimming through it, tossing junk, opening and reviewing, paying bills immediately, etc.). That’s 2 hours and 20 minutes each week, and you have to factor in the “interruption” factor of whatever higher-level project you happened to be working on at the time. (Tim says that this “psychological switching of gears” can take up to 45 minutes for you to get back to your higher-level project.) Now, let’s say that you can process all the mail for a week in 30 minutes. You’re saving almost two hours a week. Let’s say you can get paid $20/hour, so you’ve just saved $36.67, or almost $150 a month. Now — checking your mail one time a week is unlikely to result in many negative consequences; most bills give you several days if not weeks of notice for payment. How much would you save if you checked your mail every other week? Compare your savings against any potential costs of fixing problems you might run into to find your ideal batching period.

Batching is the same idea implemented with checking your email and phone less frequently. Here’s my short brainstorming list of things I can batch:

  • Email/phone – Still thinking about how to batch these successfully.
  • Budget/finances – I used to enter in receipts into Quicken and pay bills on Wednesdays and Saturdays. I’ve cut this down to once a week, usually for an hour on Sunday afternoons. I could probably go down to every other week, but I need to figure out a better tracking system as I often rely on memory for cash expenditures.
  • Blogging – This is tricky. I like to write a little bit every day, but it does take a bit of time to get started. It would definitely be more efficient to draft several blogs at once (particularly when writing about a similar topic like this series of posts), but perhaps not as good of a writing exercise for me…
  • Uploading photos to Flickr – Instead of downloading photos from my camera after every spurt of picture-taking, I’ve been letting them sit for a few weeks. I’d probably be fine uploading photos around once a month.

What other time-consuming yet necessary routines can you batch?

This is my sixth full post with thoughts about The 4 Hour Workweek. View other posts related to The 4 Hour Workweek.

3 thoughts on “The 4 Hour Workweek: Batching

  1. New thought: Have to think of a way to “batch” Nutmeg coming in and out of the house. May need to save up for a cat door, as she meows pathetically on either side of the door until I let her in or out.

  2. I think batching can be positive! For instance, I like to get a batch of logo sketches or logo vector work batched and then can move from one to the next while still in the same groove. This works very well for me and I see it as a very positive use of the batching technique.

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