The dream of working for yourself from anywhere in the world sounds, well, dreamy. The problem we’ve found is that with less structure, we easily let our work fill our whole day. That’s not what we dreamt of when we started our businesses. That’s just a modern version of “Office Space.”
We also spend a lot of time traveling, and we certainly don’t want to get caught up working long hours in our hotel room while pints of fresh Irish beer or glasses of Spanish sangria are being served across the street.
To remedy this overworking issue, we recently decided that we needed to implement new efficiency strategies into our daily routines. So far, two of our new strategies are helping: batching our tasks and batching our time.
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One of our most consistent sources of income is also the one that monopolizes the greatest amount of our time: freelance writing. We found that the Parkinson’s Principle applies when it comes to our writing. The Parkinson’s Principle states that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” If we say we have three days to write an article for GOBankingRates, for instance, we’ll spend three days writing an article for GOBankingRates. If we say we’ll do it in a day, we’ll do it in a day.
What’s interesting is that I experienced this growing up with my sister. My sister could spend three hours getting ready for a date or thirty minutes getting ready for a date. Regardless of how much time she spent getting ready, she looked the same.
So, how are we batching tasks? We complete all our freelance writing assignments within the first seven days of the month. We still allot ourselves the time to write, review and edit — it’s just now we do this in a much shorter window of time.
We’ve eliminated distractions, as you’ll read about shortly, which makes our writing better and more efficient. Then, we batch our time.
Have you ever found yourself working on a project and then, two hours later, you feel like you’ve made zero progress? You might wonder how this is possible. Well, here are a few thoughts: you’re on Facebook or Instagram; you spend longer than you need to on bathroom breaks; you’re eating out of boredom; you’re checking email. Sound familiar?
Any of these things can take us away from the task at hand for a few minutes, even up to hours. Further, getting back to work when we’re done with these distractions isn’t just getting back to work. A study conducted by researchers at the University of California Irvine suggests that it can take up to 23 minutes and 15 seconds to return to an original task after being distracted by something. So, that email, that text or that push notification to tell us that someone responded to a tweet might seem innocuous but have a detrimental effect on our priorities.
Our solution now is working in 45-minute increments, each one followed by a 15-minute break. So, we’ll set a 45-minute timer on one of our phones, turn off all vibration and sound notifications except for the timer and then put the phone face down. This way we can hear when our time is up and avoid distracting lights and sounds in the meantime. We also close our emails, all social media and other things that trigger notifications on our desktops. We don’t turn on the television or listen to the news while we’re working either. (However, we do listen to music — mostly house and trance — to fill the space. For us, too much silence is distracting.) When work time is up, we take our 15-minute break, which is also timed.
This 45-minute work window lets us focus on the article we’re writing at the time, while our 15 minutes off keeps us fresh and awake, which keep us creative and at our peak.
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We’re starting our work earlier and finishing later during our writing week. This frees up our time, so we can truly focus on the other income streams which, if neglected, would hurt our businesses, including our writing. We also don’t watch television, other than on Thursday and Sunday nights — and only if our work is done for the day and we’re on schedule for the week.
Learning From Batching
This combination of batching tasks and batching time has proved fruitful for the last few months. Because we’re combo-traveling and working because we’re “geoliberated,” we are in Ireland and Spain at the moment (using our tech-savvy gay travel strategies, of course). And we’re curious to see how peppering in vacation and play time will affect these strategies.
We’ll have to keep you posted on that.
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