Normally the word “batch” makes me think of warm, gooey, delicious chocolate chip cookies, or some other gluten filled freshly baked treat. It turns out that batches, when applied to laundry or other recurring chores, can actually be a time and stress-saving tool.
I heard about The Four Hour Workweek (by Timothy Ferriss) from the No Meat Athlete podcast. In the podcast, Matt Frazier discusses how he has time for his family, training for a 100 mile race, writing a book and blog content, eating vegan, and organizing and executing a book tour. He mentioned “batching” tasks—a term coined in Ferriss’s book. I’ve since purchased the book, and I’m not finished yet, but I’ve read some of the content related to batching. The concept is to determine tasks that occur regularly to an extent, are necessary, but also take up a lot of time. You then schedule the activity at a specific interval, even down to the time for ultimate efficiency. For me (and Steve), laundry is a big one. Prior to hearing about the concept of batching, I consistently complained that “I feel like we’re always doing laundry.” If the hamper was 5/8 full, I’d freak out and do a load of laundry, dropping whatever I was trying to accomplish at the time.
After learning about the details of batching, I told Steve I wanted to have a “laundry day” on Sundays and not touch it on any other day. We have no shortage of clothes, so why continue to try to keep the hamper empty all the time? He hopped on board rather easily once I explained my rationale, and now we just take a few hours every week to wash, dry, and put away (mostly) everything. At the beginning, it took a lot of willpower for me (and sometimes still does) not to busy myself with batched tasks as they come up, and instead to save them for their designated time. It’s almost as if I’ve forgotten how to relax or spend time on myself, but I’m starting to train myself that sitting down to read, blog, drink wine, or watch a movie doesn’t mean I’m being lazy, it just means I’m enjoying the time I’m creating for things that are truly important.
Here are some other “chores” I’ve jotted down that I want to try to batch, and the interval with which I would start. As I get more comfortable and no disasters result from spacing out the task, I may try to set longer intervals (the process of determining the most efficient but longest possible interval is discussed in the book).
- Dishes/dishwasher/kitchen – once nightly
- Laundry (done) – weekly, on Sundays
- Dry cleaning – once every two weeks on a specific weekday morning (on my way to work)
- Grocery shopping – one main trip per week plus one extra for fresh items
- Ironing – once per week (pair with laundry)
- Outfit planning – every night
- Personal email – twice a day, only during “business hours”
- Facebook/other social media – twice a day for each of Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. I don’t restrict Pinterest because I don’t often use it to browse ideas, just to bookmark websites. Removing the Facebook app from my phone was key to this.
The kitchen is another tough one for me. I cook a LOT, and I make a mess. However, I’m trying to force myself to realize that, in the absence of a live-in housekeeper, there is no reason there can’t be dishes on the drying rack, a couple plates in the sink, or even a small stack of dishes waiting to go into the dishwasher once it’s emptied. I’m definitely not going to look back and wish I had spent more time cleaning the kitchen, and I won’t want to regret missing out on friends and family (and wine!).