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Jim Butler: 3 Ways to Get More Done (Part II)

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Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Last week Jim introduced you to the first of three ways to get more done. This week he tells you the second.

2. Batch and Block Your Work.
When you do several similar tasks together, the tasks become easier and you get them done quicker. The best way to do this is to separate out all of the tasks into batches and do them in one time block. I call this skill batching and blocking. So, you can return all of your phone calls at one time. You can send all of your return emails in a batch or write on one subject for a specified period of time. When you batch things together, you’ll discover that not only do you get better at it, but you’ll be able to do it quicker. I saw this when I first learned how to edit audio files. When I first started, it took me longer than I expected to learn the skill. Of course, you can speed the process of learning a new skill with good teachers and trainers or by delegating it. But, if it is a skill that you want and need to learn then batching those activities into a specific period of time will allow you to get them done more quickly. Then, when I batched editing into a specified time period (with a start and end time), I found I could get it done quicker and more efficiently. If you want to get more done, this is one of the best strategies to do it. As you go through the learning curve with any new skill, you’ll be able to get the core activity completed more efficiently as you do it consistently in batches and as you block the activities together in time segments.

One of my favorite stories about blocking time to get something done is from the life of Charles Lindbergh. Even his seemingly solo flight was a team effort since nine businessmen from St. Louis were his sponsors and he also had his plane built by the Ryan Aeronautical Company. Lindbergh’s solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean lasted more than thirty-three hours at a distance of 3,600 miles. That kind of focus over such a sustained period of time takes practice. Lindbergh’s friend Frank Samuels flew often with Lindbergh in the 1920s from St. Louis to San Diego to deliver mail and to check on the progress of his plane, The Spirit of St. Louis. One night Samuels woke up shortly after midnight and noticed that Lindberg was sitting by the window looking at the stars.

It had been a long day, so Samuels asked, ‘Why are you sitting there at this hour?’
‘Just practicing,’ answered Lindbergh.
‘Practicing what?’ asked Samuels.
‘Staying awake all night.’”—John C. Maxwell, Go for Gold, p. 154.

What an inspiring example of batching and blocking out time! Some tasks can be batched and blocked as they are in the manufacturing process. What makes manufacturing more efficient is when a task is broken down into a specific series of steps and the person who does that task specializes in getting it done. I have been amazed when I have watched the process of how a dress is made at the factory. The person who does the skill of beading, embroidery, or cutting fabric can do it much more efficiently because they have specialized in it. They are able to get it done more quickly because they become more efficient. When you have a large group of people assembled in a factory manufacturing anything, it is amazing how quickly something can be completed because of this principle.

We all know this instinctively, yet on occasion, I’ve still found that I try to do everything on my own. You may have this tendency as well. Yet, when you delegate and have team members specialize in specific tasks, they get better and more efficient and together you are able to accomplish so much more. When I was younger, I was amazed to watch how much more weight Clydesdale horses could pull together than they could on their own as a single horse.

You have to work at what you want to improve. A great example for me is writing. When I first started writing, it would take me a long time to compose my thoughts and they were often jumbled together and not very cohesive. I have practiced this skill for years, working on it in blocks of time specifically set out from my schedule. You must batch and block out the skill areas you want to develop as well. Once you determine the result you are after, you can build your focus to achieve success in these areas.

As I’ve traveled and I’m sure you’ve noticed this too, there are people who can’t go 2 minutes without checking their email or looking at their smart phone. Email messages can wait for a little while. They don’t have to be answered immediately. It is best to get to them within 12-24 hours, but you can do this all at once and all at one time. Technology can be a complete distraction if you allow it to be. That means that you have to take control over what you actually do with your smart phone, email, social media, etc. If you don’t control it, it will completely overtake and control you.

Check back last week for the third way to be more productive.

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