time-batchingThe 5 Sure Fire Steps To Running A More Effective MSP Through Time Batching.

Many of your security initiative deadlines get pushed back. When I was running my MSP, I was constantly facing people on my security team pushing back deadlines or saying that tasks were getting done because they had too much to do. At first, I allowed the pushback. But as most security requests started to end up in the sink hole of tasks never completed, I started to think about why this was happening.

What made me really want to take action was ultimately having to face a client complaining about a backup that wasn’t properly backing up or an event that could have been completely avoidable if we had kept to our deadlines or commitments.

Parkinson’s Law describes this very phenomenon. Northcote Parkinson described this back in the 1950’s, showing that the amount of work expands to fill the time you leave available for its completion. That means if you give yourself a week to complete a two-hour task, the task will increase in complexity to fill the entirety of that week.  Most of the extra time will likely NOT be additional work at solving the problem. Rather addition of stress and tension to get the work done.

What I want to get across to you is that if you give yourself or someone on your team more time to complete a task, you won’t necessarily get a better or more sophisticated work product. You setting the time limit to get work done is crucial. Treat everything as if it has a deadline.

Over the course of our work experience, most of us have internalized the mantra of working harder (not smarter) when setting deadlines. The more deadlines you have, the harder you will struggle to fill your time to reach those deadlines.

Something that I found learning the hard way is your need to batch your time.

Batching time helps you minimize distractions and keeps you focused on very specific workflows. It helps you prioritize what needs to be done and makes sure what you’re getting done will be complete within a very narrow timeframe.

Why batching time works

Instead of constantly being under multiple context shifts throughout the day and week, you are focused on completing one very specific type of work at a time.  Time batching is super effective because it builds structure around your time, so that you can deep dive into specific tasks without interrupting your workflow.

In general, I see two types of tasks that can be time batched:

Shallow tasks—these tasks require a low level of energy to get done. If you are focused on shallow tasks, you likely need only short sprints to accomplish a bunch of tasks.

Deep tasks—these are the high energy, demanding tasks that require you to focus without distraction. These tasks typically will take longer for you to complete.

How can you turn your tasks into time batching?

Take a look at your list. OR start by writing down every task you need to get done today. The amount of tasks you have in a day may surprise you. Your big problem will be to figure out what tasks you can batch together to get ahead of your day and stop feeling overwhelmed.

Here are 5 sure fire ways to start integrating time batching into your and your team’s routines:

Group your tasks by function or objective— group your task by function or objective and then set a window aside. Typically, I limit my time batching to hour increments. If you go over an hour, I find time getting away from me. Responding to email is definitely something that needs to be time batched (you CANNOT just sit at your desk and wait to respond to email all day, otherwise you’d be hard pressed to get anything done!

Enter your batched tasks into a calendar appointment—be mindful of how you’re going to spend your day. Instead of blocking time to get work done, be as specific as possible to block time for specific high priority or high impact activities. One such activity that is critical is any quarterly or annual goal work you need to get done. If you already have preset calls or meetings within your week, plan around those times and figure out the critical high important items that need to get done BEFORE you do any of the piles of work.

Set reminders or alerts to track your time blocks—I keep calendar reminders to make sure I’m hitting the high impact items when scheduled. It’s very easy to get lost in meaningless work. Unless you are consciously reminding yourself of the critical stuff, it’s very likely some or all of it will get missed.

Turn off your phone when time batching—close the door to your office or workspace and turn off your phone (or at least set it to Do Not Disturb. The more important you make the ritual of getting to your batch work, the more productive you will be long term.

Share your time batching plan—make sure to share with your team or others that rely on you that you are batching your time. Be clear to give those in your office or on chat or text a sign that you are focusing on critical work. Otherwise, you will likely be getting interrupted quite frequently.