Using Batching to be a Productive Teacher or Trainer

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Episode 65 of The Teaching Space Podcast explains how teachers and trainers can use batching to be more productive.

What is Batching?

(This section is adapted from my book, The Productive Teacher).

According to business productivity expert, Michael Hyatt, batching, or batch processing is the grouping of similar tasks that require similar resources to streamline their completion.

You probably batch tasks already. For example, cleaning or making freezer meals.

Why is Batching a Good Idea?

Batching is the extreme opposite of multitasking. To understand why batching works, it’s worth remembering why multitasking doesn’t.

Multitasking, or more accurately, task switching, is not a productive way to work. Our brains are simply not wired to multi-task and need to focus on one thing at a time. Every time you are distracted by another task (the task switch) it takes time and energy. Doing this constantly will drain you and stress you out.

Focussing on one task means you are not task switching and allows you to get into a state of flow. Flow is an amazing state to be in because you work better and faster.

Batching for Teachers and Trainers

One of the biggest productivity challenges teachers face is that they rarely have long stretches of uninterrupted time outside of the classroom to do work. It’s usually short bursts of time. Getting into a state of flow quickly, therefore, is essential. Choosing to batch aspects of your work, for example marking or dealing with emails, even for short periods, can be a game -changer.

Step by Step Batching

  1. When/how often are you going to batch?
  2. What will you batch? How many things are you batching?
  3. Prepare to batch and get it on your calendar.
  4. Do it!
  5. Protect your batch times.

Example 1

While this might not be the most relatable example, please look at the process behind it.

To plan my podcast batching I use Google Sheets and my to-do list app, TickTick. Here is a snapshot of my podcast batch recording plan:

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You can see I have scheduled episodes for the year on my Google Sheet and in TickTick and I have also marked out ’recording weeks’.

I can comfortably write four episodes in a day and record them the day after. In my TickTick you can see an example of a batch recording task showing four episodes.

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My batch times (writing in one day, recording in another) are scheduled on my Google Calendar. Whereas I mark out the weeks on my Google Sheet, I select specific days in my calendar. This works because I only record when I am off work on holiday so usually it is a minimum of a week off.

Example 2

This is a more relatable but less specific example:

When I am at work I schedule batch marking sessions. These are not the same weekly slots as my marking workload differs week-by-week. But as soon as I know I have marking to do (this should be well in advance of work being handed in!) I review how much I will have against my calendar for the week. I select my batch marking slots by working out roughly how long each paper should take to mark.

Technically, as I know when assignments are issued and due, I should be able to plan my batch marking for the year… but the reality is a little different, as I am sure you understand. For me, week-by-week batch planning works OK in this context. The key thing is to plan the batching and schedule it. Then you need to protect your schedule.

(Top tip: if others have access to your calendar and tend to book meetings in your gaps, call your batching time block ASSESSMENT - it sends a clear message that meetings are not to be scheduled in that slot).

Helpful Tools and Strategies

Using the marking example, here are some strategies I use to support batching:

  • Minimise distractions:
    • Work in an alternative location
    • Block the internet (unless you are marking online) using a tool like Freedom
    • Use focus apps like Forest to stop you mindlessly scrolling on your mobile when you should be marking
  • Treat your batching time as if it is a really important meeting
  • Experiment with the Pomodoro Technique.

Over to You

Do you already use batching or is it a new concept to you? Let me know your thoughts; I’d love to hear from you.

Wrap Up

Support the Show

That’s it for today. Before I go I have a small request: if you enjoyed today’s episode, please support the show by either:

  1. Leaving a positive review on Apple Podcasts, or wherever you listen.
  2. Buying my book, The Productive Teacher, on Amazon or Kobo (find more information at theprodutiveteacherbook.com).
  3. Making a small one-off, or monthly, financial contribution to the running costs of the show on my Kofi page which you can find at ko-fi.com/theteachingspace.

… or do all three if you are feeling super generous! Any financial contributions go directly towards the running costs of the podcast so you are investing in future content. Thank you.

Questions? Comments?

If you have any questions about the show or thoughts you’d like to share you can do so by either:

  1. Leaving a comment on this episode’s show notes blog post.
  2. Posting in our Facebook group: TTS Staff Room.
  3. Posting on Twitter (I’m @MartineGuernsey if you want to mention me).
  4. Contacting me via The Teaching Space website: theteachingspace.com.

The show notes for this episode include any links I’ve mentioned; you can find them at theteachingspace.com/65.

Thanks for listening and I hope you’ll join me for the next episode.