Have you ever arrived at the end of the week, finally on a date night with your partner, only to find that they’re not really “there”? That is, mentally, they are somewhere else. In fact, they’re probably burnt out. Whether it’s you or your partner, so often, you’re so overwhelmed that you can’t even relax at the end of the week. You’ve been bouncing from task to task, and you don’t even know what you’ve accomplished. You want to save time, but you feel like you’re drowning in things to do. You finally have a moment to yourself, and the mental load–all your thoughts, worries, and demands–just flood your mind.
This hits me (Nicole) whenever I get in the car. Usually, it’s the first time I’ve been alone with my thoughts all day, and it all hits me: I have to read more with Amelia, reschedule an appointment, feed Joey more solid foods, wash the laundry, email a client back, and more. It’s so easy to get overwhelmed and not even know where to start.
The biggest thing that’s curbed this feeling for us is batching tasks. Batching tasks means looking at your week, categorizing the things that need to be done, and scheduling time slots to tackle similar tasks at the same time.
For example, paying bills, financial planning, and health insurance matters are all finance administration responsibilities. Because financial management is paramount to our family’s daily flow and our future planning, I (Mark) schedule the first hour of every Monday to run through these tasks and check off anything that needs to be done. Because my brain is in that space for one hour I can get so much accomplished, instead of trying to multitask or steal moments throughout my week to cram these tasks in. Since I have a weekly hour dedicated to financial administration, I know exactly when every financial matter that arises during the week will get my attention. As a result, an hour long phone call with the insurance company isn’t hanging over my head and making me feel the pressure to do everything.
Saving Time at Home
We play our strengths. Mark is great with the household and business mathematics, but I (Nicole) banned him from laundry duties long ago. Laundry is my domain, and I batch it to beat it. I wash and dry about one load of laundry per day. Then, I throw it into a basket and set it aside. Besides that, I plan one day each week to be my laundry day. That day, I wash whatever laundry is left, then I spend my nap time folding and putting away ALL the clean laundry. As a result, I don’t worry about the laundry all week. I really only think about it for one day. Then, once the laundry is done, I’m laundry-free for two or three days before it starts piling up and I start washing it again. I don’t worry about looming laundry, because I know exactly when I will conquer it.
I (Nicole) am also in charge of communicating with the kids’ school, scheduling medical appointments, planning our family calendar, registering for preschool, and other responsibilities of that nature. These interpersonal care tasks occupy a similar brain space, and often require phone calls, emails, and focusing on my computer. So, besides time-sensitive emergencies, I save all of them for one weekly round-up when I can dedicate my time and attention required to keep our family running smoothly.
These particular examples happen to align with “traditional” gender norms, but we aren’t tied to that. We reassess whenever needed, and switch lanes according to what serves our family best. For example, paying the bills has been a stressor for me (Mark) lately. We have the money, but the actual act of going through the mail and paying the payments just feels like a lot, so although this has historically been my role, I’ve asked Nicole to take this on and we find a time that I can be on “kid duty” for a few hours so Nicole can go through all of our mail and take that stressor off my plate.
Saving Time in Business
In our business, batching tasks means that we don’t answer emails or client calls every day.
We plan a time that we’ll be able to respond to a bulk of emails at once, instead of constantly bouncing back and forth to our emails from other tasks we’re trying to accomplish in our careers. We proactively communicate with our clients that we have four kids, so we may respond to phone calls or emails right away, but we will always get back to them. If they don’t hear from me, or need a quicker response, I tell them NEVER to feel bad about following up. This sets the expectation on the front end that we are not glued to our phones, but we are absolutely there to serve them when they need it! This saves time and energy that we can invest in growing our business instead of just working in the weeds of it.
Save Time + Energy
Batching tasks has freed up our mental space to actually spend TIME with each other, without feeling like there’s a million things on the backburner we should be focusing on instead. Batching tasks lightens the mental load and frees our energy for things we are more passionate about.
I (Mark) often use the analogy that our minds can feel like a computer with a bunch of windows open at all times. Obviously, that gets overwhelming, so we need to find ways to shut down at least a few tabs to give ourselves a mental break. I tell a lot of husbands that wives tend to have so many mental and emotional pages running at all times, while we, as men, usually have one. So, if we want our wives to click on that ONE screen, we need to help her wrap up the other programs. Whether it’s working together to designate time for her to knock out a batch of tasks, or washing extra dishes, we all benefit from decreasing the weight of the mental load so we can focus on all the parts of life that make it FUN and help us come alive.
When we’re not mired down in the daily minutiae, we have time and space to dream and to chase those dreams. Batching all the little tasks removes a little pressure and allows us to run after the things that make us really passionate. We want to travel, go on dates together, visit our friends, work, spend precious time with our kids, and explore new passions and ideas. So, when I designate time for the logistics and chores, it frees up so much space to do the things I love so much more.