Episode #80: Our Secret Weapon—Batch Working!

This week, we’re talking about batch working, which is the PRIMARY way we get so much done. Between podcasting, blogging, creating for social media, designing and being a mom, life is *full*. Batch working makes it all work. If you haven’t tried it yet, I hope this episode will inspire you!

You can stream the episode here on the blog or on iTunesSpotifyGoogle PlayTuneInPocket Casts, and Stitcher. You can find the podcast posts archive here.

As always, a big thanks to this week’s sponsors! Be sure to check out the offers from Bev, Function of Beauty, Pharmaca and BetterHelp exclusively for our podcast. If you’re looking for any past codes, check out this page, and thank you for supporting our sponsors!

Show notes:

-Linking Jenna Kutcher’s batch working podcast episode. I listened to it years ago and it inspired me to write 20 blog posts for my maternity leave. After that, I never went back!

-I’m so upset I used the word “mind-blowned” hahahaha WOW.

-Linking the book The 12 Week Year.

-A personal note:
I recently saw a couple comments saying that knowing our podcast is batched “ruins the magic.” To be honest, it made me feel really insecure. I hope that after listening to this you can see that batch working makes this podcast possible!

Guilty pleasure treasure:

Elsie- Headband organizer 

Emma- Heated massage pillow

Thanks so much for listening! We’re so grateful for your support!

Episode 80 Transcript

Emma: You’re listening to the A Beautiful Mess podcast. This week, we’re chatting about our secret weapon — batch working. This is going to be a great episode because batch working is the number one productivity habit that changed my life. I get more done in less working hours now, and it’s truly amazing. So we’re going to share all the details of how we batch work as well as our current guilty pleasures.

Elsie: Woo! So we’ve been blogging for 14 years and for the first maybe 10 years we were blogging, I didn’t batch work. So I have a very good before and after story of like how much it changed my life. Can I tell that?

Emma: Yeah, yes!

Elsie: Story time. So when I very, very first started blogging, I would only…this is just this is so green, and you guys are going to laugh. But I thought that it wasn’t very authentic unless I shared…like I had to write it that day and publish it that day. So at first I didn’t even do drafts. I would just, you know, write something out that day. And if I had more time, it would be a better post. And if I had less time, it would be a really bad post. Some of our very early blog posts are surprisingly very short, very random, just pictures, just talking. It was all over the place, kind of like live journal-y type of vibes, sometimes ranting, unprofessional. Should I go on? (laughs) And then through the years, we learned the beauty of working on drafts and having, like, more, you know, always having our work done ahead. And we didn’t always have our blog posts done ahead before that day. But for the most part, we would have you know, we would be working ahead on things. And I think we started a little bit to lightly batch work and it did help significantly. But… where it really got good is when I was preparing actually to have my second maternity leave. So my first maternity leave, I don’t necessarily think I did that great. I think I did the bare minimum and then everyone covered for me. And on my second maternity leave, I think I felt a little guilty because I had adopted two kids in two years and I was having two maternity leaves in a row. And I think I was like a little self-conscious. And also I think I just had listened to…I’m going to link to it. Jenna Kutcher’s podcast on batch working where she talked about her maternity leave and she talked about batching her like writing…or doing like 40 podcasts or something like that so that she could take a long time off. And that inspiration did a lot for me. And I think I ended up writing…it was something like 20 blog posts for my maternity leave. It was like way more than we needed! (laughs) And we ended up using them for, like, the whole year.

Emma: Yeah.

Elsie: But the thing that was cool is that I learned from it…

Emma: Yeah you came back from your maternity leave and we still had like half and…

Elsie: Yes!

Emma: And I think you were like, wait a second…(laughs)

Elsie: Yeah, I think I thought I was like saving the world. But actually it wasn’t even — we didn’t even need that many blog posts. But the thing that was cool is I learned how to do it. So…and I did all these extra 20 blog posts in my regular shoots, and I think it was over about two months. So that would be about three or four shoots where I just added extra things into each shoot. So like five extra posts in each one. And then I suddenly had like basically like half a year of extra blog posts completed. And it was kind of mind-blowing to me because I didn’t know I could get that much done that fast. And I also learned from it that the posts were standalone interesting, good posts, like high-quality posts. And the reason why was because I was batching the planning and I was putting — I put a lot into the planning of the topics and put like a ton of really different, really interesting topics, because normally if I was just batching what I was working on, I would do like three post about one room or something, which isn’t like a good variety. But this was like a very big variety of different things. And so I learned that batching my planning was essential too, and I think for anyone who’s a blogger or any kind of content creator batching you’re planning and batching your execution is the number one thing that can change your life. And since I had that experience over the last few years, I started having Fridays be a catch up day or sort of like an empty day with nothing scheduled. I usually do therapy on Fridays every other week and I’ll do things like run errands for the things I need to do the next week or things like that, like getting ahead. Like I feel like my schedule is much more airy and much more freed up, even though our kids were home from covid almost the whole year, and we had significant challenges so batch working is literally the glue holding our business together. And any time that someone wants to talk to us about how do you get so much done, this is like the main advice that I want to give them. So I’m really excited about this episode today.

Emma: Yes, I agree. Yeah. So I feel like you kind of defined batch working. It’s just basically like doing a whole bunch of the same thing at one time. So instead of writing, you know, because like, let’s just take a blog post since we’re bloggers and I think people can see blog posts pretty easily so they know what it is. So there’s the idea…buying of supplies or prepping of whatever it is you’re going to be doing, whether it’s a recipe or a room tour or whatever. So, you know, planning it, buying the supplies, actually making it, photographing it and then writing, you know, editing the photos and then writing the blog post. All of these things have to take place before the blog post can go live. So there’s actually a lot of, you know, steps. And you can do each of those steps that I just listed, you could do that for a whole bunch of blog posts at one time. So when I’m planning a blog post, it would be better if I plan five to ten. And when I’m buying my supplies, I should buy all the supplies for five to ten. All of that I have planned. And when I prep…so for me, like if I’m working on food, if I’m doing recipe testing, it’s like a recipe testing day where I’m usually testing at least two to three things and sometimes more depending, but basically like how much room I have in my oven and like what types of recipes I’m doing (laughs) because I can’t put an endless amount of things with different temperatures, but, you know, things like that. And photography, same thing. I like to photograph at least two or three things in one day, at least, and more is better if I can. I like to edit everything at once. And that’s the time when I listen to all my podcasts because I’m editing photos and it’s kind of visual only. And then I’ll often write two or three blog posts in a day, like the actual text of it. So that’s sort of, you know, and you can do batch working. You can think about it in all sorts of different ways. You could do it with housework, you could do it with different types of careers. You could do it, you know, with personal things, with job things, with parenting things. There’s lots of different ways to batch work. And currently this year we are trying more batch working in our podcast schedule. So we’re trying to plan better. So we plan a whole bunch at once. We work on all the outlines at once and then we’ll do a number of them in one day. We’re trying to find our balance with that, though, because everybody, you know, as you get into batch working, you’ll see that you…you know, especially if you’re working on something creative, there are times you kind of get exhausted or you kind of you know, you’re out of creativity for the day. So you don’t want to overwhelm yourself so that your work suffers. But you kind of have to find that balance for yourself.

Elsie: It’s interesting because, yeah, there’s certain things where, like taking a bubble bath, you wouldn’t want to batch work that it would ruin it for you. You just yeah, one is enough and you know, going to get a massage. There’s certain things where one is enough and then there’s certain things, and for us, a lot of it is work-related things, where you can do five of them in the time that it would take you to maybe do two and you realize that you can just get so much more done. And then with that comes more time later on in your schedule, like more freedom, more flexibility. And that is especially for us, you know, I have two young kids, Emma’s about to have a baby. This is a time in our lives when we need that freedom and flexibility because little kids go to the doctor and things like that all the time. They have sick days from school, things like that all the time. So flexibility is very important to us right now. And yeah, this is how we achieve it. And we’ve continued growing. Like, I think it’s really cool. We were able to grow our podcast during the time of covid. We were able to grow A Beautiful Mess last year during the time of covid — not like the biggest growth year we’ve ever had, but we were up against serious obstacles. So anyway, I think batch working is…it’s so essential and I hope everyone tries that we’re going to try to teach you as many of our little strategies as we can in this episode. And then please try and please report back on how it changed your life, because I really think it will. All right. Let’s take a quick sponsor break.

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Emma: Well, first tip for me. So there’s to me kind of two main mindsets that I had to get myself out of before I could really take advantage of all the benefits of batch working. And this could be different for everyone. These were just the two things that I had to get over. And one of them you kind of already touched on, Elsie, is I think sometimes we have this idea that it’s less authentic or it’s not as real to batch work something. And this happens with content creation. So blogging, posting to your Instagram, whatever, if that happens to be a part of your career like it is for us. But it can also happen with other things, like I know some people who are very…they don’t want to do meal planning. They don’t want to like do like prepping all meal stuff on Sundays because they feel like what if I feel like eating something different on Thursday? And I’m like, well, I understand what you’re saying. But I also think if this is a problem that you keep running into over and over again, this still might be an area you might try the back working and you can always adjust a little bit as you go, you know, so kind of changing your mindset on it instead of viewing it as a trap, viewing it as an opportunity for more freedom because that’s really what it is. So there’s that.

Elsie: Yeah.

Emma: And then the other mindset thing that I had to get out of is, Elsie and I are small business owners, as we’ve mentioned. And it’s not just our blog. We also used to own a store and we’ve done lots of other things in our career and we’re small business owners and so anyone else who owns their own business knows you end up doing a lot of different things, and especially when you’re starting out, because usually you can’t afford a lot of help at first. So you’re just doing a lot of different things as best you can. And so what it feels like is just putting out fires all the time. So for me, I had a big mental block about spending a lot of time planning and also spending a lot of time reflecting on what was working so that I could do better planning. I just didn’t want to take the time to do that. I felt like that was a waste of my time or that that would be me, like not doing work. That’s me just sitting around and not even doing work or like I just had so many fires to put out all the time. I just was like, that’s all I can do. I can’t I can’t get ahead. I can only maintain. And that was a mental block that I needed to get past. Because if you really want to do batch working and you want the freedom and the benefits that it brings, you have to make space for a lot of planning and also for reflecting on the past work that you did and seeing how it could improve, seeing what worked best, seeing what isn’t working, and so taking the time to do all that forecasting and planning and analyzing can sometimes feel like not real work, but it’s actually really important and the foundation of all of it.

Elsie: Yeah, I think that the thing that’s different is that if you’re used to having in a given workday, the feeling of starting and then finishing something in that day, you might not be able to have that feeling anymore. It’s kind of the opposite of a balanced schedule. It’s a very unbalanced schedule to spend your whole…like recently, you know, to prep for this day. We spent a whole day just writing podcast outlines, which I will tell you is not my favorite kind of day. It’s just not. But we wouldn’t be able to work ahead and then have, you know, eventually weeks where we don’t need to record if we didn’t do that. And planning for blog posts is like that as well. It can feel like you’re spending so much time just thinking about working before you actually start working, but I’ve learned that if you don’t put the time into like a really quality plan, the rest of it will all fall apart. So I think having a great plan in the beginning is actually the most important part of doing quality work, no matter what type of work we’re talking about, photography, writing, anything.

Emma: I agree.

Elsie: Yes. So you’ll have…when you start batch working, it’s a very focused schedule. You need to learn to focus. Like so many times I try to Face Time Emma and we’re big Face-Timers. We Face Time pretty much every day and she’ll be like, I’m doing recipes today. I have really good lighting. So basically I just can’t talk to you today. And that’s fine.

Emma: Yeah. (laughs)

Elsie: Like everyone in your life will understand, I think it’s important to learn for your employees to learn how, like, you know, that they don’t need you right then every single time. You know? I think it’s really, really important. So I’ve shared some examples about how I batch work in A Beautiful Mess like planning. I usually plan about two or three months of content at a time. Recently I planned my whole year of remodeling and it’s down to like when we’re going to do the post, when I’m going to complete the rooms, when I’m in a photograph `the rooms, what the budget is for the rooms, everything is planned, which feels really good. But it took a lot of time to do that and it felt like I was working on things that I didn’t need to work on yet. But it’ll free me up later. And it’ll also allow me to work ahead, because sometimes when you get ahead, you can get bottlenecked when you don’t know what’s the next priority. But when you’ve done all that planning in advance, you always know the next priority. So it can like…

Emma: Yep.

Elsie: …keep you moving faster. And in my personal life, I batch work basically everything I can. I’m definitely a grocery shop once a week person and like a big haul once a month, like if I go to Trader Joe’s it’s like a carful because I want it to last for a while. You know, with the freezer stuff, I buy all my Christmas presents usually in about one day every year, which I know is like very quick. But I feel like if I don’t — if I spread it out, like I spread it out with my kids and then I buy the whole rest of the family in one day and with my kids, guess what? I forget things that I bought them because it’s like it’s easier like when you buy something in August and something in September and two things in October, then it’s easy to have like a bunch of gifts everywhere and you don’t remember what they all are. So I think batch working can create a lot of efficiency for you too, and reduce waste. Like I remember when I was in high school and I was like staying over at one of my friend’s house and I learned that their mom went grocery shopping every day on their way home from work. And I was just like mind blown by that, you know, and it was just like how she did it and how she liked it. And maybe in some way it was like a comfort to her or a way to, like, reset herself at the end of her workday. But for me, it would be a nightmare to do it that way. I wanted to share a couple of reasons why having a batch working schedule can actually be way more productive than a balanced schedule where you do a lot of different things in one day. So especially when creating content, I think that seeing…being zoomed out and having that big view of what you’re covering is really helpful. Like if I write five weeks of blog posts and I do each of them in that week, I might kind of cover the same topic several times and not even notice it, if that makes sense. But if I’m doing all five weeks at once, I will be more careful to do a variety of different topics. And I’ll probably be covering off on more than one of our goals, which is really important and really helpful. Another thing is just that focused energy. So I learned recently in that The Twelve Week Year book that we loved that multitasking decreases productivity, which I had never heard that before. I was always very proud of being a multitasker and I can multitask a lot. Some people just naturally can, but it definitely decreases my productivity. And once someone put a label on that for me, like a stat, (laughs) I felt like I really got it. You know, that it’s not the kind of thing I want to do unless I’m doing something that’s just for fun, like just a hobby. It’s not something I want to do to be efficient in my work. Let’s take a quick break for our sponsors.

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Another thing that’s this one’s kind of a funny side effect. But OK, so when I started batch working, which was about two years ago now for our blog posts, at very first people were sort of like noticing the batching and calling it out. Like one time someone was like, it looks here like you photographed a recipe and a post about a shelf and a post about your garden boxes all in one day, (laughs) which is true. So I like basically, I learned to hide it. And I think that learning to hide it actually like created more variety too, because when I do my shoots, I’ll change clothes like four to ten times in a day and where I wouldn’t have done that before. And if I were shooting in real time, I often wear the same clothes over and over, you know, like I definitely probably would have accidentally worn, you know, the same thing on two different weeks. But I don’t know…when you do batch working and you’re trying to, like, compensate for it, then you end up with this like natural like big variety of different things because everything’s planned and everything’s intentional. So anyway, that was just a few of the things that I learned that have been really helpful. I would never go back. And my advice, if you want to try it for the first time, is just take one of your tasks, whatever is your main work task, and divide it into three different focus days and just try it like see how much more you can get done dividing up the planning and the execution and then the finishing work.

Emma: Let’s do our guilty pleasure treasure segment. OK, I’m always ready for this one because, you know, I just want to talk about shopping. So my guilty pleasure. This is actually not I’m not guilty about this at all. I’m feeling very high on it. So, you know, I’m like obsessed about my dream closet and probably going to be the best part of my 2021 every day I’m thankful in my heart for this closet. So one of the things I did was a shelf of headbands and so I got these headband organizers actually started using them in my last house and I will link to them in the show notes. They’re kind of like a plastic cylinder. And then you can open up the tops. You can store things inside of it, too, if you want to. But I don’t like to do that because I don’t like any kind of hidden stuff. Like I want everything to be, like, easy to see unless I’m trying to hide it. But that’s what cabinets are for, right. So anyway, I think I have four or five of them, which is a lot of headbands. I know, but it was one of my shopping therapies of 2020 like, how I made it through was buying stuff on Etsy and you know, just like collecting little cute things. So anyway — loving the headband trend and I got these organizers and now they’re all like in a row I can see them all at the same time and it’s right by my clothes. So that’s my guilty pleasure. But I’m not guilty because I love it. Woo! What’s yours?

Emma: Yeah, (laughs) mine is kind of dorky, I feel like all my guilty pleasure treasures are just like bordering into the dorky, but that’s OK. I got this heated massage pillow for Christmas it was actually a present from Trey and it’s you can put it in your car, which I have not done because I don’t know about that, but I use it in my office chair and when I’m watching TV at night and it’s very similar to if you go get your nails done and they have a massage chair, it feels like that where it’s kind of like metal balls that are inside fabric and they press on your back and then it heats up. And so, yeah, it’s it looks like a little alien face and I use it all the time. I love it. It makes kind of a like buzzing sound though. So I try to remember to turn it off if I have a Zoom meeting or something because I don’t want anyone to know that I’m just giving myself a little back massage at the same time!

Elsie: Oh my gosh, please wear that in our Monday meeting.

Emma: It’s been great because my back has been real sore. So yeah.

Elsie: Yeah that is an awesome gift. OK, we’ll link to it. So do you just use it on the couch mainly? Like where do you usually use it when you’re sitting and how do you position yourself?

Emma: Yeah, I mainly use it on the couch or my office chair and it kind of can do like your lower back or your middle back or your like shoulder blades. It can’t do all those areas at once. It’s, you know, so I’ll kind of put a pillow in the area where it’s not so that I don’t feel like I’m like leaning back or leaning forwards. So, yeah, it takes a little finagling. But…it’s really nice!

Elsie: I miss the pedicure massage chair. I miss it so much. It’s one of my things from the before times that I can’t wait — mark my words. As soon as I have my second vaccine dose I am going back to the nail salon and I’m going to get some claws. It’s going to be amazing.

Emma: I like it. Do it.

Elsie: Thank you so much for listening to our podcast and supporting us. If you haven’t left us a review, we would really appreciate it, especially if it’s a nice one. We also love getting your questions and topic requests. Our email is podcast@abeautifulmess.com. We love receiving those every week. And if you try out batch working after listening to this, we would love to hear if it helps your life. It’s a subject we’re so passionate about and we hope that it’ll help you out too. So have a good week, Bye

Emma: Bye!

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  • Yes! I love batch working! So glad you brought it out in the open! Lol!
    As an artist-preneur, batch working makes me so much more efficient in the roles of my job that are not my favorites… basically editing teaching films, scheduling marketing, etc. It gives me more time to actually create. Being a potter taught me how to batch work, and learning the benefits of it, made me carry it into other aspects of my business. Thank you for cheering it on!🙌🏼

  • I love your spark joy segments! Emma, your recs are always so functional/useful. Looking into getting a chair massager now!

  • Your podcasts always feel like they are only two minutes long because I enjoy them so much and always want more! Thank you for this and all episodes!

  • I used to (years and years ago) feel like content creators who worked in batches were a bit “fake”. That makes me cringe now, it is such an outdated mindset. Blogging has evolved so much, so has podcasting and social media. Batchworking is a great thing, and as long as you deliver on quality that should be all that matters. I like evergreen quality content in podcasts best anyway, because I sometimes save up and binge listen, and I really don’t want to hear all about last months events in the media etc. So many podcasts that are recorded every week have too much of that, I think it is probably easier to avoid that when you batch work, because you have to be conscious of the whether the topic will be relevant in the future as well. I also really love the content you guys create on productivity, planning and all things business related and “behind the scenes”, so that you for that:) Love the podcast!

  • Batch working has TRULY saved my work life. I primarily use it at the (home) office, and I have to say, it got me to a place where I actually didn’t have a backlog of tasks looming over me every day. I can’t wait to start incorporating it into my other non-work tasks!

  • Can I please come over to Emma’s house when she has her food shoots?? I have a feeling this may be a fun day for baby boy when he gets a little bigger!

    • It’s a fun day for me, that’s for sure. I also have a number of neighbor friends now and I’ve dropped off batches of cookies and lots of other things when I have way too much to finish from photoshoot days.

  • Knowing you batch work ANYTHING doesn’t take away that magic. Instead, it inspires me to run my own business & life in an easier, more efficient way. Even more magical in my opinion!

  • When I found out about the batch working it was surprising, because you do a good job of making it seem like each podcast is fresh that week, but it didn’t ruin the magic. Just points to how smart and good you guys are at your job! And it’s kind of you to share tips with your audience!

  • Emma! I totally have that same massage pillow and it is surprisingly good!

  • I always like to listen to the batching process from DIY bloggers since there’s so much to do before a post actually goes live. Enjoyed the podcast and wouldn’t even mind a part 2 deeper dive 😉 😉 lol

    I’m currently giving a fresh try at batching my work. How do you deal with the inevitable setbacks when something goes wrong when creating a DIY projects? That’s what tends to completely throw me off on those days. Maybe I try to do too much on one day?

    • There is usually at least one thing (DIY, craft, recipe, photoshoot, etc.) that doesn’t work out pretty much every month. Part of what I like about batching is it feels less devastating if something has to get redone or cut. That being said, if it feels like the quality of your work is suffering it may be a sign that you’re batching too much in one day. We’ve all been there! It’s an ongoing process to find the mix that works for you.

  • It seems like people will find anything to complain about – especially when it comes to free content you provide for their entertain (eye roll). You gals are doing great!

    • I mean- yes, this is true! It’s also true that we really care what our audience enjoys and want to please you all. And then it’s ALSO true that at times we know we can’t please everyone so we just try to do our best, be honest and move on. :))

  • This is genius! I’m a developer and designer, and am so stoked to figure out how to incorporate this into my practice. *heart eyes*

  • Podcast batching doesn’t bother me. When I first learned about it, I was surprised just because I thought it was pretty cool that you could do individual shows back to back like that, keeping up the enthusiasm and fresh spirit. It’s just an example of another pro to batch working!

    • For sure! We definitely do smaller batches of episodes when we’re feeling exhausted. But it’s usually really fun to record because for a lot of it we just feel like we’re chatting!

  • Personally, knowing the podcast is batch recorded doesn’t ruin anything for me. You do what you do to make things work. I actually always enjoy getting behind the scenes glimpses of how things are made.

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