Time Blocking for Better Productivity
It’s called time blocking or block scheduling, and I can tell you, it changed my life.
I’m often asked if I ever sleep. Why? Because I used to run a restaurant 55 hours a week, train 3 horses, run a jewelry design company, and wrote novels and screenplays on the side. My answer: I always sleep 7-9 hours a night. I block my time, because I love my sleep.
The next question is how do you do it? That part is easy. I block out my time. We no longer own the restaurant, but now I have two other businesses in its place. So I’m running the blog and an author course business along with training horses, making jewelry, and writing novels (which is my main income).
We are all busy these days, and anything that makes us more efficient is a dream come true. Between family, horses, and my businesses, I could easily be running in place and getting nowhere. You always hear, “You need to learn to find balance.”
Time blocking? What? How does that work?
I’m here to tell you. And it’s easier than you think. It’s definitely more efficient than “to do” lists. In a way, it replaces your “to do” list with a “this is when I’ll get it done” list. Though you will need to start with a list of things you need to accomplish, it’s change into a much more efficient system.
To Do Lists Don’t Work
I know, you’re slapping me up beside the head. How would you know what you need to get done without those lists? The thing is, something always falls through the cracks. You try to prioritize, then get thrown off track when something bumps everything else. I had daily reminders, and I ignored them. Time management wasn’t my forte. There were days I worked until 2 am, only to get up at 7 am and start all over. Believe me, when you’re running a busy restaurant, five hours of sleep doesn’t cut it for very long before everything pisses you off.
When I finally figured out how to block my time, it all fell into place, and I was in bed before midnight, and even have time to spend an hour or so reading. Mind blown!
Time Blocking for Your Schedule
I liken time blocking to being in high school or college. You had a daily schedule. Specific times of the day were blocked off for classes, sports, homework, etc. During those times, you concentrated on one thing. One task. One goal. And you knew, Monday through Friday, sports practice at 4 pm, so you planned round it. Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 10 to 11 in the morning you had English 101 class. See where I’m going with this? Now all you’re doing is changing the activities to fit adult life.
Let’s get started with the basics.
1. Make a list of all of your responsibilities.
Both at home and at work. Dig deep and try to get in everything. You’ll want to make sure you include laundry, cleaning, appointments, workout, child taxi, family time. Everything you can think of that takes up time in your day.
Mine: feeding horses, horse chores, feeding the dog and cats, exercising horses, appointments, blogging, marketing, novel writing, social media (responses), personal hygiene, grocery shopping, author course writing…
2. Write down any solid commitments.
This includes appointments, like work and dentist. Also, don’t forget the time it takes to get ready: shower, shave, makeup…
3. Now it’s time to prep for the week.
Most important to this part of the time blocking is to be realistic about how much time a project will take. How much time a commute will take. You don’t want to get off schedule if possible.The key is to only schedule one week at a time. This way it’s not overwhelming, and you don’t have to make changes when other commitments or appointments arise.
4. Make sure you schedule your entire day.
This will be nitty gritty detailed. See my pages below. You’ll be blocking right up to bedtime. And you will stick to this bedtime, because you’ve planned your day.
5. No more burn out, no more spinning your wheels.
Your schedule it right in front of you. It doesn’t have to be by the hour. You can write in 20 minute items by splitting a time slot. Just like school, give yourself time to transition from one task to the next.
6. Don’t forget to schedule one day a week for things you always put off.
Maybe Thursday from 8-11 am for those tasks you either dread, or say, “I’ll get to it eventually.”
Get your free time blocking sheet HERE
7. The reason I started time blocking was to keep myself from obsessing.
I’d say, “I’m just going to make these five bracelet, then I’ll get back to my office to write.” The problem was that I’d end up in the studio all day, because I wouldn’t have my time set up for the next task. Or I’d work on blogging stuff all day, then I look at the clock and it’s 7 pm. If you have to set a timer to make yourself stop the task and move on, then use your phone or an egg timer.
Setting these parameters is the key to the success of time blocking. Stick to your schedule and start right away.
8. Stay Focused
If you are making bath bombs, make them. Put your phone away and concentrate on the task at hand. It’s amazing how much of our day is wasted with our phones.
When I had the restaurant, I couldn’t miss a call from my husband, or an employee calling from the restaurant, so I had a specific ringtone from people I couldn’t ignore. Anyone else, they could leave a message. I always schedule a break in my day to return calls and check messages, usually that’s my lunch break.
9. Give it a Chance
Just like any new task or hobby, it will take time to get used to time blocking, to get the timing right, to work out the wrinkles. It took me over a month to figure out where I’d made mistakes and tweak them. But when I got it right, life became less overwhelming. There are still times when something messes with my schedule, but my family knowing my schedule really helps. They tend to not ask for things last minute. And I’ve learned to say no. If my week is scheduled, then it will have to be moved to next week, unless it’s an emergency or really important.
10. Toss Your “To Do” Lists
Instead of making a to do list, write the things you need to do and transfer them to your calendar. Block time for it, and it will get done.
11. Learn to Say No
If time blocking taught me anything, it was to say, No! Politely, of course. I realized I couldn’t be everywhere and be everything to everybody. Actually, a new business was formed from learning to say no.
The two biggest takeaways are: set timers in the beginning, to remind yourself you’re on a schedule. And only plan a week at a time. Sunday night is my scheduling time, but it might be Monday, or Saturday for you.
Be flexible. Try to stick to your schedule, just like school. If you need to make an appointment, make it for the next week, so you can fit it in. Sure, there will be times something comes up, and you get off track, but that’s okay, because you only have this week planned, you can make things work next week.
I hope you try this and see your productivity soar.