Time Blocking: What Is It and Why Do You Need It?
Part 4: Schedule
Welcome to Part 4 in our 5-part series on Time Blocking. Here's what we've covered so far:
Part 1: Overview. We defined time blocking and explained how this powerful time management tool can help you become more organized and help you get the truly important things done.
Part 2: How to Plan. Step 1 involved itemizing every task you do throughout the week on a daily basis so you could see how you spend your time. We looked at possible ways to go about this, depending on your personality and goals, to make it work for you.
Part 3: We went over the importance of Step 2, Prioritize. Here’s where you decided what is currently most important to you and prioritized those tasks accordingly. Too often we leave the very things that may be the most important for last. Things like:
building a business
spending precious time with our families
taking up a new hobby
You know, all the things we say we wish we had time for. We may insist that we "don't have time," when usually it's just a matter of prioritizing and scheduling it in. Life is short - let's not wish it away.
This week we're covering Step 3: Schedule.
Now that you know what you want and need to do and how long your daily tasks actually take, you're ready to start scheduling. Here's where the unique concept of the time block comes in. Start by filling in the non-negotiable from last week's work (the Plan.) You're done the hard work, so grab your calendar and after a few quick reminders, let's start plugging those tasks in.
Please keep in mind that this system isn't supposed to be so rigid or unrealistic that it causes you more stress or frustration. Of course, if you need it to be tight and goal-oriented, you can absolutely design it that way. Either way, as you get more comfortable working with it, you'll quickly see how flexible it can be. You can easily swap out a time block for the predictably unpredictable things that come up or change at the last minute. Let's agree and acknowledge that LIFE happens.
As times goes on, you can expect to find that your life loses a lot of its previous stressors and imbalances. Why? Because now you're seeing that you really do have time for all the things you want - and need - to accomplish. Want to write that book? Learn to ride a horse? Visit Italy? Plug in the time. If we wait for an "opportune" moment, let's be honest and just admit that it's not going to happen.
It Was the Best of Times...
One caveat here - I'm going on the understanding that you've already figured out when your best - and worst - hours of the day are.
Maybe you're an early riser and can't wait to start your day! You're bursting with energy and creativity. Go for it!
It Was the Worst of Times...
However, if you're a night owl and do your best work
after everyone is in bed, your schedule will look very
different. Neither is wrong.
You can make this system work for you.
Ready? Let's do this.
Plug and Play
Where to start?
Schedule the non-negotiable tasks that are not under your control first (see Step 1.) From there, start plugging in other non-negotiable tasks that may be a little more flexible, and see how you can arrange them in a way that makes sense. Maybe when you looked at your non-negotiable tasks in Step 1 you realized you could eliminate or outsource some things to free you up to do other things.
After the non-negotiable tasks, you'll want to schedule your most important and challenging work first thing in your day. This way, you:
get the worst over with; nothing to dread and the rest of your day seems brighter.
feel good about yourself; you honored your commitments to yourself and to others.
made tangible progress toward your goals.
From there, look at the available time blocks and see what you can reasonably fit into them.
And be sure to include your wants and wishes! Those are
Remember that old, little book, "The Tyranny of the Urgent?"
We don't have to live there anymore.
So, just what length should your time blocks be?
Time Block Increments
I recommend that you don't spend more than an hour on any activity without taking a break. You'll find other recommendations, from 30 minutes on up to 90 minutes, but please notice what works for you and go with that. For me, an hour works just fine unless I'm on a roll, but I'll still make myself get up and do something physical for a bit. I've never regretted those mini breaks.
The fact is that our productivity levels go down after a certain point - so there's nothing to be gained by doggedly sticking with something that just isn't working. Take a short break and do some jumping jacks, stretch, take a walk outside, dance, make lunch - whatever works for you. If it's a creative endeavor, know that those creative juices are still flowing and sometimes we need to do something else before things will fall into place. Eureka!
Feel free to schedule time blocks of ANY length, but take breaks. Play around with your schedule where you can and see what makes the most sense, always keeping in mind that your plan needs to be realistic for it to work.
Schedule similar activities together whenever possible, whether they're business or personal.
Set aside specific days and times for appointments whenever possible.
Do the laundry while you're cleaning or reading.
Listen to an audiobook while you're cooking (unless you need to pay attention to the recipe - ask me how I know.)
Write your next three blog post outlines in one sitting.
Group errands on certain days and times - you'll save time, energy, and gas money.
You get the idea. It just takes a little planning, and if you have those blocks of time set aside, the important things will get done.
Email and Social Media
Unless you have an appointment-filled calendar and need to know if your morning clients have canceled, you don't need to be checking your texts or emails first thing. As much as we all want to, it's a huge time and energy vacuum, and most of us really don't need to go there. Instead, schedule time to check and respond to your email two or three times a day for a limited amount of time.
Do the same thing with social media. Many of us need to stay in touch, but let's not be a slave to it. Schedule five to ten minutes two or three times during the day at set times for reading, commenting, and responding.
Try to keep on schedule, beginning and ending on time. That said..
Don't schedule everything back-to-back; leave a little wiggle room.
Keep a few time slots open for the unexpected.
Plan fun activities!
Remember that you can switch around time blocks if needed.
Allow yourself to focus during each time block.
No interruptions; you now have a built-in excuse: "That's my time to do x."
Strategically select one to three small steps every day that will bring you closer to your goals.
Don't overcomplicate this!
Try it out for a week and see what happens. If you can include even one new, meaningful thing into your schedule that you didn't feel you could fit in before, it's a huge win.
Like everything else in life, time blocking is a work in progress. Your priorities will change over time, and that's as it should be, so adjust your time blocking schedule accordingly.
We'll finish up this series next week with the last step, Review and Revise. In the meantime, have fun with it!