We’ve all had the feeling of wishing there were more hours in the day when we are struggling to complete a to do list. But unfortunately it’s not possible to add hours. Time Blocking however, helps you to focus on tasks and get more done with the hours you have.
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So what exactly is time blocking?
Time blocking is the use of focused periods of time on one task, rather than the multi tasking idea. Multi tasking is an old work skill that really makes it difficult to do any task well, or completely.
In my day job, I was actually hired in part for my ability to multi task. Working for a large transportation system it is not uncommon to have a phone to my ear while on the computer trying to cover an ill worker, or an operational emergency that just hit. However my time at home is mine. And my responsibility to manage, in the best way possible.
For the last few months I have focused on time blocking. Spending so much time multi tasking at work, organizing a time block system has been rather calming. The premise is that you organize your day by blocks. Each block of time will be used to work in one area of your life. You might have time blocks for errands, tasks, kids activities that require your time, etc. An example of a current schedule for me on my days off, might look something like this:
An example of Time Blocking
And I would continue this for the rest of the week.
Setting Priorities And Staying on Track
The most important thing, is that you prioritize what time blocks you need. What daily tasks are most important for you to complete.
When setting up your priorities, it is key to keep in mind what time of day you are at your best. That is the time of day you want to complete those “yuk” tasks. So if you are at your peak at 800 am schedule your least favorite task at 800 when your mind is clear, and you will focus better and get the task done.
How do you stay on schedule? In the beginning you will probably want to use a timer. After a couple of weeks though, I found I can pretty well judge a 1 or 2 hour time block and not run over.
The purpose of Time Blocking
Each block has a single purpose. You can plan subsets within the block but your topic for that block stays the same. Some people use a different color for each time block, but I find that a little distracting. I do have a different color for each day.
If I have a time block for working on my blog, I will spend that time block working only on my blog. I have found that I prefer to drill down my time blocks a little tighter though. So on Monday, instead of just making my time block “working on my blog”, I make my Monday blog time block for writing posts only.
My “Planning” time block is more focused on Monday to be a time block for renovation project planning, on Tuesday sourcing project supplies, and on Wednesday meeting with my “partner in DIY” to create drawings and collaborate a project.
Even by making the time blocks more focused, the time block main topic remains the same. I have found that knowing the when and what of a time block, my mind naturally shelves the majority of distractions.
Life happens. Yes.it.does. You get a call form the school that your child is ill and needs to be picked up right away. Know we all have distractions from time to time, and don’t feel guilty about it. Pick up your time block schedule when you can.
Distractions from social media can be controlled. Turn off the sound on your phone and get to work. Schedule a time block for social media each day, but don’t allow it to take your mind off your focus.
What happens when I remember something I need to pick up at the store when I’m writing a blog post? I keep a note pad handy, jot the idea down, and put it aside until later for my errand time block. But I am finding with time blocking, my mind is staying much more focused on what I am working on, and the “oh I just remembered ….” are happening less and less.
The other benefit I find from time blocking is that my family knows what to expect. Calling me at 905 am I will be busy, but at 700pm I can fully concentrate on our phone call. 700Pm is the time block I created for phone calls.
Now in fairness my children are grown, this would not be this easy with young toddlers around. But time blocking can still work for you, but you would probably want to keep your time blocks for your tasks to more like 15-30 minutes, than up to 2 hours like I am able to do.
Time Blocking Summary
Create periods of time that you dedicate to only one topic or task. It’s okay to drill down further, but you do not want this to become a “to do” list. Your time blocks can be planned out far in advance, based on your priorities. You may find time blocking can be essential in staying focused on a task.
I challenge you to try time blocking. See if you don’t see your productivity rising. Your concentration will increase. Your time for rest will increase, because you won’t be feeling disorganized and “scattered”. And you can even block off time for rest. How does an hour block for a nap sound?
Watch for my upcoming post on “Batching” for further productivity tips.