“Once you have mastered time, you will understand how true it is that most people overestimate what they can accomplish in a year–and underestimate what they can achieve in a decade!” – Tony Robbins
Planning out our day or upcoming week/month/year is a great way to have a bird’s eye view on what’s to come and how we can prepare for it. However, many times, important but not urgent tasks lay forgotten on our ever-growing To-Do list. That’s why time blocking is a great way to actually get the ball rolling on these activities.
1. What is Time Blocking?
Instead of just keeping a To-Do list, time blocking transfers your tasks and projects into time slots on your calendar where you “block” off “time” in order to do them.
Highly productive people put everything on their calendar and then work and live from that calendar. “Use a calendar and schedule your entire day into 15-minute blocks. It sounds like a pain, but this will set you up in the 95th percentile…”, advises the co-founder of The Art of Charm, Jordan Harbinger.
However, time blocking can seem a little overwhelming at first. Does that mean you schedule every hour of the day!? That’s crazy, you may think, but it really can work.
A famous time-blocking pioneer (although I’ll bet you a $100 it wasn’t called that back then) is Benjamin Franklin. His meticulous daily schedule outlined a scheme to achieve “moral perfection.” Every morning Franklin asked himself, “What good shall I do today?” His three-hour block of morning routine stretched from 5:00 a.m. to 7:00 a.m. and included addressing “Powerful Goodness” and setting a plan for the rest of his day.
2. How to Time Block
Firstly, think about the major activities and tasks in your day. This can be specific work you’re doing, or you can divide it into categories; check/respond to emails, meetings, write reports, gym, socializing. The important thing to keep in mind is to decide what are the most important things to tackle and assign a larger chunk of the day to that activity.
Now since each block of time is spent on a specific task, your goal may not always be to complete the task completely. Instead, the goal may be to focus and make real progress. If you need multiple work sessions to complete the task, that is fine.
Now that you have a list of all the things you want to achieve, you can start adding it to your calendar. There are great apps you can use for this, but I’ve found using my iCloud calendar works great.
Start by adding in the firm appointments – meetings, deadlines, calls with clients, doctors appointments, etc. Then add your most important tasks and assign a time and date for them. You can easily set this tasks to repeat daily or weekly. If you’re a freelancer and want to designate the afternoons from 1-2pm to communicate with clients, then time block that slot. Set up any client calls at that time, and let them know beforehand your preferred hours.
Include flexible time too, for events that may pop up during the day. I like to break up my tasks anywhere from 15 mins to 3 hours. For longer tasks, I typically use the Pomodoro Technique and work in 25-minute chunks and take a break. This keeps me focused and I love the little reward of getting up for a good stretch or coffee break.
3. Time blocking Tips
- Are you a morning person, or night person? Know what time of the day is your most productive. Avoid scheduling important activities at 5pm when you’ve been up since 5am and your bandwidth is running low.
- During your set time blocks, don’t do anything else, except for the scheduled task – unless it’s really urgent. This is the hardest part about time blocking, but multitasking isn’t the most efficient way to finish a task. Instead, focus on the single task that is at hand.
- Color code activities – it gives you a clear view at a quick glance. Whether you use Google Calendar, iCalendar or a physical calendar – it’s easy to segment your activities by color. Either divide it up by project or client and that way, you can easily see how your day has been laid out.
- Prepare your calendar Friday before you wrap up for the day, or do it Sunday evening. Monday morning is not a good idea, because you want to hit the ground running with a direction for the week.
- Close all distractions – log out of Twitter, close your other tabs and disable notifications on your phone.
- Life happens and know that anything could come up. Use your Flexible Time slot to deal with any surprises that may spring up on you.
Find what works for you, and remember…
~ Persist and Grow Forth ~
What are some of your favorite time blocking tips or tricks? I’d love to hear them, share it in the comments below.