There just aren’t enough hours in the day. I hear this all the time and I get it. Which is why I want to share my favorite productivity system with you – it’s called time blocking.
You may know by now that I love systems. Systems help you follow through and avoid one of the three reasons most online businesses fail.
And out of all the productivity systems I’ve tested – I love, love, love time blocking! It’s simple and it works.
Time blocking has given me greater focus and less overwhelm. I always know what to do and when to do it. And most important of all, it helps me get more done.
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So, what exactly is time blocking?
Time Blocking In 3 Steps
Time blocking is a process where you reserve blocks of time on your calendar for specific tasks. During each block of time, you focus on one task that you’d like to complete.
There are three steps to time blocking:
- Set Up Your Baseline Calendar
- Schedule Your Priorities
- Execute Your Plan
In the rest of this article I walk you through the three steps. As with all systems, I recommend you follow the steps as described. Then once you have a feel for how the process works, tweak it to fit your personal work patterns.
1. Set Up Your Baseline Calendar
The central tool for time blocking is your calendar. You can use any calendar tool. I use Google Calendar because it integrates with my appointment scheduler and email. You can also use a physical planner or even a notebook.
The key to using your calendar effectively is to set appointments for two types of work:
- Recurring work such as responding to email, voicemail, blog comments
- Project work such as creating a course, writing a book, etc.
In this first step, you set up your calendar so that you have a clear picture of your ongoing commitments and available time each week.
Start by dividing your calendar into recurring, one-hour time slots that reflect your working week. If you work full-time on your business, this might be: 9-10am, 10am-11am, 1-2pm, 2-3pm and 3-4pm. If your business is a side gig, then you will have fewer time blocks.
Next, schedule in free time such as your workout or lunch break. If necessary, adjust your working time slots until your calendar reflects your priorities. For example, if you want to free up evenings for family time, block off that time for family.
Now, block out time slots for recurring activities. These are activities you do every day or week. This may include:
- checking and replying to emails and voicemails
- bookkeeping tasks
- client appointments
- scheduling social media posts
- writing weekly newsletter
- creating weekly blog post
For example, you may want to reserve 30 minutes each day for handling emails and voice messages.
Once you complete the above steps, you should have a clear picture of how much time you have left over for project and creative work. For most people, this is much less than they thought. But it’s far better to have a clear picture of your available time then to over-commit yourself.
2. Schedule Your Priorities
Once you have your baseline calendar set up, you want to adopt a regular planning habit. I suggest you start by planning on a weekly basis.
Once a week, write out your top priorities for that week. These should be the tasks that will move you closer to achieving your main goal. So, if you’re looking to reach a specific financial goal, identify the tasks that are most likely to boost your revenue.
If you struggle to prioritize, then I highly recommend the best-selling book The One Thing. It shows you how to identify the tasks that matter most so that you stop wasting time on things that aren’t important.
I do my planning on Sunday nights. Every Sunday, I plan my upcoming week. It takes 10 -15 minutes and saves me hours each week. I aim to identify between 1 and 5 top priorities.
The key is to not over schedule yourself – don’t set yourself up for failure.
Next, assign your top priorities to available time blocks in your calendar. Note, some tasks may be assigned to more than one block. For example, it may take three one-hour time slots to complete a piece of content.
3. Execute Your Plan
Now, it’s time to execute your plan. Here’s what you want to do each day:
- Show up to each appointment a couple of minutes early. Clear off your desk, shut down your internet browser and social media.
- Set a timer for 50 minutes.
- Work (without interruption) on your task for the entire 50 minutes. Do not stop to answer the phone, do not check your email and do not allow others to distract you. Shut your door if you can.
- When the timer goes off, put away your work. Use the final 10 minutes of your hour to stretch, walk around, take a bathroom break or whatever you need to do.
It’s important to take that break at the end of the work period… even if you’re close to completion. Productivity for most people decreases substantially after 50 minutes. Taking a short break will reenergize your mind and body.
Having said that, you may want to play around with the time slots. Some people need shorter working blocks of 20 or 30 minutes. Others prefer longer blocks. Be prepared to experiment and find what works best for you.
Time blocking takes practice. You may need to go back and adjust the schedule you created in Step One. For example, you may overlook a recurring task or find something takes longer than expected.
Be prepared to tweak as you go. The beauty of your schedule is that you control it. Change it often and make it work for you.
More Time Management Strategies
We all struggle to manage our time. Between kids, family chores, running a business, and taking care of ourselves – it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. This is normal and managing your time effectively can be a constant work in progress.
Be gentle with yourself and keep trying new strategies. You’ve got this.
For more ways to boost your productivity, check out these posts: