Do you ever feel like you don’t have enough hours in the day? Or have trouble finding opportunities to focus on your business because you have so many other things going on?
I will share a productivity secret that will make you more efficient and consistent in focusing on your business priorities. It’s called time blocking and this post gives you all the time blocking tips you need to make massive forward movement in your business.
Time blocking, also known as block scheduling, is a productivity technique that I have used off and on for many years, in both the corporate world and as a solopreneur. I am at my most productive when I use time blocking. It encourages me to focus my attention, it has built-in accountability, and it enables me to be realistic about what I can actually accomplish.
What is time blocking?
What are some of the benefits of using time blocks?
- It minimizes the effect of false urgency. So all those things that seem urgent in the moment – like emails or notifications or simply tasks that need to be done – can safely be ignored when they pop up because you know that you have time allotted for them at some point in your day.
- It focuses your attention. Once you’ve dedicated time to work on something specific, you have to ignore anything that distracts you from that task. When you get in the habit of really working on something for a focused period, you’ll get more accomplished faster.
- It builds a habit of discipline. Yes, this technique requires discipline. And that’s a good thing. A habit of discipline will carry you through periods when you feel unmotivated to work.
- It gives you peace of mind. Once you get used to the time blocking method and see how much more you accomplish using this method, you’ll feel more at ease because you will know that you are working on your most important priorities and that you are actually completing the things that will move your business forward.
- It encourages you to make the most of every hour. You’ll find that you want to get as much done as possible during each time block. It may even become like a game.
Want to see time blocking in action? Click below to watch a video tutorial:
Getting started: how to time block
By now, you are probably wondering how to do time blocking.
Step 1: Determine the hours you have available to work in the upcoming week
The first step is determining the hours you have available to work each week and deciding on your workdays. If your business is a side hustle, then you’ll need to work around your regular job. Or maybe you have children, and you need to work on your business around their schedules. Using this method, you can create a business schedule that fits your life.
With time blocking, you can create a business schedule that fits into your life.
Step 2: List everything you want to do during the week
Make a list of everything you want to do during the week. Include meetings, phone calls, daily tasks, current projects, and future tasks from your monthly or quarterly plan. Hopefully, you have a master task list that you can refer to. I look at my list of Upcoming tasks in Asana, making it super easy to come up with my weekly list.
Estimate how long you need to spend on each item in your list and then total it up. If you’re anything like me, your first estimate will be more than the amount of time you have available. So now you need to prune your list. Which items can be deferred until later, delegated to someone else, or eliminated altogether?
Step 3: Block out your fixed appointments
The next step is to start scheduling your blocks. Do this in the format that works best for you. You can schedule your time blocks in a calendar app (like Google calendar) or on paper. If you like to bullet journal, you can create a time blocking calendar spread. I prefer to use a spreadsheet because I can set up a calendar view, and it’s easy to move each block around.
You can grab a copy of my time blocking spreadsheet here.
Start by blocking out your fixed appointments. This includes anything that has to happen at a specific time.
For example, maybe you have client appointments from 9:00-12:00 on Tuesdays and Fridays. Or your mastermind group meets at 2:00 on Thursday. Or you have a doctor’s appointment on Wednesday afternoon. Slot those appointments into your schedule first so that you can build the rest of your schedule around them.
Step 4: Add in recurring tasks & other routines
After blocking out your fixed appointments, add in your recurring tasks and other routines – things that typically happen at approximately the same time on most days. Include both work and life tasks. For example, I block out lunch and my daily workout.
Step 5: Fill in the rest of your time blocks
Now you should be able to see all the chunks of time that you have remaining to work on projects. I like to keep these at a fairly high level for simplicity’s sake. So, for example, I’ll include a large block for writing a blog post rather than listing each step in my blog post workflow (I can refer to Asana for the details).
Here’s a screenshot of my time blocking schedule for the week:
Ramp up your success with these time blocking tips
Use a timer
The number one key to success with time blocking is using a timer. I can’t stress this strongly enough. Any timer works, whether it’s a timer app on your phone, an inexpensive digital timer, or even your oven timer (if you work from home).
During the periods when your timer is running, don’t allow any distractions. That means no cell phone, no television, no social media, no email, etc. If you have pop-up notifications enabled on your phone or computer, turn them off or mute them during focus blocks.
I like to think of focus periods as “billable hours.” If I were billing a client, I wouldn’t be fooling around on Facebook, would I? My business deserves the same consideration.
Set the right priorities
As you plan out your week, you will likely see that you have more on your task list than will fit into your schedule. Be ruthless when you prune your list. Ask yourself if each task will really help you move your business forward. If it isn’t, then cut it out.
Track your time spent
If you want to be even more efficient, then track your actual time spent. There are several apps that you can use for this. I’ve used Toggl for many years, and it even integrates with Asana, which is perfect for me.
RescueTime is another app that you may want to try. It automatically tracks the time you spend using various apps and websites. This can be very eye-opening!
I’ve noticed that I spend more time on design tasks than I really need to. As a result, I now try to limit that time by utilizing templates more.
You will become much better at estimating how long a task or project takes by tracking your time spent. It will also help you hold yourself accountable. For example, if you plan to spend two hours prospecting for clients, you can check your time reports to see if you actually did.
Be flexible and leave a few time blocks blank
On the face of it, block scheduling seems very rigid. Yes, it requires discipline to follow a daily schedule, but allow yourself to be flexible in execution. Things will come up that you didn’t anticipate, and some tasks will take longer than you planned. There are days that I find myself working two hours behind, and that’s okay. Leave a few blocks blank for flexible time so that you have a buffer zone to accommodate the unexpected.
Stay in the flow with task batching
Try to group similar tasks together in batches. It’s more efficient to work on a batch of tasks in consecutive blocks because you will get into the flow. Your brain has to adjust whenever you switch projects, and you lose momentum getting started on the next project.
Don’t forget to schedule breaks
The point of block scheduling is not to work like a maniac all day long. It’s to make sure that you are focused on the right tasks and working efficiently and effectively. Taking breaks will make the work you do during focused blocks more effective.
Many people like the Pomodoro technique where you work for 25 minutes, then take a 5-minute break, with a more extended break every couple of hours. I prefer to work for a 45-minute block, then take a 15-minute break. Find the method that works for you, and then add those breaks to your schedule.
Block out personal time and family time
Don’t forget about your life. Block out the times you want to spend on yourself and your family. This will keep work from creeping into your personal life. For example, I work out an hour each day, so I include my workout when scheduling my routine tasks. I also block out Friday afternoons to spend with my family.
Get an accountability partner
If you find it challenging to stick to new habits, then consider getting an accountability partner. Find someone working on similar business goals and check in with each other regularly – weekly or daily. For example, you may want to set up a daily meeting to report your progress.
How to use your schedule
Start the day by reviewing your schedule. Check your master task list. Is there anything you missed that needs to be added to your schedule? For example, last week, I forgot to include a block for writing my Wednesday email to my list. That’s a high priority for me, so when I realized it on Wednesday morning, I adjusted my schedule for the day to fit that in.
Then set your timer and start working the blocks. When your timer goes off, reassess. Did you accomplish what you intended to in that block? If so, then move on to the next block. Or are you so close to finishing a task that it makes sense to keep going while you’re in the flow? This is where being flexible comes into play.
Look back at all you accomplished and pat yourself on the back at the end of the day.
Set up your schedule & take action
Time blocking techniques will absolutely help you organize your day and allow you to get a massive amount of work done.
If you aren’t sure that this approach is for you, then dip your toe in the water. For example, rather than planning a whole week, try blocking out one day. Then set your timer and start working your blocks.
Remember that you are building a habit of discipline. And building habits doesn’t happen overnight. But it is so worth it when you finally have control over your day. Then, you can fit all the essential things in, including being able to focus on yourself and your family.
Download this free time blocking template to take control of your day:
The best way to block time is to use a schedule. Start by deciding what tasks need to be accomplished and when they need to be done. Then, create a schedule that includes blocks of time for each task. Finally, stick to the schedule as much as possible.
One of the benefits of time blocking is that it allows you to be flexible. If you need to, you can adjust your schedule on the fly. For example, if you realize that you forgot to include a task in your plan, you can simply add it. Another example is if you’re in the flow for a task or project, you can decide to keep going and extend the time block.
The Pomodoro Technique is a time management technique that involves working for 25 minutes, then taking a 5-minute break. This cycle is repeated with a longer break every couple of hours.
Time blocking is beneficial because it allows you to focus on a single task. This can help you avoid multitasking, which can lead to decreased productivity. Additionally, time blocking can help you stay on track and avoid getting sidetracked by distractions. Finally, time blocking can help you to better manage your time by allowing you to plan and schedule your tasks in advance.
You may also find these productivity posts helpful:
- Improve Your Day with a Weekly Time Blocking Template
- How to Improve Your Productivity by Using the 2-Minute Rule
- 7 Ridiculously Simple Ways to Improve the Way You Plan Your Day