Have You Tried a Time Blocking Planner?
Have You Tried a Time Blocking Planner?
Several big name celebs and productivity gurus swear by time blocking so what is all the fuss about?
What is Time Blocking?
Time blocking at it’s core is an easy productivity hack that can be used by anyone professionally or personally. When boiled down, time blocking is simply a method of time management where you schedule your day in blocks of time. This means that every task you perform in a day is assigned a time block – like sleeping, getting ready, answering emails, returning phone calls, making dinner, etc.
By assigning each task to a time block, we are able to focus our energy better on one thing at a time and get more done. Because don’t you know, multitasking is dead. And while you could just schedule tasks in your head and assign them a time block, it is advised to use a time blocking planner in order to stay on task and free up your mental capacity.
How Does a Time Blocking Planner Work?
A time blocking planner works by helping you plan out your day. This type of planner works best when you schedule EVERY task you need to accomplish on that particular day. By tracking every task you begin to learn how long individual tasks take and which tasks are prone to more distractions for you.
Some people prefer to block their time in 5 minute increments. Personally, I think that is too much, but it could have to do with my first professional job after college when I worked for a CPA and had to track my time in 6 minute intervals. *shudders at the memory*, but I digress.
I recommend tracking your time in half hour time blocks and within that time block to only work for 25 minutes and then take a 5 minute break. By adding in breaks, you are helping your mind and body relax more throughout the day, which keeps you more alert and productive as well.
Is it Worth Planning a Time Blocking Schedule?
The short answer is, yes! I absolutely love my time blocking schedule, but it does take commitment and practice by using your time blocking planner daily to make it work for you. While I know this scheduling hack is awesome, it works best after practicing it for a week or two. At first, the schedule may feel forced, but after a couple good sessions of increased productivity you will be hooked.
A time blocking planner includes the benefits of time blocking – getting more done in the same amount of time, decreased mental fatigue, less time lost switching between tasks, a more completed To-Do List – with the relief of having your day scheduled and planned out. I can’t believe how much time I used to waste asking myself, “okay, what do I need to do next?” Before I realized it, I was an hour into a mindless scroll on Pinterest and no where near reaching my goal or crossing things off my ever growing to-do list.
Now that I use a time blocking planner, I can still let myself mindlessly scroll through Pinterest, but I either schedule it for a longer block or get the same benefit during one of my 5 minute breaks between tasks.
How Long Does it Take to Time Block?
One of my favorite things about time blocking is that it doesn’t take too much additional time out of your day to incorporate. If you are already in the habit of creating a To-Do List, then adding time blocking will only take you a couple extra minutes.
If you are not using a To-Do List or tracking your tasks you want to accomplish on any given day, adding the practice of time blocking to your day will take more time, but you will see an immediate increase in productivity. Get ready to be hooked for life!
When setting up your time blocking planner for the day, write out all the things you need and want to accomplish for that day. Somethings are absolutes, like eating, sleeping, getting the kids ready for school. Other things are more discretionary. Both things should be added to your time block planner.
I’ll use myself as an example. On any given day I may need to write a blog post, create graphics, schedule social media posts, etc. These are not absolute things that HAVE to get done for survival, but are very important to my business. The best way to tackle these discretionary tasks is to prioritize them in order of importance and add them to time blocks.
Strategies for Setting Up a Time Blocking Planner
These strategies will help you set up your time blocking planner and be successful implementing it.
Determine where you spend your time
If you have never blocked out your time, this will be an enlightening task for you. For one week, carry a paper notebook and pen with you, or use the Notes app on your phone. Jot down anything you do for the week and how long each task took you.
This will be uncomfortable for the first day or two, but it will help you focus your energy on the tasks you want to complete and eliminate tasks that are draining your energy.
Decide what to work on in a given day
Not all days are created equal. Yes, the absolute items like eating, sleeping, and getting the kids ready will be scheduled everyday, but it’s likely that work tasks or other personal tasks will vary.
Block out your schedule – use an online calendar or the free printable at the bottom of
this post. Use time blocks for sleeping, meal prep, eating, getting ready, commuting, working, going to the gym, shopping, and anything else you can think of.
This is a good time to be diligent with the tasks you want to commit to and those you want to let go. Perhaps you want to go to the gym 3 days a week, but cannot find a time block for it in your week. Is there something you can move around? Can you ask your partner to put the kids to bed by themselves one night a week so you can squeeze in time at the gym? Having your time blocked out will help you see visually see your time better.
Schedule your hardest tasks first
There is a saying about eating a live frog in the morning before you do anything else (which, yes, it’s supposed to sound awful!). The point is that if you do the hardest thing first, everything else in the day will, by comparison, seem easier. And, even if the only thing you get accomplished that day is the hard thing, then you will be more productive than most people.
So, when looking at your day or week, what is the one thing you can schedule first in your day that you would be proud to say you accomplished?
Use a buffer time block when starting out
I’m not gonna lie, time blocking took me a while to get comfortable with. There are still days I struggle – something unexpected will come up, my daughter will get sick, I lack energy for whatever reason, but it works so well, that I always come back to it.
But, because it can take some time to get used to this way of scheduling, it’s a good idea to block out a buffer time block in the beginning. I still have a catch-all period at the end of the week so I can try to wrap up everything I need to before the weekend.
As you start to recognize how long your tasks take, this buffer time block can be incorporated into something else, or used as time to reward yourself.
Evaluate your time block calendar at the end of every day
For your first two weeks with time blocking, I highly recommend using a paper calendar. Mark on each time block if you were able to complete the task you wanted and evaluate how it went at the end of your day.
This could be at the end of your work day or the end of the day as you are heading to bed. Was there a time of day that you had more or less energy? Did some tasks take longer than expected? Were you able to complete other tasks more quickly? Make adjustments as needed for tomorrow so you can be even more productive.
Add break time into your schedule
All work and no play makes Johnny a dull boy. Same with us. Plus, working non-stop will lead to burnout and exhaustion. You need to work breaks into your schedule so that you can keep up your energy level, work faster, and enjoy what you are doing.
I know, I know…it is so hard to stop when there is so much to do and you’re already struggling to get it all done. But, I promise, it works.
One of my favorite ways to incorporate a break is to set a timer for 25 minutes. I work as fast as I can and race against myself to get as much done before the timer rings. When it buzzes, I step back from my desk and stretch. Then I will get up, fill up my glass of water, make myself a cappuccino, use the restroom, do a few yoga moves, whatever needs to be done or I want to do for 5 minutes. Then I jump back into my schedule.
Commit to your time blocking planner for at least a week
I want you to promise that if you are interested in time blocking that you will give it a full week (two is better) before you pass judgement, say it doesn’t work, or give up. Print out the free time blocking planner included below and fill it out. Commit to working with the schedule you created as closely as possible.
At the end of the week, evaluate how it went. What did you like? What didn’t work well? Then try it again. It gets easier as you continue to use the schedule and it will become like second nature.
Revise your time blocking strategy and try again
If you discover that something didn’t work as you had hoped, rework your schedule and try again. Perhaps you have more energy in the morning (like me!) and discovered it’s best to do your creative work early with more mundane tasks after lunch when your energy is down.
Or perhaps you are like my husband who likes to work later and sleep in longer. It will depend on what works best for you so you might have to experiment a bit.
But, I do know that time blocking will work for you.
Now that you know what time blocking is, how a time blocking planner works, and strategies to make yourself more productive, what are you waiting for? Grab a copy of the free time blocking planner printable and start scheduling your week!
You don’t have to wait for a fresh week to start either. Simply think about how to map out the rest of today or tomorrow and get ready to see your productivity increase. I know you can do it! Let me know how it goes in the comments below.