After months of seeing unchecked tasks on my to-do list at the end of the day and making hardly any progress toward my long-terms goals, I knew something had to give.
I was making all the plans and writing all the lists, but it took just a few phone calls, texts, emails, and—yep—even family members to interrupt my productivity flow. I often scratched my head at 10pm, wondering where the day went and how I had managed to accomplish so little!
A friend recommended I try time-blocking and the efficiency nerd in me jumped at the chance to give this productivity method a shot.
Because the results? They spoke for themselves.
She accomplished more in a day than I was in a week. And while I definitely don't have the unlimited energy she has (let's just be real), I made MORE progress than I ever did before just by implementing this simple technique.
What IS Time Blocking?
A basic definition of time blocking is “blocking off” a time of day to accomplish a certain task. It's that simple! You can do this by assigning a task to every hour of each day, or blocking off 2-3 hours at a time to tackle different projects or categorized tasks.
Before I was writing my to-do lists without an overarching strategy—so every task looked like a priority. It was difficult to decide what to do because there was no rhyme or reason to what I wrote down.
But with time-blocking, I was able to…
- Plan more easily because I knew exactly what to do and when.
- Say goodbye to distraction and focus my attention on one task until it was complete.
- Be more efficient. With a set time to batch similar tasks, I didn't have to spend extra time shifting out of one “task type” and into another.
In other words, with time-blocking, you become proactive about your time. Rather than living each day reacting to all the balls thrown your way in the form of emails to answer, random tasks to handle, etc.
How to Get Started with Time Blocking
Step 1: Categorize Your Life
Take a look at the types of tasks (or events or responsibilities) you have each week and group them into similar categories.
For instance, you probably deal with all or a combination of these categories in any given day: Housework, errands, work, school, etc.
But don't forget to make room for your goals too! If you have a project you want to finish, a book you want to write, or a fitness program you want to complete, schedule time blocks to work on those and see just how much progress you can make toward your goals when you schedule time for them!
I personally break down my day into FOUR major blocks:
- Morning and Evening Routines
- Strategic Blocks (this is my work time in which I complete projects according to each day's focus—I actually break this down into two more blocks as seen in the photo below)
- Buffer Blocks (flexible margin time for administrative tasks like email and phone calls)
- Breakout Blocks (housework, errands, fitness, and personal time)
The Strategic, Buffer, and Breakout Blocks are terms based on The 12-Week Year by Brian P. Moran (which I highly recommend!).
Step 2: Create Your Ideal Schedule
Warning: Time blocking doesn't work if you don't actually block off the time. So after you've specified your life categories, the next step is to create your ideal schedule, which should include all your blocks.
Plan Your Ideal Week
Because the goal of time blocking is to allow you to focus only on one of your “blocks” during a certain time of day, try to assign the blocks that require the most of you during times when you have the least distractions and the most energy and focus.
For me, this is during 10am-12pm every day except Friday (that's when I tend to check out!). During that two-hour window each day, I work on my 12-Week Goals, write blog posts, and write my Saturday newsletter when I'm most awake and able to concentrate.
Likewise, batch little tasks together that are more like busy-work for times when you feel “meh.” By 3pm, I'm losing steam, which is why I tackle things like email instead of big projects that require major attention.
Step 3: Use time-blocking to write your daily to-do list
The last step is to write your daily to-do lists based on your time-blocked weekly schedule.
You can do this in two ways:
- Get a planner (like the Day Designer or Living Well Planner) that already has times blocked out for you.
- Use a method like I do in my bullet journal where I assign a block to every task on my list.
Because I don't have a pre-made planner, I jot down an overview of all the tasks I want to complete each week on my Weekly Log, then migrate them over when I create each daily layout. You'll notice that I use Morning, Afternoon, and Evening time blocks here because these are my big rocks that I need to focus on for the week.
When it comes time to create my Daily Log, I assign each task to more specific time block, as well as add in some of the tasks that popped up after I completely my Weekly Log.
- B1 = My first Buffer Block
- T = Tiger Time (the highly focused part of my Strategic Block. “Tiger Time” is a term from Amy Porterfield and means you guard this time like a mama tiger would her cub!)
- A = Afternoon Block (the 2nd portion of my Strategic Block)
- B1 = My second Buffer Block
- B = Breakout Block
Pro Tip: I set reminder alarms on my phone to let me know when it’s time to move from one block to the other—one 15 minutes before each block and one at the start of the next block. Game-changer!
The key is to plan your time according to how much you can reasonably fit into that time block. Always schedule in more time than you think the task or project will take. This eliminates overwhelm AND disappointment when you don't get everything done you thought you would!
After your first successful week of time blocking, you'll quickly understand why this productivity technique is a game-changer. Instead of feeling anxious about how much you have to get done, you'll become strategic and intentional about your approach.
You'll never wonder what to get done and when, because you now have an organized plan set in place.
And when Friday morning arrives, you can bask in the glory of all you accomplished without spending your entire Saturday playing catch-up!
Let's chat about time blocking:
Have you ever tried this productivity method before?
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