Do you ever feel like you don’t have enough hours in the day? Or have trouble finding time to focus on your business because you have so many other things going on? I’m going to share with you 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 time management 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 a time blocking schedule. It encourages me to focus, it has built-in accountability, and it enables me to be realistic about what I can actually accomplish.
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What is time blocking?
In a nutshell, time blocking is simply assigning your tasks to specific blocks of time during the day. Then you focus on those tasks, and those tasks only, during their assigned time block. Sounds simple, right? It is, and once you incorporate these time blocking tips into your routine, you’ll be a productivity powerhouse.
What are some of the benefits of using time blocks?
- It minimizes the effect of false urgency. 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 of time, you’ll get more accomplished faster.
- It builds a habit of discipline. Yes, working in time blocks requires discipline. And that’s a good thing. A habit of discipline will carry you through times when you feel unmotivated to work.
- It give you peace of mind. Once you get used to time blocking and you see how much more you accomplish using this method, you’ll feel more at peace because you will know that you are working on your most important priorities and that you are actually accomplishing 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.
Ready to try time blocking? Grab my free time blocking planner and get started today.
Getting started: how to time block
Step 1: Determine the hours you have available to work in the upcoming week
The first step is to determine the hours that you have available to work each week. 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. 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, calls, daily tasks, current projects, and tasks from your monthly or quarterly plan. Hopefully, you have some sort of master task list that you can refer to. I look at my list of Upcoming tasks in Asana, which makes it super-easy to make my weekly list.
Estimate how much time you need to spend on each item in your list and then total it up. If you’re anything like me, your first time 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 a later date, delegated to someone else, or eliminated altogether?
Step 3: Block out your fixed appointments
The next step is to start scheduling your blocks of time. Do this in the format that works best for you. You can schedule your time blocks in an actual calendar – paper or digital. 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 of time 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. 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 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. I’m also redoing EBA, so I block out an hour every morning to work on that.
Step 5: Fill in the rest of your time blocks
Now you should be able to see all the blocks of time that you have remaining to work on projects. For simplicity’s sake, I like to keep these at a fairly high level. For example, I’ll include a large block for writing a blog post, rather than including 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
# 1 key to time blocking success
The number one key to being successful with time blocking is to use 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 time blocks.
I like to think of this time 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 time blocking schedule. Be ruthless when you prune your list. Ask yourself if each task is really going to 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.
By tracking your time spent, you will become much better at estimating how long a task or project takes. It will also help you hold yourself accountable. If you planned 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 time blocks blank so that you have a buffer zone to accommodate the unexpected.
Stay in the flow with batch scheduling
Try to group similar tasks together in batches. It’s more efficient to work on a project in a group of consecutive blocks because you will get into the flow. Every time you switch projects, your brain has to adjust and you lose time and momentum getting started on the next project.
Don’t forget to schedule in 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 time blocks more effective.
A lot of people like the Pomodoro technique where you work for 25 minutes, then take a 5-minute break, with a longer 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 time blocking schedule.
Block out personal and family time
Don’t forget about your life. Block out the times that you want to spend on yourself and your family. This will keep work from creeping into your personal time. For example, I work out an hour each day, so I include workout time when I’m scheduling my routine tasks. I also block out Friday afternoons to spend with my family.
How to use your time blocking 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? Last week, I forgot to block out time to write 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.
At the end of the day, look back at all you accomplished and pat yourself on the back.
Set up your time blocking schedule & take action
Time blocking is a powerful technique that will help you organize your day and allow you to get a massive amount of work done.
If you aren’t sure that time blocking is for you, then dip your toe in the water. 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 takes time. But it is so worth it when you finally have control over your day and you can fit all the really important things in, including time for yourself and your family.
Download my weekly time blocking template to take control of your day.