Planning and organisation has never scared me, that is one beast I have successfully slayed time and time again. BC – Before Child, that is – I was an absolute master at getting things done. Heck, at one stage in 2015 I was attending TAFE full time, finishing my final subject at university, working part-time/casual, and finalising our wedding plans. Of course I knew how drastically life would change when I became a mum, but I didn’t realise just how much I would be relying on five or 10 minute pockets of time here and there, or how much I needed a tablet. Our daughter would only sleep if I was beside her from about 12 weeks of age right through to about 18 months of age. And let’s not forget all the moments where she wanted to play with me, from about age 10 months.
During these trying times (I don’t like to sugarcoat these things) I realised I needed to up the ante. I needed to apply new methods and practices to get things done. That’s when I rediscovered time blocking. And yes, that’s not a typo. I rediscovered time blocking.
What is time blocking?
To put it simply, time blocking is an effective time management tool to help you move forward in your business. It helps you achieve your long-term goals. Rather than working off a daily to do list, time blocking involves you assigning time to specific tasks when you are most productive. For example, my work day begins at 10am and finishes at 4pm. Applying time blocking methods allows me to reach peak productivity and (mostly) avoid distractions. Disclosure: I am human and sometimes I get distracted.
As an entrepreneur, a mum, and a wife, working from home can be distracting. Having physical reminders of my time blocking methods in place helps keep me focused greatly. I have two full days a week, Tuesday and Wednesday, of child-free time. For six hours, twice a week, I need to complete or continue on with client projects, I need to eat lunch, and I need to work on my business. I also work Thursday and Friday mornings, however these days are dedicated to personal development and moving me forward in my business.
Beneath my keyboard, I have an Ideal Work Week schedule. Although it’s labelled ‘Ideal Work Week’, it also includes our full family schedule. My work time is highlighted and the remainder is white. Each hour of the day is accounted for. While some people see it as restrictive, I see it as proactive, flexible, and freeing. It allows me to focus on what really needs to be done to move my business forward, to help me achieve my long-term goals.
How to apply time blocking to your business
Before we get down to it, first you need to jot down all the things you do in your day for your business, and in your daily life. Include things like groceries and errands, family activities, your ‘me’ time, content creation, product development, client meetings, travel (if you have set travel times). You need to account for everything.
Take a look at your list. Can you see anything that might be holding you back, or perhaps takes up more time than it should? What about looking at the other side of the coin, the tasks that really move you and your business forward, the tasks that need to be done. Once you’ve got your list sorted, it’s time to start working on allocating the tasks to your daily schedule. And don’t worry, you don’t have to go and create yourself a spreadsheet, I’ve done that for you!
Allocating tasks for productivity
To get the most out of time blocking, it’s a great idea to identify when you are most and least productive throughout the day. Myself, I am productive throughout most of the day as long as I have a clear outline of what is expected of me. The exception is around lunch time or early afternoon. My shoulders are slumping, my neck is stiff, and I’m usually starting to get hungry. That’s when it’s time for food and Netflix. I generally take between 30 minutes to one hour, depending on how I’m feeling and how much work is currently on my desk. The beauty of time blocking is that you can schedule in time for self care. Lunch breaks are a vital self care activity. Whatever you do, don’t skip them!
When you have identified your most productive time of day, put your hard-basket tasks in that super productivity zone. Give yourself a head start into achieving and knocking that hard-basket task right off of its perch. You’re not going to want to tackle that yucky task when you’re feeling flat or distracted. Instead, allocate yourself one hour – to begin, this is a new practice for you, you can make it longer when you are comfortable with time blocking – to tackle that hard-basket task. Whether you use a physical time schedule or you block the time out in your electronic calendar, stick to it.
Now that the hard-basket stuff is in your super productive zone, pop your easier tasks in your less productive times. These are the tasks you can bump off quickly and with ease.
How I use time blocking in my week
At the time of writing, my major focus is to complete my The Makers Academy (side note: if you decide to join the Makers Academy using that link provided, I will receive a small commission) Clever Foxes Business Fundamentals course work. My goal is to have that completed by 30 June 2019. Using my MiGoals 2019 Goal Digger Planner – by the way, not an affiliate link – I can identify each week three goals that will help me achieve my long-term goals. Each week of June, my three weekly goals will be to complete various sections of the coursework. Below the Weekly Goals is a Things To Do list. Ideally this list is best for allocating the tasks inside of completing your weekly goals. Of course if you need to add other tasks go right ahead, that’s what it’s there for, so you don’t forget!
Along with my MiGoals Planner lists, I know that Thursday morning is my time for professional development. That is the time I sit down for three to four hours and just power through as much as I can. And you know what, I feel amazing knowing that I am using my time wisely to be as productive as I possibly can, and to achieve my goals (short, mid, and long-term goals).
Knowing what works for you – and what doesn’t
That chart above is my new Ideal Work Week. Just this week, actually as I was writing this blog post, I revamped and rejigged my priorities and weekly tasks. I’d been in a bit of a slump, I haven’t been as productive as I could be. And I’m human so that is totally okay. You might think it’s a bit rich, me saying that I have been in a slump and being unproductive, writing a blog post about how to be productive. Here’s the thing: Realising this weakness is a really great thing for me. It means that I was able to identify that things needed a shake up, that my confidence and ideas needed a boost. I needed a reminder that there is room for growth and moving forward.
Recognising that I needed to shift my mindset – because yes, that’s exactly what this is, it’s a mindset shift – allows me to find clarity and direction. It allows me to create more content for you. It also reminds me how valuable time blocking is as a business – and life – practice.
Knowing that time blocking is how I work best gives me the flexibility to work productively. Another moment of truth: I didn’t start with one hour of time blocking. I dived into the deep end headfirst. But, I knew I’d be okay because I thrive in a highly planned and organised environment.
Sometimes, if my day was a little skewwhiff, I will take some of my chill out time in the evening and do non-urgent tasks like my Makers Academy work or my Social Method Society work. I’m totally okay with that because I’m still doing something for me. I’m moving forward.
Do you have little ones at home? How do you get it all done? Do you think you’d like to give time blocking a go? Let’s help each other out – let me know in the comments.