What is time blocking? What are the benefits of time blocking and how do I do it? The idea of limiting the time you spend on tasks is a direct response to Parkinson’s law, which argues that work expands to fill the time we assign it. According to the time blocking theory, the stricter we are with the time we give to each task, the more focused and results-driven our work output will be.
I don’t know about you but this is so true for me. Ever had an unexpected phone call from a friend that they’re coming over in 30 minutes? I can somehow get THE WHOLE HOUSE cleaned in those 30 minutes when it would usually take me 3 hours!
I’ll talk you through the benefits of time blocking, some tips to get you started and whether time blocking online or on paper is the best option for you.
Time Blocking in Private Practice
What often happens is we schedule distractions and not the real work. Doctors’ appointments, kids after school activities, meetings. These important and necessary things get scheduled in our calendar but we do not schedule the work that we need to complete each day.
You schedule you client sessions but do you schedule your admin? Your invoicing, client paperwork, emails, report writing, social media planning. The list goes on….and on.
Benefits of Time Blocking
Entrepreneurs on average can work 63% longer hours than employees per week. Over time this will catch up with you and you will experience burn out. Time blocking is one way you can help reduce these working hours.
Focuses your time
When you use time blocking it allows you to focus your time on one activity at a time. Research has shown that switching from task to task reduces productivity. If you’re multi-tasking you are much more prone to distraction.
Keeps you on track
When the day is planned out for you it allows you to stay on track and keeps you motivated. In addition, having a to do list can tell you WHAT you need to do but time blocking tells you WHEN you’re going to do it. Seeing your schedule getting ticked off can be a huge boost in motivation.
Helps your sleep
With all that productivity you’re producing it will reduce the number of late nights and early mornings. Unless those are your most motivated hours! People also have a tendency to remember what they haven’t done as opposed to what they have. This can lead to anxiety and disrupted sleep. Time blocking can give you a sense of control over your workload and therefore you will not need to worry about what hasn’t been completed.
Defend your calendar
Time blocking ensures that new tasks cannot work their way onto your schedule. They need to be qualified and booked into your schedule.
Reflect on your priorities
Going through your to dos each week or night can help you reflect on what really needs to be done. This ensures you don’t procrastinate what actually needs to be done with tasks that are not important. A lot of what we need to do takes up a lot of mental energy. Planning this out in advance and giving yourself a time frame to complete it can reduce the cognitive load.
“Research suggests that in an eight-hour day, the average worker is only productive for two hours and 53 minutes”www.inc.com
Tips for Time Blocking
Below are some tips which will help you get the maximum benefits of time blocking.
1. Schedule in advance
The best time to time block is either on a Friday afternoon for the following week or on Monday morning. If you’re doing a daily time block do this the evening before. I personally time block each week the same way and then fill in the blanks of the actual to do’s each evening for the next day.
2. Be specific
When you block out time don’t be vague about what you are going to do during it. Be as specific as you can be. If you’re working on some business-related tasks list what are they actually going to be.
3. Be realistic
Don’t overstretch yourself each day. You’ll only have tasks left over that you didn’t get time to complete which is not the point of time blocking. A good idea is to start timing yourself completing regular tasks to see how long they take you. You might be surprised by the results! Then once you have an idea of the average time you can time block these tasks more realistically.
4. Stick to the plan
Do your best to start and stop according to the plan. That said, you may need to make adjustments during the day, but simply re-organise the day. The more you time-block, the easier it becomes. To keep yourself on track set hourly alarms on your phone or use a visual timer which shows you how long you have left.
5. Create theme days
This can also be called batching where you complete a specific task all in one go. For example, you can complete all your invoicing for the month in one go or write all your progress reports. Mixing batching and time blocking can have huge time saving benefits.
6. Schedule breaks
Ensure you schedule in your breaks. If a lot of your work is on the computer you will need to take regular breaks to walk about, stretch and rest your eyes. Try to complete full tasks but then before switching to a new one schedule in a break to help refocus your mind.
7. Give yourself a treat
Since you are going to be so much more productive during your working day, schedule in a treat for yourself. This might be a Netflix binge in the evening, dinner with a friend (please please let this be a thing we’re allowed to do again soon). Whatever will get you motivated to complete the tasks and stay on track.
Online v Handwritten
The trick is to keep time blocks as small as possible. Sticking to fifteen-minute time blocks can help you keep more on track than allowing a whole hour. If you give yourself too much time to complete a task you will either take that long to complete it or get distracted easily.
There are time blocking apps that can help you. You can use your Google Calendar. Here you can set alarms and colour code which I always find useful. You can also be super specific with the time allowance. The key is to keep it very simple so you don’t spend all your time updating the schedule! Plan is a simple app that integrates with your google or outlook calendar. Its free for up to 4 members.
I personally like to time block using a combination of my calendar and a paper document. I time block the big chunks using my calendar so I know what I’m doing when. Then I break down those chunks on paper with the actual tasks I will complete. I run my own business, work with a VA myself and have multiple clients. If I constantly switch from client to client and task to task I get much less work completed. I also like to physically cross or tick things off a list. I feel a much higher sense of accomplishment this way.
To get you started, I have created a totally free download for you which has two different versions of time blocking depending on how you best like to complete this. You can download it by clicking the link HERE and you don’t even need to enter your email address to get it. I’d love you to post a copy of yours filled in once you’ve completed it on the Facebook post accompanying this blog.
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