Melissa’s Planning Series: Part 2 – Time Blocking

Ever feel like you are only productive for 2 – 3 hours per day despite having an 8-hour workday?

That’s because “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion” – otherwise known as Parkinson’s Law.

When this happens we need to create internal barriers for our brain, helping us to refocus on the task at hand. What we need to do is plan

Last week I was extolling the virtues of using a spider diagram to help plan your day or week ahead.

This week I want to focus on time blocking, also known as diary blocking, as used by some of the busiest people in the world (we’re looking at you Elon Musk and Bill Gates) to help plan and get the most out of their days.

What is time blocking?

It is the practice of planning your day in blocks of time.

You can take this to the extreme like Elon Musk who uses this method to plan out his day in 5-minute increments, but I recommend using this technique to plan your day in 30 or 60 minute blocks of time.

This simple and highly effective tool allows you to focus on one specific task at a time.

I promise you will become more productive as a result of using this technique.

So what are the benefits of time blocking?

  • It forces you to fill up your time with pre-planned tasks
  • It reduces the number of choices you have in a specific ‘block’ of time
  • It helps you to focus, and avoid distractions (Instagram scrolling anyone?!)
  • It’s simple, easy and effective way to time manage
  • It helps us to take control of our time

How can you use the time blocking method?

  • Start with your personal priorities.  Block time in your diary for the things that matter outside of work, for example; 1 hour in the morning for exercise, 2 hours at the end of the day to be with the kids, 30 minutes for a walk at lunch and so on
  • Next look at your work-day, start by setting aside blocks for your deep-focus, or meaningful, tasks at a time when you know you can be most productive i.e. first thing in the morning
  • Next find time for those reactive (or shallow) tasks that take place every-day – checking / replying to emails, client calls, meeting prep

Once you have all these blocks in place you can start populating them with specific tasks and current projects.

You can use time blocking on a daily or weekly basis, but always give yourself the flexibility that unexpected things will always crop up during any given day or week.

With this in mind, it’s beneficial not to block out every single minute of the day but give yourself certain focus power hours or blocks where you know you can 100% commit and focus on the task at hand.

An example of how I use time blocking to plan my day:

My daily plan revolves around my children, my well-being and my work (in that order)!

This week I used time blocking to plan my Monday:

  1. I blocked out the school drop-off and pick-up times
  2. I fixed a hard stop time for my working day (so that I can wind down and have an enjoyable evening with my husband instead of working into the night)
  3. I blocked an hour at lunch for my weekly swim with a friend (an absolutely non-negotiable hour of ‘me time’ each week)
  4. I could then see where I had blocks available to focus on two important tasks that day (Instagram content plan, and a deep-focus bookkeeping task for a client)
  5. I filled up my remaining blocks with 30 and 60 minute slots for checking emails, checking in with my team, and a couple of client calls.

Here are some top tips for time blocking:

  • Don’t forget buffer time – you can’t switch from one task to another instantly, allow yourself at least 10 – 15 minutes between tasks
  • Schedule breaks, exercise, time with your family and friends
  • Always overestimate the time it will take you to complete a task
  • Think about scheduling an over-flow day, in case you are de-railed by an unexpected event mid-week!

Finally, don’t forget to be flexible. There’s a reason why Elon Musk is Elon Musk! You don’t have to block out and plan every single minute of every day, but by starting with a few important tasks you will soon realise how beneficial this tool can be in boosting productivity, and mood!

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