Time Blocking: A Simple Guide

You can live your life proactively or re-actively.  Living proactively means that you are designing your days around the tasks that will help you accomplish your longer-term goals.  Living re-actively means that you either don’t have a design to your days, or that you have a design but you don’t stick to it for whatever reason.  The reasons can include your own procrastination, or letting others push their goals onto your day.  The latter happens when you subscribe to the false thinking that someone else’s goals are more important than yours.  If you are in the habit of living re-actively it can be a hard habit to break, but time blocking can help.

What is time blocking?

In my previous post I explained how to determine “what” you should be doing and the tools I use to manage my day. That’s the first part of productivity.  Today, I’m going to discuss the second part which is daily time blocking.  Time blocking is the process of arranging your tasks into the hours of a day to achieve max productivity.  It’s how you design your days in a pro-active way, vs. being reactive to the demands of others. [pic of calendar]

Below, I am going to quickly describe my process for daily time blocking, and how you can develop a similar plan.  This is meant to be a very fast and effective way to get started with time-blocking, not the end all solution.

Step 1: Determine your most and least productive times of the day

This is different for each person.  I am a morning person naturally, and I think it will always be that way.  By 9 pm I am ready for bed, and by 6 am I am ready to get up and start the day.  My most productive time of the day is from 6 am – 9 am.  This is the time that I really feel renewed and able to think deeply and get my best ideas.  The important aspect here is not whether you are a morning person or a night person, but to realize when your most productive time is and maximize that time.

Action item: Decide on a 60 minute block of time that is your most productive time.

Step 2: Schedule it and Stick to it

Schedule out right now when your time is going to be.  Start with only 60 mins, but book it and put it on the calendar.  Experiment with doing this just for 7 days.  Don’t make a big commitment… You don’t need to.  You just need to book 60 minutes of time when you feel the best during an average day.

Do not let anyone, under any circumstances, disturb you during your productive time.  This is YOUR time, and despite the current thoughts you may have, it’s not too much to ask.  Turn off all distractions.  Email, phone and chat should all be turned off during this time.

Action item: Book the 60 minutes on your calendar for each of the next 7 days

Here’s how it looks:

Step 3: Put the most important tasks in your 60 minute slot

At this point, you’ve figured out what your optimal time of the day is, and booked it on the calendar.  Now, the last thing you want to do is to waste that time with mindless work (email).  Instead, focus on the tasks that really require your thought and focus.  For me, it’s items like sales copy, product requirements, or designing marketing plans.

Move the really hard tasks to the 60 minute block. Otherwise you’ll push them to the back, and they won’t get the attention that they deserve. This naturally moves the easy stuff like emails, follow up phone calls, etc.. to the times when your mind is not 100%.  This is the mindless work, don’t get caught spending your most productive time on the least meaningful work.

Action item: Place one important task on each calendar item

Here’s an example of what a calendar item looks like:

OK, so that’s my very simplistic plan to get started with time blocking.  Those 60 minutes a day will end up being some of your best.

Time blocking has proven to be very effective for me. What are the most effective methods you use to get the most out of every day?

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