Time Blocking: The Answer to Getting Organized
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Time Blocking is a very effective method to reduce the overload and increase productivity. It just may be your answer to getting organized. You’ll accomplish goals and bring balance and organization to your life by implementing a few simple tricks.
I began working full-time right out of college. Adulting kicked in fast when I had kids. I had to figure out how to fit in work, keep a clean home, cook, work out, run kids around, have a social life, self-care, go to church and have downtime with my family — without losing my mind. Trying to find balance was an uphill battle.
To be honest, it took me years before it clicked and I developed my own system of “intervalling.” To my surprise it turns out to be what is commonly referred to as time blocking.
Time blocking is a scheduling method to improve productivity. Setting goals for what you want to accomplish and giving deadlines. By dedicating a certain number of minutes or hours to just one task, you designate your time and don’t worry about the other projects. This allows you to keep focused on the task because you know it will end soon. It’s also a motivation to get as much done as possible in that window.
Why Highly Effective People Use Time Blocking, on Forbes.com notes an example of Abby Lawson, a successful entrepreneur and author of the blog Just a Girl and Her Blog, where she offers advice on how to keep a beautiful home, life and business. She earns over half a million dollars from her business and time blocks daily.
“Ordinary people think of merely spending time, great people think of using it.”
It’s easy to make a to-do list but when we get busy, things can quickly slide. For that not to happen, the necessary action step is to actually block off uninterrupted time for each specific task. Block off the time, focus, and shut off your mind to everything else.
In a May 2018 post from Create a Daily Routine with Calendar Time blocking it is noted that there are two principles that time blocking helps protect against:
Zeigarnik Effect: “People remember uncompleted or interrupted tasks better than completed tasks” — By having everything scheduled, you don’t have to use as much mental capacity to constantly think about uncompleted tasks.
Parkinson’s Law: “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion” — Scheduling tasks allows you to put a start and end time to them so they don’t constantly linger forever.
For me, I’ve always made lists, but it’d be like 101 things I knew needed to get done, weighing on my mind constantly like a pinball machine in my head. However, when I learned about intentionally living, I started plotting projects on a calendar with reasonable blocks of times spread out over the year, week or day; being realistic of when they could get done.
Many people may enjoy Google calendar or other apps, but I still like to use a written calendar for my time blocking. There’s just something nice about visually seeing the day and having it in my hands. I often use different colored pens to make it fun and artsy.
Break it down into increments
Having a ton of responsibilities, I have to break things down into increments, set a time frame, complete it, and then moving on to the next task.
A few years ago, I would have said I’d never have time to maintain a blog since I run a house, raise kids and work full-time. But, the idea forced me to examine my day and recognize that I could designate realistic and specific time slots in order to do it. All the while, keeping in mind that I didn’t want it to interfere with all of my other responsibilities.
For some reason, when I’m completing a task in my time block I visualize high school swim practice. In swimming practice, there were intervals. I might swim five laps, rest for 30 seconds, then swim five more, rest again and repeat. Always throwing in a little rest in between so it doesn’t feel like I’m living by the clock without time for relaxation. Swimming is why before I learned of term time blocking, I used to refer to it as “intervalling.”
During those short breaks I do something relaxing — pet my dog, paint my nails, flip through a magazine, color, etc It’s like free rest time and since I know it’s a short window and limited, I allow myself to be present and mindful in that moment. Which has been a nice change from feeling constantly run ragged.
Once I get the tasks plotted out, it’s like ready set go and I may spend 30 minutes tidying up. Take a break, then spend 30 minutes folding laundry. When the timer goes off (I use Alexa) then it’s time to stop, take a break, and then reset it and move to the next block off time.
Track your day
For awhile there my responsibilities felt huge and my time small. But, once I started tracking my actual time I found chunks of time that were actually being wasted, while the to-do list remained untouched.
I found there were plenty of times in my day where I wasn’t productive and my mind was all over the place.
Time blocking doesn’t have to be for chores. It’s important to block in self-care and down time. It can be blocks of time to phone a friend or write a thank you note.
I’ve been trying lately to plot some blocks of time in a balanced and intentional way. For example, if I’d like to spend some one-on-one time with one of my daughters I might block out 3 hours on a Saturday. I block out a few hours on a Wednesday for my husband. A few hours monthly for my extended family and my book club.
I block out alone time where I can spend some time in my self-care routine. When it’s done, I move to the next block of time.
Time blocking can be a huge help for nailing mundane tasks so they don’t pile up, such as:
Cleaning the refrigerator
Washing the car
If you haven’t tried it, it may sound initially like you are tied to a clock. But, for me it’s actually freeing. I feel so much less overwhelmed because I’ve made my list of things, big and small, that need to get done and plotted them out so I can forget about them. In doing so, I can focus on the block of time at the moment.
The more I have gotten into this productive planning and am seeing the amount of overwhelming projects I knock out when I am focused, the more I am energized. I have started waking up earlier to guarantee I have my necessary block of morning alone time and I love it.
“Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.” – Benjamin Franklin
Sometimes I get a strange look when I don’t have to be to work till 8 a.m., but I say enjoy waking up at 4:30 a.m. It allows me time to ease into my morning. I set the alarm and allow myself an hour of coffee and devotional time. Then a half hour of social media and a half hour of exercise, half hour for the shower and getting dressed. Sometimes I even throw dinner in the crock pot — all before the family wakes up!
Once the family wakes up I have already been so productive that I am able to attentively focus on them, allowing us to all leave on a pleasant note.
It’s good to block some time in the evening for time block planning for the next day. It only takes a few minutes to plot out, but it can improve your day and the amount of things you accomplish.
Another trick that helps me a lot is a little over estimating rather than underestimating how long each task takes. Give a reasonable amount of time to complete a project, but not too much that it becomes stressful.
Do you time block? If not will you try it? If so, how does it work for you?