Managing Time Like a Master with Time Blocking

Remember when we talked about calendars and how much I love them? One reason for the love is the ability to block out my time! This lets me create space for all of the lovely things that need to happen each week.

What do you mean, "time blocking"?

Depending how you manage your time, your work and your life - your calendar might be there to remind you of things like dentist appointments, dinners with friends and bill payment deadlines. It might be there to guide your day-to-day timelines or it might cover ALL of the things that you do.

Whichever end of the spectrum you occupy, time blocking is a strategy that can help you focus, can help you achieve more and can help you make progress on the projects you have going!

The strategy is as basic as determining how to spend your day in broad categories, and in short or long lengths of time. You're essentially booking time with yourself to do these things.

Identify the Categories

There may be ongoing activities or appointments that you keep, week-to-week, month-to-month. These are some of the easiest things to time block as you will know when they happen, or at least have an idea of how long you spend on them.

You may categorise other work by the project or by the client, or in the way that suits your workflow best. There might be things like running errands, processing email (notice how I didn't say "checking"? We'll cover this next week!), strategy and planning time blocks too.

Do not forget the breaks!! They are as important to the flow of your day as the working time is. Make sure that you make time for them with specific blocks as well as a bit of "white space" in between time blocks. This gives you a chance to make a cup of tea or to take the dog out for a quick walk.

Batch Tasks

If you're embarking on a time blocking exercise, this is the perfect opportunity to batch your tasks together. Rather than sending invoices Monday mornings, reporting expenses every third Friday and reconciling bank statements every first Thursday, you can group these types of tasks into one "Finances" block where you cover many items that may require you to be logged into the same systems and looking at some of the same data.

If you need to, you can keep a little list of the types of tasks you would perform in the category. Then each time that time block rolls around, you can refer to the list and work through it. Expenses not due for 3 more weeks? Great, you just scored some time for sending invoices. Or, one week of the month where all of the tasks seem to be greater than usual? Well, just ensure that your Finances time block is extended on the corresponding week.

It's OK to be Vague

Leaving a bit of room in your titling is the best way to approach it. Rather than scheduling one hour to "Design Client Logo" you may create a better headspace by calling it "Client Brand Development" as when a task isn't complete in your time block, you may feel like it's hanging on too long by the third or fourth block of "Design Client Logo" whereas if you use broad categories, you can work on any number of tasks within it without feeling like you haven't completed something.

Here is a basic example of one way to block your time out. Notice that there are some blank spaces to allow flexibility and break times. If your work includes a lot of last-minute things then be sure to leave more blank space! It's easy to drag and drop the blocks around during your planning session and you can edit any of the standing blocks to add client names or project details so you know what you're working on during the client work blocks. You can shorten the time blocks to accommodate meetings and other tasks too. Of course, it will vary with your workflow so consider the main categories of tasks that you tend to include in your week. The block titled "Follow Up Friday" is a catch all for tasks that need to be done that week - phone calls to make, articles to send to clients, anything that needs to get done!

Here is a basic example of one way to block your time out. Notice that there are some blank spaces to allow flexibility and break times. If your work includes a lot of last-minute things then be sure to leave more blank space! It's easy to drag and drop the blocks around during your planning session and you can edit any of the standing blocks to add client names or project details so you know what you're working on during the client work blocks. You can shorten the time blocks to accommodate meetings and other tasks too. Of course, it will vary with your workflow so consider the main categories of tasks that you tend to include in your week. The block titled "Follow Up Friday" is a catch all for tasks that need to be done that week - phone calls to make, articles to send to clients, anything that needs to get done!

Task Management Tools

Time blocking's best friend is a task management tool. This lets you keep a running list of what the next action on a project is and when the time block for that project rolls around, you can simply refer to your task list. This way you don't have to get too detailed in the scheduling as long as you know you have set aside a good amount of time for what you want to achieve.

I have a client who manages, runs or works for about six different companies. Making progress on any one of them can feel like a challenge with all of the demands and communication involved in all of them. We set up time blocks to cover about 20 hours of his week and split the time between each company. We've created task lists and tagged them into different categories based on his energy/interest in that area of the business. So when his time block rolls around for Company One and he's feeling creative, he heads to the list of tasks tagged "Creative" for that company and gets into it! This leaves half of the week to manage the reactive tasks from any one business and leaves space to juggle things when he has meetings to attend.

Blocking your time requires planning but usually 15-30 minutes per week is enough to get a decent framework laid out in your calendar for the following week. Of course with a digital one you'll have the luxury of recurring appointments already being there and the rest you can place in where it fits!

If you have any questions about how time blocking would work best for your type of work, ask me in the comments section!