Time Blocking My Days
A time blocked schedule may seem too regimented or strict - but we all become overwhelmed with juggling work and our personal lives. I tried it out to see if it would help and the result was extremely eye-opening, freeing and exactly what I needed to realize where the problem areas are.
Time blocking is essentially planning out your days from start to finish, laying out what you will do each hour and accounting for how much time you expect it to take. When I first began, I laid out my work duties - items like meetings, writing tasks, time to catch up on my accounting, etc. It looked something like this:
The important thing here is that everything I need to do for the day is captured, and the time estimates are conservative, giving me enough time to breathe or even get ahead on tomorrow’s work. If a task usually takes me 45 minutes, I block one hour. If it takes just 15 minutes, I always book 30 minutes. If I stay on track, there’s plenty of time to look at email, answer a phone call, take a break, run an errand, etc. It’s also easy to tell here in this example that I have an extra hour available if a client should need me for a same-day ask.
Since a lot of my tasks repeat (ex: monitoring a social media account twice per week, planning posts once per month, etc.), I set several tasks to recur, so I don’t even have to lay out my tasks anymore. All I need to do is look at the week and rearrange the tasks to fit around my other obligations.
When all the work blocks are set, I can physically see not only how busy I am, but how I’ll fit in lunch with a friend, an hour of free time, or a day off that I need. Most importantly, I can accurately answer a client when they ask me if I have time for something else, or when they’ll see the project I owe them. I can also see if I have space to take on any new work. It becomes really easy to tell where your time is going - and in my case, to realize which clients are getting most of my energy.
It’s important to note and keep in mind that no day is going to go as planned. Things come up, your mom will call, your dog will get sick, or your meeting will run long. The most beautiful part about the schedule block is that you can see very clearly what you are putting off, where you have space to move it, or how much work you’ll have to do at night to make up for it. You’ll also understand that if you derail and decide to do something that isn’t on your schedule, those hours need to be made up for somewhere along the way, or you’ll need to flag your client that the project will be coming later than planned.
If you find yourself constantly overwhelmed, constantly behind or always late on due dates, I strongly encourage you to try this out to see if it helps. If anything, it will eliminate that messy hand-written sticky note on your desk.