Time is possibly the most important resource available to us yet I am often surprised to find that many people don’t direct their time. It’s easy to just go through the days and weeks only putting the major events on the calendar such as birthdays, vacations and holidays.
But what happens when we intentionally and deliberately start planning out our days? How much clarity can we gain by not only blocking out what our days look like but also planning ahead to make that happen? I have seen a significant amount of change and momentum happen when we start paying careful attention to our time.
Enter Time Blocking
1. Choose How You Will Keep Track
What calendar system are you going to use? Google calendar? Outlook? Paper calendar? Both? If you are not already using something, I highly recommend choosing a digital calendar that is easy for you to use and share with family, friends and colleagues. It doesn’t matter what you choose, but it is important to keep track.
My wife and I have multiple calendars we share so that we don’t schedule over each other, can keep track of events, and can see the daily time slots that are being used to create the life we want. There are different colors for clients, personal, and business so that it is very clear where time is being spent.
2. Start With the Big Picture
What are you trying to accomplish? In your business, work life or personal life? For example: In your work, perhaps you have a 3 month project coming up. What is the big, overarching goal for that? Now break that down into months. What needs to be accomplished each month? Then what needs to be accomplished each week and day?
Once you have the basic outline planned out it makes the planning and daily process much easier. You can use this same process for your personal goals. Let’s say you have a goal to run a 10K in 3 months. What if instead of saying, “I’m going to try and run 3 times/week,” you scheduled it on your calendar as if it was an important work meeting?
To make that even more clear, you can plan out what each of those runs would look like for time and intensity.
3. Define the “Big Rocks”
What is the MOST important thing that needs to get done on a weekly basis? When will you do that? What days and times are the best to make that happen?
Once you figure out what these things are, put them on the calendar first. Block out the time slots you will devote to focusing on them. These big rocks should be things that have the biggest impact on moving you forward.
4. Create Your “Do Not Disturb” Time Blocks
As human beings we pride ourselves on being “good multi-taskers” but the reality is that we waste a TON of energy switching back and forth between activities. Going from working on something creative, to answering the phone, back to the creative project, then someone walking in the room and interrupting to ask a question, and then seeing a notification that distracts us again (and on and on) is an example of what reality looks like much of the time.
The problem is that this is so very inefficient and really slows down the potential of what we can accomplish. To combat this, I highly recommend writing out all of the activities you do that would get done MUCH faster if you had zero interruptions. Then write down how many hours you think you could save if you had no interruptions.
How much is that time savings worth to you? How can we actually accomplish this? Set yourself up for times during the week to block out DND periods where email is closed, phone is silenced, and you have communicated with your co-workers directly that this time is completely devoted to your focused attention to complete what is needed without interruption.
99% of the time, that email or phone call can wait, the question can be answered in an hour or two and you really don’t need to talk about what happened on the weekend right now. The key to making this work successfully is to make sure you communicate with your team/boss/coworkers in a respectful manner why you are doing it.
Explain to them how it will actually help the whole team (including them). To make it even more effective, ask what those activities are for them and respect their DND time as well. Give each other permission to say “I’m in my DND time right now” and with no questions asked walk away and let them have that time.
5. Fill in the Rest
After you have the big picture, big rocks and DND time written out on your calendar, fill in the rest of your smaller tasks. Organize your days and weeks that make most sense for the work you need to do and keep in mind when you personally have the best energy.
Are you a morning person who can crank out tougher challenges in the morning? Or are you a night owl who really gets in the zone at night? Scheduling your days and weeks according to how you work can even further help in using time effectively and efficiently.
Time blocking is not something you just set and forget. It is something that will need constant tweaking and changes as life evolves. Maybe you find a solid plan that works for a period of time but then life changes and it doesn’t really make sense any more. Expect that will happen and always be willing to make adjustments.
Time management is one of my favorite tools in the toolbox. The mindset I like to use is that it really shows you CARE. Instead of viewing it as something you have to do, or just another task, try shifting to “I have the opportunity to create my days, weeks and months. I care about how I spend my life and therefore care about how I spend my time.”
Pick up a copy of David’s free workbook “The Pursuit” and uncover what makes you feel alive and start becoming the most fulfilled, authentic, and fully alive version of yourself possible.