A few weeks ago, I transitionned from a 9-5 job to self employement. Which is great news, but also comes with some challenges in terms of planning and time management.
One of the time management technique I’ve been using for a while is time blocking. And now that I’m free to manage my time the way I want, I rely on the time blocking technique more than ever!
Let me explain you how the time blocking technique works and how it improved my productivity!
What is time blocking ?
The time blocking technique is a way to manage time by basically blocking time to work on a specific task. This approach of time management allows to better manage your task list and schedule. It can be used at work, but also for anything personal (hobbies, family time…).
The time blocking technique is also a great way to keep the time you spend on a task under control, but it also helps to avoid the risk of distraction and zapping.
That’s actually to help me prevent the zapping effect that I first started to use time blocking. I tend to procrastinate things that I don’t like to do, or to start them for 5 minutes before I drop them to work on something more fun.
The time blocking technique is pretty simple to implement: you basically start by creating a list of things to do, and you then block time to work on them, trying to set the right amount of time to complete them. You can see this as if you were making an appointment with yourself, aiming to work on a very specific task.
How to use the time blocking technique to get organized
My organisation system relies on both a weekly plan, and a daily to do list that I manage using time blocking.
I usually get ready for the week ahead on Sunday night. It’s the perfect time for me to start a new weekly list by referring to my projects plans and migrating the uncompleted task from the week before.
I then plan everyday in the morning (with a cup of tea and my cat on my lap). After several attempts to get into an evening routine, I have to admit that I’m basically not functional enough after 6pm to start organise anything for the day ahead…
You can use the time blocking technique in both your PROJO planner or online calendar.
How do I use time blocking on a daily basis?
And more importantly how can YOU use the time blocking technique to get things done?
👉🏻 The first step is to create a to-do list for the week or the day ahead of you. Write down any tasks that comes to your mind: the tasks that will help you move your projects forward, and all the other tasks that help you keep the chaos under control.
👉🏻 Split this task list in two categories: the big tasks, and the small ones. The big tasks are the ones that will require more than 10 minutes to complete. For me, it can be writing a blog post or taking pictures, but it also applies to my personal tasks such as grocery shopping of deep cleaning of my flat.
The small tasks are the ones that you can achieve in less than 10 minutes (sending messages, placing an order, doing a laundry…).
👉🏻 Once this double task list is done, open your PROJO planner weekly spread or open a new tab on your laptop (I’m using Google agenda in case you were wondering). Start to time block the tasks of your list, trying to set the right amount of time for each task.
I never plan time blocks that last more than 2 hours. It’s my own limit of time. I know I can’t stay focused on something for longer, and I also like to vary the tasks during the day to keep me motivated. The tasks that require a special effort or focus are scheduled in the morning as it is the time in the day I’m the most productive. Afternoons are for more fun tasks that requires less focus.
👉🏻 I would advise you to block an hour every day to do all the small tasks.
I personally plan it just before lunch when I start to struggle to stay focused on my work. It’s also a good way to keep me motivated for the afternoon: when I look at my planner and see that I already went through more than half my tasks list, it’s seriously helpful to keep my spirits up.
What a week looks like when everything’s been time blocked.
I’m using both my planner AND online calendar to time block. I could definitely do it only in my PROJO planner, but I find digital more convenient as it allows me to easily change my plan if needed. An other thing I like about it is that my calendar sends me alerts which helps me stay on tracks.
Getting things done with time blocking: tips that may help
The hardest part of the time blocking technique is definitely to be able to set the right amount of time to complete your task. It’s actually why it’s recommended to leave an hour empty in your daily schedule to adjust it if needed, especially if you’re still a beginner.
This difficulty makes the time blocking technique especially effective if the activity you want to manage includes recurring type of tasks. But it doesn’t mean the technique is not suitable for any other kind of work. It’ll just probably take a little longer to get used to it and be accurate with the time blocking.
Now, here are some tips I can share, based on my own experience with time blocking:
✔️ The important thing is not to worry too much about setting the perfect amount of time in your block at the beginning. In time, it will get easier to set the right amount of time for about anything. It’s all about experience.
✔️ If the work you want to achieve is big, divide it into smaller tasks. It will make it easier to assess how long it will takes you to get it done, and more rewarding to complete smaller tasks faster than a big one in several days.
✔️ Keep track of the effective time you spent on a task. This record will help you to set the right amount of time the next time you’ll have to handle something similar. For this purpose, using a digital agenda for time blocking is super handy as you can move the blocks as needed.
✔️ If your work includes recurring tasks, you can set a recurring time block to get them done. It can be set on a weekly or monthly basis. You can dedicate it to various things such as dealing with mails you didn’t answer yet, getting ready for a weekly meeting or do your grocery shopping for the week ahead.
Time blocking in the PROJO planner weekly spread
The time blocking technique has changed a lot in the way I’m planning my days. It’s been a game changer to keep me motivated to work all day long even though I’ve no one to supervise my work. Time blocking is a good way to set up planning and working routines that encourage you to stay focus: once a task is done and when the time is up, you already know what to tackle next. It’s also perfect to keep your task list under control and make sure they’re manageable.
Because there’s nothing more rewarding than to check all those small boxes at the end of the day, right?