Most of us have heard about the concept of time blocking but you might not know how to time block effectively. And that is why you either did not try it yet, or have tried in the past and decided it was not for you. But what if you have been doing it wrong? What if there is a way to make time blocking work for you?
What is Time Blocking and Why It’s Working
Time blocking is one of the most popular productivity techniques. The concept of time blocking is basically setting a specific amount of time to do a specific tasks or a category of tasks. For example, you can block of your time from 9 am to 12 pm each Monday to work on a high priority project at work. Or you can set up a time between 1 pm and 3 pm each Sunday to do meal prepping for the week.
Time blocking is a great tool because it allows you to concentrate on one specific types of tasks at a time. Instead of working on a work project while answering emails as they come in. If you are trying to quit a habit of multitasking, then this is a great tool to use. It has been proven to work in so many different scenarios because it allows you to fully concentrate on a task at had and get things done much quicker. Learning how to time block will allow you to be much more productive and effective.
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Choosing the Right Time Block Categories
One of the common mistakes about time blocking is thinking about time block categories on a very granular level. Which basically means that you try to time block for every little task that you have. Time blocking for 15 minutes to write a few pages of a report I’m doing. Or time blocking for 20 to create a meal plan. Those categories are too small. They will fill up your entire day and you will constantly feel like you are running sprints all day long.
Start thinking about time block categories in a broader sense. For example, some categories can be: cleaning, house management, self-care, family time, and working. The cleaning category is pretty self-explanatory. It would include a block of time to concentrate on cleaning tasks. You can set up a timer for an hour to two and clean until the time is up.
What will make a difference here is having a to-do list of all the cleaning tasks that have to be done. That way when you start your cleaning time block, you can simply choose from that list. Otherwise, you will waste a lot of time at the beginning of your time thinking and deciding on what you need to or want to clean. Check out my Kitchen Deep Cleaning video to see how I put that into practice.
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Time Block at the Right Time
Another important aspect in learning how to time block is understanding what time blocks will work for you. Time blocking technique will not work if a time block does not naturally fit into your lifestyle.
If you are a morning person, it would not be productive to stay up late at night to do your cleaning time block. After doing it once or twice you would quit and decide it was not for you. Same thing with family time. If you would schedule a 3 hour time block for family time each Saturday morning. However, all of your family members like to sleep in on the weekends. This means that this time block would not be very effective either. People would likely be a little grumpy because you woke them up and not willing to actively participate in the family time.
So when is that right time?
You are the only one who can answer that question. It will be a trial and error process so you can learn what works for you and what does not.
Deciding on Time Block Length
Now that you have an idea of the time block categories, you can start thinking about the length of time you want to dedicate to that block. Like I said earlier, you don’t want to create a to-do list with time blocks associated with each task.
Instead, you want a longer time block where you will group similar tasks to be completed. So instead of having a time block of 20 minutes to mop the floor you need a time block of 2 hours to complete a few cleaning tasks. Maybe instead of just mopping the floor you will also deep clean your kitchen cabinets.
If your time blocks are two, three, or even more hours long, then you need to make sure to take short breaks. And by breaks I don’t mean that you should work on something else for a little. What I mean is taking a couple of minutes to stretch or to get a cup of coffee or a glass of water. Think about the cleaning block – sometimes it gets intense and you might need a few minutes to rest in order to keep going. If your cleaning time block includes 3 major tasks, you can simply take a break after completing each of them.
If you are working on something that requires a lot of concentration, I also suggest trying out Pomodoro technique. It is basically setting up a timer for 25 minutes. During that time you concentrate on a task at hand with no interruptions. After it is over, you take a 5 minutes break. And then you repeat the process. Those short breaks allow your mind to rest for a bit and re-energize you to keep working.
Lastly, like with everything else in life you have to be flexible. Time blocking is a tool to help you be more productive. But it is not going to work for you every single time. At first, when you start implementing this technique you will make mistakes. It will take you a few tries to learn how to time block in a way that works for you.
After you figure out the time blocking technique, you will still encounter some obstacles from time to time. For example, you start your household management time block where you have a list of tasks like pay bills, call a credit card company, meal prep for the week, and put in a grocery order online. About 15 minutes into that time block you get a call from your sister that she is in the neighborhood and will stop by for coffee. At that time, your time block ends and you switch gears to spend some quality time with your family.
Flexibility is key here. Sometimes you simply might not feel like it. And that’s ok! I am a huge fan of having a structure as my baseline but being flexible about the details.
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So try out the time blocking technique and see if it will work for you! And let me know in the comments what you liked and did not like about it.
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