Happy Tuesday, friends! Today I want to share the ONE change that boosted my productivity by over 200% – time blocking! Sounds too good to be true? Well, I promise it isn’t.
For the past few months (since March 2020, to be exact), I have really, really struggled with productivity. I used to have so little time to get my work done throughout the day that I could easily crank things out. However, since most meetings are virtual now, I found myself with way too much time on my hands and no idea how to use it effectively. Honestly, I tried just about everything. I went back to my tried and true productivity methods from college, took “focus” vitamins, bought just about every planner I could find, and got so hopped up on caffeine that I don’t think my heart will ever recover. I could not bring myself to get things done. Then, I discovered time blocking.
Time blocking is a relatively simple concept, but it is seriously life-changing. Instead of working on tasks throughout the day, you break your day into blocks of time and dedicate those blocks to certain tasks.
How I Keep Track of My To-do List
Before I dive into how I use time blocking, I’ll briefly go over how I keep track of my to-do list. How you keep track of your tasks can be highly personal, but I like to use Asana!
I work off of a “team” in Asana and I have a different “project” for each one of my projects. Within each project, I add all relevant deadlines (and a 2 month, 1 month, and two-week reminder if they are far away) and all of my emails as I receive them. You can use the “Asana for Outlook” or “Asana for Gmail” apps to make this way easier, but I just copy and paste tasks from my email into the projects. There is a ton I can say about Asana and how you can use it to set yourself up for success. However, I’ll save that for another day.
Now, on to time blocking!
How I Use Time Blocking
I work on a lot of different projects for work and they all have different timelines and moving parts. If I wanted to, I could probably dedicate an entire week to each project and still have work to do for it the next week. However, that would lead to a lot of very angry people. So I don’t do that, lol. Instead, I use time blocking to make sure I’m spreading my time as evenly as possible. This keeps me productive and prevents me from accidentally going radio silent on a project for weeks at a time.
To time block effectively, I look at my master to-list in Asana to see what tasks I have coming up for each project. Some weeks some projects take priority, so that can skew my week a bit. However, I generally dedicate a few hours a week to each active project.
Once I have an idea of what projects I’m working on, the fun begins. I then go through my week and schedule about 6 hours of work a day. I purposefully keep 2 hours open to avoid overbooking myself. In my industry, I may suddenly have to work on something that throws off my whole day and I can’t put it off. This used to throw off my whole week, but I’ve found that sticking to 6 scheduled hours works pretty well for me.
Additionally, I purposefully schedule my lunch and a social media break. I use social media for my blog (follow me on Instagram and Pinterest!), so it’s important to me that I’m on at peak times. It also helps me stay focused and not be tempted to be on my phone if I know that I have a designated time for it later..
sample time blocking schedule
Weekly Planning Using Time Blocking
I try to do all my planning for the week on Monday mornings. I receive a lot of weekend emails and don’t want to have to shift my whole schedule for them. So, keeping my calendar (mostly) empty works best. Additionally, I try not to schedule anything besides easy reoccurring tasks on Fridays. This allows me to move things around throughout the week as needed. As the week progresses, I move tasks around as necessary. By building in extra time “free” time, I know my whole week won’t go out the window if a last-minute emergency pops up.
Once I get to Thursday morning, I start putting items on my to-do list for the next week. I make sure to block these tasks out on Monday so I know they are a higher priority. This keeps me from accidentally shuffling tasks from week-to-week with little progress. If I purposefully pushed something off one week, it’ll be the first thing I do the next week!
Time Blocking Your Inbox
Unfortunately, there’s no panacea for an overflowing inbox. How you manage emails is going to depend so much on your industry and how your supervisor works that I hesitate to give any advice on what to do. Personally, I keep an eye on who is emailing me throughout the day. If an email comes through, I do a quick check to see who it’s from and read the first line. If something’s on fire, I answer right away. However, if it doesn’t require immediate attention, I leave it unread until my scheduled email response time for the day. You may still get caught up in the occasional emergency, but I’ve found this saves me a lot of time.
Time Blocking’s Twin Sister: Task Batching
But Erika, what do I do with all my annoying admin tasks that take 5-10 minutes each? I’m so glad you asked! I also use time blocking for batches of small, quick tasks. I like to save these for Friday after lunchtime. I’ll do all of my quick filing, printing, emailing, and updating tasks in one 2-3 hour sitting. This doesn’t take much brainpower, which is ideal for when my brain is pretty much caput. Additionally, it makes me feel productive at the end of the week. I feel so much better ending the week having completed a task, rather than working on something I know I’ll have to go back to on Monday.
Time Blocking & Work Anxiety
Implementing time blocking has been so, so helpful for my productivity. I truly can’t sing its praises enough. After just ONE week of time blocking, I realized that I had completed over double the usual number of tasks from previous week. The more I time block, the more efficient I become. I compared my to do lists from yesterday and a Monday a few weeks ago and found I had checked off TRIPLE the amount of work.
Increasing my productivity by using time blocking at work has honestly made every aspect of my life so much better. I know that might seem like an over the top statement, but it’s true! I feel so good leaving work. At the end of the day, I know I got a lot done.
I used to struggle with so much work-related anxiety and always feared that I wasn’t doing a good job or wasn’t accomplishing as much as I should. Now when I look at my calendar every day and see what I have accomplished, I know I’ve done good work.
Do you use time blocking for work or school? I’d love to know how you like to organize yourself! If you want to give time blocking a try, let me know how you like it!
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