Do you find yourself constantly saying to yourself (and to others) that you “don’t have enough time”? I hear it everyday from people I interact with. Personally, I have removed the phrase from my vocabulary and encourage all my clients to do the same. When it comes to time, it is not that you don’t have ENOUGH TIME, but instead it is that you are not clear about your PRIORITIES. Switch from saying, “I don’t have enough time” to “That is not a priority at this time”. It might sound harsh, but that is the reality!
If you struggle with “having enough time” to do all the things that you would like to accomplish, consider “time blocking”. It is one of my favorite ways to simplify my schedule and get more done.
What is time blocking? Time blocking is committing to working a single project or task for certain length of time.
6 Steps to Effective Time Blocking(source: wikiHow)
Identify your high priority tasks and projects. Time blocking is especially effective for tasks requiring greater concentration. Determine which tasks need to be completed first and prioritize them by order of deadline and importance. For example, if a report is due in a week and you have an important meeting tomorrow, prioritize your meeting preparation ahead of conducting research for your report.
Block out time for specific tasks. Break tasks down into chunks that can be completed in smaller time increments. For example, if you are designing a flier, allot a separate block of time for completing each page.
- Set a goal to finish the task within the time allotted. Decide on start and finish times for the particular task and adhere to the schedule.
- Block time by yourself to complete tasks that require greater thought and concentration. Scheduling time alone will help you focus on challenging tasks.
Use a visual tool to block time. Your visual aide may be a calendar, a piece of paper or an Excel spreadsheet. Mark the blocks of time to show clear start and stop times.
- Draw blocks of time on a piece of paper. Write a short description of each task in each time block. Draw a line through the task once completed.
- Use an online or mobile device calendar. Type in each task and utilize the repeat feature for recurring tasks. Choose an alert option to notify you of start and stop times, if the feature is available.
- Code blocks of time on an Excel spreadsheet. Create a grid with start and end times. Fill in higher priority tasks with darker colors. Create a color key to denote the priority levels of tasks.
Schedule breaks. Regular breaks are conducive to greater productivity and concentration. When time blocking, schedule regular breaks in between activities. For example, focus intensely for 2 hours on a specific task, take a 10- or 15-minute break and work for another 2-hour block of time.
Limit activities that interfere with your time blocking goals.
- Eliminate unproductive, time-consuming activities. During the block of time allotted to working, avoid unnecessary forum browsing, television watching or Internet surfing. Devote your full attention to the high priority task at hand.
- Avoid checking email, answering the phone or texting. Focus your attention only on the task that you blocked off the time to complete. Let your calls go to voice mail, turn off your phone and sign out of your email account.
- Notify others that you will be unavailable. If working at home, explain your time blocking strategy to family members so that they will refrain from interrupting you. In an office setting, limit interruptions from co-workers by suggesting that they join you in time blocking activities.
Find quiet work spots. A coffee shop, a library or a quiet corner of your office building are possible places to spend uninterrupted blocks of time focused on specific tasks.
This video shares ideas on how to use colors to simplify your calendar. (More like “Day Blocking”)