In this fast paced world of instant communication, constant entertainment, and flashy distraction, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and feel like you don’t get anything accomplished. As a mom of 3 who works from home, I know I feel like I’m interrupted at least a 100 times a day. And then there’s the interruptions you choose to indulge in (I’m looking at you Pinterest!…I mean literally, I’m always looking at you, don’t be mad, I love you, okay? Okay, bye.)
Anyway, with so many little tasks and distractions taking up the majority of your day, how are you supposed to get it all done? How will we ever reach the point of basking in big goal accomplishment?
Along with my trusty Bullet Journal, I’ve found another way to optimize my time and my productivity. Its called Time Blocking.
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Supplies I used to build this spread:
- Steadtler Triplus Fineliners
- Clear Ruler
- Tombow Fudensuke Pens – Fancy headers the easy way!
- Pilot Metropolitan Fountain Pen
- Leuchtturm1917 Dot Grid Notebook
What is it?
Time Blocking is a system of planning where you block off chunks of time for very specific tasks, and stay completely focused on those tasks for the duration of your time block. For this to be SUPER effective, It’s best to block your time into categories instead of being too specific. Batch tasks that are similar all into one time block. This way you aren’t switching gears on the fly. Trying to throw in a load of whites, talk on the phone, and make sure the dinner doesn’t burn? Chances are you’ll end up having a very distracted conversation, along with some very pink towels and the smoke alarm going off to boot.
To start, try putting all those pesky low priority, routine administrative tasks into 1 category. So when planning your week, schedule one large block or several 30-minute blocks throughout the week to answer emails, return phone calls, file, etc. If you create no other time blocks and try only this one for an entire week you’ll be floored by how much time you freed up for yourself. This one change eliminates hours of distraction! What can you accomplish when you aren’t constantly responding to Facebook notifications and checking your email? ANYTHING! Everything!
When you’ve blocked off specific times for everything on your list, you can stop that ping-pong match in your mind, and really focus on what’s in front of you. Experts claim this technique can increase your productivity by over 50%!
First, start with your categories. My personal categories are these…
- Housework – includes laundry, cleaning the bathroom, organizing, mopping, vacuuming, etc.
- Blog – research, writing, photography, etc
- Admin – filing the mail, paying bills, school paperwork, etc
- Correspondance – texts, phone calls, emails, answering comments, etc. I schedule this about 30 minutes at a time, twice a day
- Planning – Yes, I’m obsessed. I’ve got to protect my planning time!
- Errands – grocery shopping, shipping packages, car maintenance, etc.
- Family – As a stay at home mom, I’m basically spending ALL my time with my family, but I like to schedule at least one block where I don’t try to multitask around my kids. Go to the park, play a video game, do a project together, etc.
- Wind Down – As an Introvert, I desperately need my downtime. Protecting this time and saying no to other activities keeps me from hulking out.
Don’t try to fill every hour of your day. Make sure you have some flex time to deal with whatever needs your immediate attention or to work on things that have fallen behind. Being over scheduled is no way to lower your stress.
Pay Attention to your Energy Levels
Once you’ve isolated your categories, It’s time to block out your schedule. When I first sat down to do this it didn’t go so well, mostly because I took the advice to schedule your most important priorities first thing in the day. Now, normally that’s great advice. But as a mom with 3 kids needing attention in the morning AND an epic case of night owl-itus, I find I’m at my lowest level of performance in the morning. I made this chart to try and isolate how my energy levels fluctuate and when the best time to work on my high priorities would be.
I found I get the most done with the least amount of resistance mid afternoon. Comparing my natural rhythm with the events of a typical weekday in my life was really helpful for me. Looking at this I realized why I was so distracted and overwhelmed. But that’s what the Time Blocks are for!
So when you make your schedule be sure to factor in what your own natural rhythm is. Working against yourself doesn’t help anyone.
How Does this Help?
One change I made in my schedule that significantly lowered my stress was to create an Admin afternoon. Instead of going thru the mail every day, paying bills here and there, stopping to create labels files etc – I batched those tasks into one afternoon a week. When I or my husband look at my calendar you’ll see that every Thursday afternoon is set aside for Administrative tasks. I discovered once a week was more than enough time to schedule all relevant bills, file etc. Now that pesky task doesn’t hang over me everyday! I never have to think about it unless it’s Thursday afternoon. Freedom!
Scheduling time to work on one category and ONLY one category at a time, I am free from constantly worrying about when I’ll get to everything on my list. Trying to fit random priorities into random spaces of time in between emergencies…no thank you. When you get used to blocking your time, you discover that very few “emergencies” are actually emergencies. When you’ve got a time block around the corner in your week, so called ‘emergencies’ are easier to schedule time for then you would think.
So, if you’re feeling overwhelmed and unaccomplished I hope you’ll give this a try. It’s really helped me eliminate distractions, and protect my downtime.