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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time blocking

Supplies I used to build this spread:

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%!

 

Getting Started

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.

time blocking

 

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.

bullet journal energy levels

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.

11 Comments

  1. Love this idea, but with mu hubby’s work schedule, I often don’t have the same schedule every day. So I think I’m going to make a plan for each of the TYPE of days when he’s working. I’ve kinda been doing that in my head for years, but now that my kids are grown,I can’t believe how much time just goes!

    • It’s so true, the time flies with the kids and even more without them! I’m planning to do that as well, make a different plan for different types of days. Right now in the trenched of the school year, everyday follows a pattern. But as soon as summer comes, things will change completely! And then the next year, the kids school schedule will be different, my work schedule will change, etc. I figured I’d write a new post as I encounter new types of days. I’ll keep you posted!

  2. Thanks so much for your post, especially about considering my energy levels. I’m transitioning from a corporate career to full-time entrepreneur and have been looking at time blocking to stay on course planning and working my day. You’ve given me very useful information to go about doing so. Thanks again!

    • I’m so glad it was helpful! It’s really made a big difference for me! Starting this blog was so overwhelming at first, but using time blocking made me feel like I could finally get it all done with out killing myself.

      Becoming a full-time entrepreneur, sounds exciting! I hope everything goes well for you!

  3. This is such a brilliant idea Sheena. I think it’s the strategy I have been looking for for years.

    As dialady above says, I also have different types of days, so I’m going to make a few different versions of this.

    I’m so glad I found your blog Sheena and I look forward to reading and learning more from you

    • I’m so glad you found it helpful! I’m going to make different versions of it too as my schedule changes. I know it’s really helped me to map all this out, I’m glad it resonates with other people too!

  4. I think this is just what I need to fine-tune my daily tasks. I quit my job 8 months ago because having your soul sucked out of your body daily gets old – I promised my husband I would do the yard work (something we both hate) and stay on top of the household tasks/cleaning that never seemed to get done when we were both working. But the day just slips by like water and I’ve barely accomplished anything and it’s time to cook dinner!
    I do keep a weekly to-do/chore/reminder/meal planner/appointment list (did I mention that I also have to plan for my mother’s appointments? She has dementia so I also pay her bills, take her to appointments, etc) but too often tasks get migrated to the next week. And the next week.

    • Sounds like you’ve got a lot on your plate! I know how you feel, it’s so easy to get overwhelmed. I find when I try to do everything I end up doing nothing, lol. Time blocking really helped me get focused! I hope it works out for you!

  5. Sheena, I live the idea of time blocking similar task instead of detailing every little thing. Which is what I was doing and feeling a sense of pressure if I didn’t get to everything. Thank you for the post.

    • I’m so glad you found it helpful! It’s so easy to feel the pressure to do as many things as you can. It was such a relief when we can focus on one thing at a time!

  6. This makes so much sense. I’m definitely going to try it. And I may make type of day time blocking schedules, like others have suggested since there’s so much variability with my family.

Let me know what you think!