Using time blocking to get stuff done

Its nearing the end of the first month of my Life Balance Project. My organisation goal for January was to try time blocking. I was hoping it would help me be productive and get more stuff done. Here is what I’ve learned and what I’m going to do moving forward.

First attempts

My first couple of attempts at time blocking had mixed results. First I blocked out my entire day from 9.30am to 9pm. This was a mistake! When I looked at the schedule I had written it was overwhelming and felt too rigid. I started swapping over which tasks I was doing when and I didn’t stick to the timings. Saying that I did still get quite a lot done that day so in a way it worked. I decided to try the same schedule again the next day but this time it all fell apart. A couple of urgent tasks cropped up which I hadn’t anticipated and hadn’t worked into my schedule. I dropped everything to complete them and then tried to get back on track. It didn’t work and by then I had accepted that blocking out my entire day was not the right solution for me. That’s not to say that it wouldn’t work for anyone, I’ve listed the pros and cons below.

Whole day time blocking:

Pros

  • Being able to plan out a whole day at once.
  • Helps to make the most of your time.
  • Some people like the routine of knowing exactly what they are doing and when.

Cons

  • Feels really rigid and inflexible.
  • Can be overwhelming.
  • If the whole day is plotted out there’s no wiggle room if urgent tasks pop up or other tasks take longer than planned or need rearranging.

Mini time blocking

I might have just invented that as a phrase but that’s the best way to describe what I did next. I made two sessions, one in the morning and the second in the afternoon. Each session lasted 2 hours. The first 30 minutes I would focus on social media, emails, canva or commenting/returning comments on other blogs. Those little tasks that can turn into a huge time suck. What was interesting was when I knew I only had 30 minutes I worked faster and tried to fit as much in as possible. It was almost like a game and it made me so much more productive. By focusing on those little niggly tasks first I also felt like I had achieved something before I focused on my main task.

After the first 30 minutes I spent the remaining hour and a half focusing on a big task like planning and writing blog posts. Sometimes I would get so in the zone that I would work the whole 90 minutes and other times I would get up and make a cup of tea about half way through. Regardless I would keep focusing on that one big task until my time was up. I found this system a lot more manageable than plotting out my entire day.

 Pros

  • Flexible, wiggle room if tasks overrun or extra things pop up.
  • Feels a lot more manageable and less overwhelming.
  • Taking 30 mins at the start to clear niggly tasks helps clear the head for the bigger task. 

Cons

  • Only adds up to 4 hours a day. Might not be enough for some projects.
  • Could be too loose and flexible for some people.

Spontaneous time blocking

That might be another phrase that I’ve invented but this is the system I’m currently trying. Blocking out my whole day didn’t work for me and although I liked mini time blocking, some days it didn’t feel like enough. I work shifts, sometimes with a gap in the middle of the day. Sometimes I start early, sometimes I start late afternoon and sometimes I do overnights. No two days are the same for me but I do have my schedule weeks in advance. I needed a system that I can adapt around my shifts. So here is what I’m doing at the moment.

I’m still using the two sessions that I set up when I was trying mini time blocking. The time that I do them varies depending on my shifts. I’ve also started adding an extra block of one hour on an evening to catch up on social media, tailwind, email related tasks. On a morning I write a list of what I need to get done that day and allocate it to a block. If I’m not working that day I might add an extra 2 hour block into my schedule. Its all about doing what works best for me on that particular day. 

Pros

  • Really flexible, can plan the day around what else is going on.
  • Adding extra blocks when time allows means bigger projects can get done.
  • Allows wiggle room if extra tasks pop up or need to be rearranged.
  • Planning each day on the day makes the most of the time available.
  • Great for shift workers or anyone with an ever changing schedule.

Cons

  • May be too spontaneous for some people who prefer a set routine.

Do you use time blocking? Which system works best for you? Let me know in the comments =)

Take care,

Hayley x

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