It’s 9 am. You’ve sat down at your desk and you set out to complete a project that should take you about four hours.
Fast forward to 8 pm and you’ve somehow only done about 25% of it, thanks to the constant distraction of your phone, getting lost in a black hole on Facebook and checking your emails every five seconds.
Especially if you own your business or have a side-hustle, I’m sure it does! One of the most challenging things I’ve found about working for myself is managing my time. Fortunately, I no longer have a boss looming over me and dictating my every move, buuuut unfortunately – this sometimes means that I struggle to keep myself on task and to set/make deadlines.
I know this scenario all too well, which is why I recently started trying out a little something called time-blocking.
And friends – it has changed my life. My productivity has improved tenfold.
Time-blocking is a way of managing your working hours in which you block off periods of time for certain tasks.
For example, my morning might be structured as “1 hour emails” followed by “2 hour photo editing.”
I turn my phone on airplane mode, put it away (either in another room, in my bag or in my drawer) and sit down at my desk. I’ll look at the clock and see it says 8:30 am, so I’ll mentally say, “Ok, you’ll be done with emails at 9 am.” And I’ll do emails until 9 am (or less, if I’m through them all before that time). Once I’m there, I’ll look at the clock and see it says 8:55 am. So, I’ll say to myself again, “Ok, time to edit photos until 10:55 am.” And I’ll get going.
(if you’d rather not look at the clock, check out this cube timer made for time-blocking)
No fussing around, no doing 10 minutes of work and checking my phone. Just good old fashioned work.
And it’s pretty insane – nothing is stopping you from checking your phone. But I find that just from writing out the time you’re spending on certain things and being strict with your schedule & attention, you don’t feel tempted to distract yourself.
Don’t forget to time-block in time for lunch, gym, friends and personal time.
And definitely don’t forget to schedule in time for emails – answering & sending emails is busy work and you don’t want to be doing it on & off throughout the day. I recommend putting your email window at the beginning or close to the end of your day, and then closing. that. window.
Now, here is the second aspect of the perfect time-blocking strategy…
I don’t just randomly decide the morning of what I need to get done that day.
But I also don’t time-block an entire week in advance – this is a recipe for failure because you can’t exactly plan for certain projects taking longer or unexpected events to come up.
Instead… After I’m done with work each day, I open my planner and look at the next day. I write out what amount of time I want to spend on what, basing this on what deadlines I have, what I need to get done and what I didn’t get done that day. I will usually overestimate the amount of time I’ll spend on something because I like getting work done sooner than expected rather than working for longer than expected!
With time blocking, big projects and deadlines no longer need stress you out because you can mark their due dates in your planner, then divide up the work needed to complete each between days. No more saving everything until the last minute.
Here’s what a sample week might look like:
You can see I have my time-blocked tasks, meeting/event times, due dates circled, etc. How you structure your planner is completely up to you, but this has worked perfectly for me.
If you want to grab a planner like this one (yes these both come with stickers hehe), my favorites are these two from ban.do and Rifle Paper Co:
Or if you’re more of a digital girl who wants a calendar she can access whenever, wherever, I highly recommend checking out Toggl – a time-blocking web app.
Now it might seem super crazy and anal to structure your day down to the minute like this, but don’t knock it until you try it. Time-blocking has completely and totally transformed my productivity and therefore, my life & business.
What do you think about time-blocking? Any other hacks that have made you 10x more productive? Share your tricks in the comments! I’m dying to know.