Time Blocking 101 (And Why I’m Obsessed With It!)

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This blog post is totally off topic from anything that I’ve posted to date, but as I take my blog in a new direction, I hope to share more about my career in equestrian public relations and on work and productivity tips and ‘hacks’ in general! Why? Two reasons in particular: a) I’m fortunate enough to absolutely love my job and to love talking about it to anyone who will listen. b) I’m extremely type A in a lot of ways, and I’ve gotten super into learning more about best productivity and time management practices…partially because I realized that I was lacking in those areas…which segues nicely into the topic of this post!

About a year-and-a-half ago, I started working from home/working remotely full-time. When I started working from home, I never, ever considered that it could be difficult. I consider myself a pretty self-motivated person, so I knew I wouldn’t have trouble motivating myself to work from home…what I didn’t anticipate is that I’m also motivated to do a lot of other things. Like going for a run at 2 p.m., or cleaning my room or bathroom at 11 a.m., or meal prepping at 4 p.m. – basically a lot of things that interfered in me having a regular, solid work day and resulted in me instead working sporadic hours and working later into the night to get stuff done that there was no reason I couldn’t have finished earlier in the day. While everything would get done eventually, the way I was handling my time was definitely not the most productive or beneficial to anyone, and jumping around from task-to-task did not at all allow me to delve deep into my work in the best way possible. That’s when I started time blocking! It’s a super simple concept, but it has seriously been a total game changer for me!

What is time blocking? Literally exactly what it sounds like: blocking off chunks of time for specific tasks or breaking your whole day down into different blocks of time devoted to different purposes.

Here’s how it works, or rather how and why it works for me!

There are a ton of ‘time blocking templates’ and printables available all over the internet if you Google it, but I love using Microsoft OneNote (which I will likely do a whole separate blog post on sometime because ❤️❤️) to keep track of all of my to-dos, so I use it for my time blocking too! I simply have a tab with tables for each day of the week:

I always have all seven days of the week there and will start to fill-in any blocks of time for the days ahead as I know of things I’ll need to section off. (For instance, my 10 a.m.-12 p.m. on Tuesday is almost always blocked off well in advance for a staff conference call.)

Every night I spend 10-15 minutes planning out my next day. It might seem like a waste of time in the evening, but I swear it ends up saving me so much time the next day and makes the next day that much more efficient!!

  • First, I identify three or four of my biggest priorities for the day or the projects that will take the most thought and ‘deep work,’ and I block them out first. For instance, say I have a lengthy editorial writing assignment that I know will require my full concentration. I estimate how much time that will take me and block that out on my schedule first.
    • I like this line from this article on time blocking that says, “We often indulge in low priority activities during our peak-performance hours because our top-priority jobs seem so daunting” …because super relatable! I definitely have found myself putting off the bigger tasks that require more thought in favor of checking the little things off my to do list, sending emails, etc. By designating specific blocks of my day for the big, important tasks, it helps force me to do them during that time frame and not get caught up in other menial tasks.
      • Related pointer that I’ve picked up: put these major tasks during your aforementioned ‘peak-performance hours.’ For me, I’ve found that’s 100 percent first thing in the morning!
  • Then, I fill in the rest – even designated meal times and free times, specific times to focus on emails (which is still a struggle for me as I’m a slave to my inbox and check it excessively!), etc.! Once I get the big chunks blocked out, I often will even further breakout smaller tasks that I want to get done during a certain time frame, like in this made-up, but similar to real-life, example:

It may sound crazy, but for me, there are so many benefits!:

    • I find I’m less distracted.
    • I don’t waste time staring at an overwhelming to-do list trying to decide what to tackle next.
    • Similarly, I don’t waste as much time on the menial tasks while I’m putting off the larger tasks.
    • I don’t worry about when I’m going to get something done. As a past example: I place a pretty high-priority on fitness; so on occasion if I didn’t get a morning run or workout in, I would find myself sitting at my desk in the afternoon thinking, ‘oh man, when am I going to get a run in today? Maybe I’ll just go now!’ And I would completely break-up my work day by going running. It would totally interrupt what I was working on, and it would take me longer to get back-on-track. With time blocking, I can clearly plan out when my work and workout hours fall and see that, yes, they can all fit, and I don’t need to worry right that second about doing one or the other!
    • It’s even improved my ability to detach and enjoy downtime! Just ask my close friends and family – I was (still am but am improving) the worst at enjoying downtime. I’d take (do take) my laptop everywhere, and I hated (still hate) just sitting and not working on something. Okay, so admittedly, I still need improvement in this area, but time blocking as started to allow/force me to get my work done during my set work hours and to be fully present and relax during my relaxation hours.
Teaching my niece Emme about time blocking (or just trying to get a pic before she tries to steal the computer…it was one of those two things…)

That’s my synopsis! You can read tons more on time blocking online, and it’s so worth giving a shot – in my opinion, especially if you work from home or set your own work hours!

I’m always looking for and interested in hearing other productivity and time management tips, so never hesitate to comment with any suggestions or pointers! 🙂