So.. I work from home. It’s been that way since pre-quarantine, and a lot of us are working from home post-quarantine. Regardless if you’re in an office or at home, it’s very easy to become overwhelmed with everything you have to get done. There’s a million things to do for work.. and don’t forget about that return you have to drop off at the UPS today. Also, you can’t forget to stop by the grocery store for food so you’re not eating out for the fourth time this week. Truth is.. there is SO much to keep up with in today’s world. Our heads can be all over the place. A few months ago, I learned a little trick that completely changed how I got through it all.. it’s called time blocking.
I’m sure you’ve probably heard of time blocking before… but do you actually do it? This has been my single most useful hack of 2020, and has allowed me to accomplish more than I ever would have.
Here’s what to do:
Download this printable, and for one week, keep track of everything you do – noting the time. Not everything you want to do or plan to do, just everything you do for the week.
As soon as you do that, you’ll immediately realize how much time you’re wasting. For me, I realized I spent more time planning to do something then I did actually doing it. Basically, I spent time thinking about doing it, instead of just doing the tasks I needed it. It’s actually pretty exhausting to always have it on your mind. Browsing my phone was also a huge time waster. And I’d be willing to bet.. most of us catch ourselves doing this at some point in our day… if not a good amount of the time.
How to Do it
So here’s what to do: schedule your day out on a calendar by time blocking activities. For example, at 10:30AM- 11AM, you will not do anything except ________. You don’t look at your phone, and you don’t check your email. You just do that one activity. Plan out your whole day as such, and cross it off as you go.
Now that I have it down, this is what an example of mine looks like:
Don’t just plan it in your head, write it on paper
This has to be the biggest part of it. There’s some type of (scientifically proven) chemical reaction that happens in our brain when we write things down versus keeping it in our head or even just saying it aloud. By writing it down, it helps our brain process the facts better, and keeps it front of mind.
Also, crossing things off on paper is another source of productivity. It helps your brain understand that you’ve done what you need to, and gives you the boost to go conquer the next challenge.
It’s normal for us to remember our doctors appointment at 3pm. No problem. But in between your 2pm meeting with your boss, and 3pm doctors visit, did you account for the time it’s going to take to get there with traffic? The best way to stay on a schedule is to include as much as you can.
Here’s the only exception: If you have a task that’s going to take less than 5 minutes, do it immediately. There’s no point in wasting time scheduling something when you could be done with it by the time you put your pen down. Just do it, and free some space up in your mind.
Block out some “extra time”
It’s very possible that the task you only thought would take 30 minutes will actually end up taking an hour & half. The best way to handle this is to continue on with your calendar, and go back to it at the time block you have assigned to finish things up. The problem with continuing on if you’re “almost done” is that it will still probably take you longer than expected. Then, it completely throws off your time schedule for the rest of the day, and you’re less likely to stick to it.
Be Flexible and Realize Things Will Change
Things come up last minute.. they ALWAYS do. Your boss needs you to run an errand, you forgot to get gas before work, and you ran out of dog food. It happens to everyone. The likelihood of you staying completely on track every day is slim. But, if you stick to it as close as possible, you will definitely see a difference by the end of the day. My point in saying this is to not beat yourself up if you didn’t accomplish everything on your list. I’m totally guilty of this, until I reminded myself that I’m not a robot. Go easy on yourself, but challenge yourself to stick to your calendar as much as possible.
Practice time blocking daily
I tried weekly, and it just wasn’t enough for me. Sometimes I don’t know on Monday what my Friday looks like. I try to spend no more than 15 minutes making my schedule in the mornings. If you don’t accomplish everything on your list, that’s okay. If at all possible, move it to the top of the list to knock out first thing tomorrow morning. If you continue putting it off, your anxiety and overwhelming brain will continue to grow. Knock it out, and don’t let it linger. Plus, creating your calendar daily gives you time to adjust how long something on your agenda will take.
Schedule in some “Me” Time
Life can’t be all work and no play. Even if we’re working really hard towards our goal, we must prevent ourselves from a burnout. If you have kids, the same applies. Even if you feel like you have no time to take care of you, you must try to schedule it in somehow. You’ll be exhausted 24/7. Your body will thank you for giving it a break.
This could be anything from a bubble bath to a nail appointment to lunch with a friend. It could be as simple as a 30 minute nap, or as hard as a great workout. The point in scheduling your “me” time is so that your brain can understand that you’re taking time out of your busy day to take care of yourself.
You should shoot for an hour so you move a bit slower, but if you can’t, then set a goal of 30 minutes a day. You’ll feel better about yourself, and you’ll be able to continue on your schedule for longer.
Once you get the hang of it, and realize how much it’ll help you get done, I suggest you get this daily calendar here from Amazon. This is what I use on a daily basis.
Through time blocking, you’ll start to feel much more accomplished with how you’re spending your day. Not only will your productivity increase, but you’ll learn how to balance your time better. You’ll form good habits, and you’ll be motivated to continue bettering your life.