Are you terrible at managing your time? Do you find yourself constantly out of time? Is it difficult to find the time for both work and non-work activities? I know that the answer for myself is a resounding yes, but luckily I'm in good company.
I was recently talking with a friend who's father is a coach for top executives. Did I even know that executive coaching was a thing? No. But in our discussion about what they do, I found out that one of the most common areas for improvement among top business professionals is that of time management. I inquired further about what an executive coach might prescribe to help with time management and got an answer that I had never heard before:
But what is it?
Time Blocking is one of the top tools people are using to become more productive with the limited time they have in any given day. The main idea is that specific blocks of time in the day are prescheduled for doing specific tasks. And once outside of that time block, you no longer worry about that activity.
Before we get started, time blocking does not work for every task. Gina Trapani, founder of lifehacker.com notes that:
"Time blocking works best when you've got a discrete, single task or project that involves deep engagement, like research, number crunching, brainstorming, or writing. Set a definite start and end time when you don't have other meetings to attend. Commit to coming out of a single time block with a specific task accomplished. If the Internet is too tempting a distraction, download the files you need to get the job done before you start, and turn off your laptop's Internet connection during your block."
Stop Switching Tasks
A key goal of time blocking is to stop yourself from constantly switching between tasks and becoming unfocused. The more your can focus on your tasks, the better and faster your will become at them.
If you're like me, you probably have a difficult time not checking your email every 5 seconds just wondering if you've got a new message. Unfortunately, that is stopping you from focusing on other tasks and draining productivity. If that describes you, you might think of doing the following:
9:00-9:30am, check and answer voicemail/email
3:00-3:30pm, check and answer voicemail/email
Now that you've set that hour apart for email/voicemail, don't do anything else but that during that time period. Literally nothing else. That way you can focus solely on that and both do a good job, as well as not be distracted. If you find that you need more or less time, just adjust the duration you need.
Becoming More Efficient
As you continue blocking time out for certain activities, and keep doing only those activities, you should notice your proficiency in them rising. This should produce increased efficiency, which means that you can either:
- get more done in the same amount of time
- do the same amount of work in less time
Depending on where you are in your schedule, you might find that the first option is the most important. But often, busy people need to find more time for other activities, so the second option might actually be more important. By doing the same amount of work in less time, you now have time to spend doing other things.
Some Time is Precious
One of the most important things about your schedule is that work isn't the only important thing in your day. You need time for you and time for your family. While it might seem robot-like, you might consider blocking out time for personal needs and family time as a way to keep those times off-limits from work which usually tends to creep in on it.
5:00-6:00pm, work out at the gym
6:30-9:30pm, dinner and time with family
These times are important to living a balanced life, so you should be sure that they get time in your schedule as well.
Beyond simply becoming more efficient, one proponent of time blocking believe that the very nature of this type of schedule has added benefits of of reducing stress and helping you be more mentally prepared.
In a world as hectic as we sometimes make it, I think time blocking is something we should all give a try. I'm going to. Are you?
How do you stay productive?