I recently discovered time blocking. Rather than writing the time of appointments and listing tasks on my calendar, time blocking divides my day into chunks and provides me with less stress and, believe it or not, more time!
My mom kept a paper calendar in the cabinet behind the kitchen table. She diligently wrote appointments and special events in the 1” squares and crossed each day off with an X. I followed her model on a paper planner and then switched to my electronic calendar a few years ago. But I never seemed to have enough time in the day.
Then someone introduced me to time blocking.
The key to time blocking is using chunks to stay focused and less scattered. For example, part of my schedule today looks like this:
8-9:00am Read and respond to email
9-12:00pm Grade student essays
12-2:00pm Podcast recording and editing for a Florida Writer Podcast episode
Projects such as podcast interviews are recorded, edited, posted for a future date and off my plate in a 2-hour span.
To schedule interviews, I use Calendly which allows me to “pad” my appointments, so I look busy on paper—and I am. I once had to reschedule a guest because my dentist appointment interfered with my schedule. Now my calendar shows my true availability, not just the amount of time I use to interview a guest (or the start of my teeth cleaning).
I do the same thing with appointments scheduled directly onto my Google Calendar by writing the time in the subject and blocking extra time on my calendar.
Here’s how to get started:
Step 1: Judge the True Time of Tasks
It took me a while to learn how much time I needed from start to finish for tasks. Begin with a bit of trial and error and adopt a realistic (not a “best-case scenario”) attitude. For example, if your son needs to be dropped off at school at 7:45 and it often takes 20 minutes to drive from school to your workplace during rush hour, put that into your calendar. Protecting your time will eliminate stress and free up your schedule. An 8:00 am meeting is unrealistic when you won’t make it to the office until 8:05. Similarly, if you are asked to attend a meeting that is only 30 minutes but requires prep or drivetime, include the totality of the meeting time.
Step 2: Include Planning Time
Someone once guffawed at the suggestion of time blocking because they wanted more flexibility in their day for things such as impromptu meetings and spontaneity. To accommodate this, add a block of time for planning or strategy. If nothing impromptu develops, you can use that time for long-term projects or suggest a watercooler strategy meeting with colleagues.
Step 3: Protect Your Blocks
Using time blocks makes it easier to say NO when you should and YES when you can. Wasting time worrying about time is fruitless. If you protect it fiercely, you will discover you have more of it than you ever imagined.
Step 4: The Week in Review
Each week, evaluate the time allotted to each block. If you were accurate, keep the same schedule for future appointments. If you discover that you blocked too much or too little time, make small adjustments. When Monday rolls around, you will begin with calendar confidence.
Executive Mom Nest advisor, professor, speaker, and author Alison Nissen is the executive director of Branded Interviews, a platform that creates video business cards, webinars, and courses for authors, coaches, and entrepreneurs. She is also the co-founder and president of Revel Coach, a career growth platform and author of the 2016 RPLA Unpublished Memoir of the Year Resolve, Courage, Hope. Follow her Tales from the Laundry Room @ alisonnissen.com.