How To Use Time Blocking For Productivity

Do you ever find yourself bouncing between tasks?  Then by the end of the day, you have several things started but very little finished? 

It can be a form of procrastination and definitely one of unfocused working.  We jump from task to task, not finishing the first before bounding onto the next.

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Time for a change

Woman writing in a journal from Pixabay

If you’ve followed this blog for a while, you know I’m big on changing my systems if they stop working for me, or if they need a good tweak.

I have for a while now, used Task Batching whereby I assign a specific Project to a specific day.  This has been really useful for helping me maintain my projects throughout the last few years.

However, it’s not making me AS productive as I want to be.  So I went back to the drawing board and looked at what I could do differently.

The pandemic has changed a lot of things, how we shop, how we work etc.  For example, my partner now works from home and that is going to become a permanent thing.  These new changes have to be integrated into how I manage my schedule.

You may be wondering why this would really change anything.  Normally my partner would leave the house at 12:30 pm to catch the bus in order to arrive and start work before 2 pm.

This would mean we ate lunch at 12:00 noon.  His change in working location has meant things are different.  We now have time to go for a walk, he can take more time preparing meals (rather than making quick ones) so we end up eating later.

In order to adapt, this has meant my workday now starts around 1:30 to 2 pm rather than 12:30 pm.  We now eat our evening meal together but have it around 9 pm when he can take his break whereas before I ate at 7 pm.

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Fitting it all in

Calendar diary opened from Pixabay

I no longer have the freedom (currently) to run errands, so I have to plan my day a little differently.  Like many people, I have also started to notice things in my life I want to change.

For me this has been making sure I exercise more frequently, adding in daily meditation, and more learning time.

On top of this, I realised I had not been doing much writing and it was making me extremely stressed.  So that had to get back into my daily routine.

In order to make my days work better, I had to re-evaluate my schedule.

First, I made a list of things I had to do:

  • meals
  • chores
  • deal with pets
  • sleep
  • shower

Second, I made a list of things I wanted to do:

  • write
  • meditate
  • read
  • exercise
  • yoga
  • learn

Third, I checked and updated my Task Batching Routine by making a note of the tasks I wanted to batch (for example, I originally didn’t have Podcasting down because  Rachel & I hadn’t started it then).

  • Business
  • Podcast
  • Writing
  • Blog / Social Media
  • Admin / Catch-all

Now I was ready to build my new schedule.

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Building a working schedule

Planning time from Pixabay

I laid out my diary and started time blocking everything.  I wanted to have a basic structure that worked for my weekdays.

I broke it into three sections: Morning, Afternoon and Evening.

Morning

Here is how I set up my morning, which is the same every day:

  • Breakfast (and sort cats)
  • Walk
  • Chores
  • Shower
  • [space] *
  • Lunch

* Depending on how long the chores take or how long a walk we do (we have a minimum walk and longer walks depending on how we feel) I may have extra time before lunch.  I don’t allocate anything there, I simply have a list of random things I can slot in if I find myself with spare time.

Afternoon

Here is how I set up my afternoon:

  • Meditation
  • Orders
  • Work Block 1 – Writing
  • Break
  • Work Block 2 – [Task Batched]
  • Yoga
  • Work Block 3 – Learning

My anxiety has been getting a little out of control recently so I decided to add in a daily, mini-meditation I can do just before I start work.  So I come to my office, switch on my laptop and while I’m waiting for it to load, I do my meditation using the Serenity App.

Since I run a business I need to prioritise making orders.  Somedays I’ll have several, other days I may not have any.  This means I may have another slot of time that I can add something in if I don’t have orders that day.

In order to prioritise my writing, I have allocated one of my three work blocks to it.  I made it the first work block, so I am mostly refreshed when I start.  I get more tired and less able to make decisions as the day goes on so doing it first means it actually gets done.

The second work block is dependent on my Task Batch days.  My tasks are batched by the following days:

  • Monday – Business
  • Tuesday – Podcast
  • Wednesday – Writing
  • Thursday – Blog / Social Media
  • Friday – Admin / Catch-all

The tasks on my second work block can be things like sorting my business accounts, recording or editing podcasts, scheduling my social media, writing blog posts and clearing through my inboxes.

I have a specific day for writing even though I have added in a section for writing every day, this allows me to have blocks for both actual writing time as well as brainstorming, plotting, creating profiles, clearing through old paper copies etc.

The learning block is because I have several courses I’m working through and most of them are videos I can watch.  By allocating time in my schedule for this, it stops me from letting other things creep in and steal my time.

Evening

Here is how I set up my evening:

  • Clear my desk
  • Check diary
  • Have dinner
  • Chill
  • Read
  • Bed

I am trying to make sure my desk is clear every evening so I’m coming to a clean empty desk the following day.

I check my diary to make sure I’m aware of any upcoming appointments, tasks I need to fit in or events like birthdays I need to know about.

I always take time to relax, usually watching something my partner doesn’t like… since he is still working 🙂  then we spend some time reading together before bed.

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Go with the flow

Fast flowing river from Pixabay

So far my new Task Batched – Time Blocked schedule is working out well.  Although, as with anything, sometimes disruptions can happen.

On the day I wrote this article, my morning routine was completely messed up because we had a delivery of some furniture that needed to be put up and a leaking kitchen tap that needed to be fixed.

The trick is not to let things like that derail you.  It’s frustrating when your routine gets interrupted, but do what you can and don’t cast off the whole day as a “right off”.

Have you ever tried time blocking your work?

Share your Thoughts image.

Happy writing

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10 thoughts on “How To Use Time Blocking For Productivity

  1. I’ve realized I’m going to have to start scheduling my social media… and I dread the thoughts that it’s going to just end up being 1 day/week of answering comments, 1 day/week reading other blog posts – and I also bet I won’t get as many posts read as I used to.

    Still, this info about time blocking and task batching might be helpful as I’m forced to make some changes.

    1. I know what you mean, social media is the biggest time suck and yet there is an importance to it, for writers.

      I have one day a week that I call my blog/social media day. And truthfully, some things overrun a little but I try and keep that to a minimum.

      I try and schedule 1 hour to fill up Buffer with content, aiming for at least 2 weeks worth of content.

      I try and schedule in 30 minutes every day to check other people’s blogs (I lost my rhythm with this and need to get it back) and have certain blogs I check on certain days – so I just open my Trello board for that day and go through the blog links I want to check/read.

      With Twitter, I TRY and answer comments and go through my timeline in the evening for about 30mins – 1 hour to keep on top. It’s still WAY too much social media time but it’s hard to step away otherwise it just builds up so crazy.

      1. OMG me too! I used to love Friday Follows, but the problem is most people don’t create their own Friday Follows on their own thread, they end up replying to your Tweet which just goes crazy and then you have a hundred replies from people you don’t know and some aren’t even writers… all clogging up your thread.

        If I am included in a Friday Follow, I usually mute the conversation ASAP so I don’t get loads of replies.

  2. I love reading all about your routine, Ari, so thank you for sharing. I used to do something similar where my routine was broken up into specific tasks on certain days, and Friday was my catch up day to do things I didn’t get done. The pandemic has thrown all that out for the last few months, but hopefully as everything slowly gets more normal, I’ll be able to get back to my usual routine.

    1. Awww thanks hun 🙂

      So true, the pandemic has made things a lot messier. I hope when it all starts to settle down *fingers crossed it actually does* that we can slip back into our normalcy again.

  3. I am naturally a spontaneous person, so such planning has always been something I kept away from. Plus, things happen too often that throw off the plans. However, in recent months, I’ve tried organizing my day more and even slotting things down to the hour. It’s been hit and miss. But I am working on it.

    Checking the “diary” before bed is something I started doing recently, too. And then again in the morning. It keeps me focused.

    1. Oh it’s always a frustration when perfectly designed plans go out the window and that can sadly happen with family members needing things, distractions, emergencies… which this year seems to have had in spades!

      It’s cool you are trying to organise your day, maybe it will work, maybe it won’t. In the end, it’s about trying things that might help and if they don’t scrap them and try something new 🙂

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