getting started with time blocks

Why do I love time blocks? They provide limitless flexibility and offer numerous benefits. First, time blocks allow you to see chunks of time, to prevent over scheduling. Second, they help to balance the week and thus limit the potential of burnout. Third, and most important, time blocks reduce decision paralysis caused by blank page (planner) syndrome.

Since you’re reading this, I’m sure it’s happened to you. As the boss you have complete control of your day. You decide when and where you show up. It’s up to you to decide when you do what tasks or work on which projects. Everything is important. Where do you start? If you’re beginning a new (ad)venture, there’s even more open-ended possibility. Both scenarios often lead to the same result–nothing. It’s easy to become overwhelmed by all the choice as you decide on your day. Either you spend hours curled on the couch binge-reading or fill each day with trivial busy work. They are each dangerous and often lead to the point there is no room for the deep work that will move larger projects or realize goals. I know. I’ve been there.

Time blocks help solve this by providing the start of structure. They help to create limits on the twenty-four hours available each day. This constraint to your resources helps tighten focus and propel you forward.

I have two ways I approach time blocks. Today I’ll discuss the first, the general pattern to my week. It’s easy to do with my flexible planning grid. I printed off a copy to cardstock and laminated it. I like to save paper and with a white board marker it’s easy to make changes. This method is based on teacher planning. For years I used a teacher planning book. Each project fits into a row. Each day of the week has a column and I reserve one for daily tasks.

Step one: Known commitments

There are certain things I know I need to do daily, and weekly. For example, at 3pm on Fridays I pause for my weekly review session, I write that first.

Then I add in a few things that happen each week, such as blog posts, laundry, and the refuse collection schedule. Adding these deadlines helps me to then figure out the next step.

Step two: When might I work best?

I become bored if I work on the exact same thing at the same time every day. I look at the big projects and try to stagger the type of work I do across the week.

This is a rough outline, some call it “ideal day” though I’m wary of that term.

For instance, I don’t want to spend all day every day deep in the innards of WordPress. Therefore, I set aside time on Tuesdays to review developments in the software and catch up on the changes to the various plugins my clients use. That sort of work is best offset by time away from the computer; I like to balance my Tuesdays with spinning and design swatches.

Step three: fill in some of the gaps

I fill in some of the gaps with a rough idea of what I need to do to move each project forward.

As an example, I like to draft each post the day before it’s published, that fills in more of the week.

I don’t fill in every moment of my day as needs change. Gaps in my schedule allow me to rearrange these blocks as needed.

I hope this brief introduction to the way I begin time blocking my week is helpful. Other posts I’ve written on the subject are Working with time blocks (2014), How I work: cleaning attention residue (2016), and LinkHow I work: time blocking for priority and focus (2017).

The planning grid is a two page PDF. Learn more and purchase your copy now: