How I work: time blocking for priority and focus

I’ve become known for advocating the benefits of time blocking. The concept is simple to grasp, however many struggle with implementation and feel that they fail when they are unable to achieve their planned week.

While I once wished my time blocks were set in stone and that my schedule was predictable, I know that only very rarely will that be true. That’s the nature of my work. I often lament to anyone within earshot that I wish for a pause button so I can just do the work I already know about.

If that is true, do I routinely fail at time blocking?

No.

img shows week view of time blocks

What benefit do I really gain from time blocking?

As long as I complete work by its deadline, how I structure each day is up to me. Time blocking helps to combat the dreaded blank page syndrome and provides a framework by reducing decision fatigue for routine work.

Think back to high school, you may have not known what each teacher had in store for you during the lesson, but knowing that you had Biology class first thing in the morning was one less thing for you to think about. That said, it is important to change things up every so often, while there are some rhythms I try to keep in my week, being too predictable can lead to busyness not completed projects.

In turn this helps me to prioritize work and not have my week come to a crashing train wreck if an urgent high priority project appears unbidden at my doorstep.

How does it help prioritize?

Time blocks help me to focus my available time, which is a finite resource. How? There are 168 hours in a week. I can’t change that. But I can set some shape to each day and week. That’s where my time blocks come in.

While I work hard to be able to accurately identify priorities, sometimes a high priority request will roll through what I thought my day would be.

Time blocks help me accurately identify what tasks I can safely abandon, what I need to reschedule, or if I need to work additional hours.

They have an additional benefit of helping me to learn to estimate my time. This is hard! Rarely do I see the same problem in the exact same way twice. How I go about estimating time will be the topic for a future post.

What can’t time blocks do?

Well, time blocks have yet to actually make me coffee, but they’ve given me the confidence that I can take the time to go have someone else make me a simple cup of coffee I want.

They do sometimes struggle after a high priority project overtakes the structure. I’ve learned to deal with this by adding additional buffer time into my day.

Why time blocks?

They’re a guide. Work as a solopreneur has many unknowns and challenges every single day, time blocks allow me to give each day the best possible focus I can.

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