Have you ever really thought about your natural daily rhythms?
As in, beyond knowing that lunch might result in an afternoon slump?
Things like “on Fridays, I batch my finance related tasks because I need focus and that’s the only day I can block off for zero calls.”
This post is for you if you’ve dipped your toes in time blocking, but would like a little more guidance.
This post is especially for you if you have no clue what I’m talking about because you live by inspiration-based task completion and loose routines.
Why Time Block?
Picture this: you wake up and actually get to your morning routine, but then the kids wake up and all hell breaks loose. You’re late to school drop-off because you forgot to move the laundry before the kids woke up, so you did that while they ate breakfast. But the unsupervised breakfast process resulted in cheerios & milk on the floor, requiring extra time to clean.
Your dominoes are falling and it’s not even 8:00 AM!
“Routines” end up living in the “grey area” and don’t honor natural rhythms in most cases.
Think of a routine based schedule as a freight train that has to stop every time the schedule re-calibrates.
By the end of the day, you’re dealing with a bunch of cars at the back that didn’t make it to their stop and a whole second set of cars that got disconnected and left behind.
It’s a freaking mess.
What happens next, after you haphazardly try to catch up? Late bedtime. Cranky attitude next day.
No, thank you!
A single “daily routine,” repeated every day with the same expectation of energy is pretty much impossible in this day in age if you want to be successful.
We’re digitally connected (and overloaded), distracted, and have very few boundaries. How are we EVER supposed to follow a linear point from A to Z in a single day? Then repeat that five days a week?!
Especially for us mamas who are juggling crazy amounts of mental load in our days.
Congratulations, you can stop trying to fit your schedule into Groundhog Day!
I have a better way for you to manage your time with intention yet maintain tons of flexibility in your day.
Today, we’re talking about time blocking the work week.
What’s the Difference Between a Daily Routine & Time Blocking?
It might seem like time blocking is exactly the same as a daily routine – but let me address this with the top 3 differences that have the most impact.
- Level of Flexibility
- Time Block – flexibility is high within the individual time block. Once out of the time block, you’re off to the next time block and must cut ties with the prior block. No more piled up train cars. Do the work or leave it behind.
- Daily Routine – flexibility is high all day. Theoretically, you could shuffle most of your tasks around, if needed, without regard for everything else on your calendar.
- Risk of Procrastination
- Time Block – risk of procrastination is low once the cadence of time blocking is customized. At first, there might be a learning curve and unlearning of old habits. Over time though, you’ll master your time blocks and see no purpose in procrastinating.
- Daily Routine – risk of procrastination is high. With minimal set “milestone markers” in the day, it’s easy to say “meh, I’ll do that later when I feel like it” or to eliminate the activity altogether (skipping that self-care, anyone??).
- Chance of Success
- Time Block – chance of success is high as long as you build a time block plan that honors your own unique scenario and not anyone else’s version of success. That means deciding when the best time for you to do certain activities actually is, even if it’s not on the same timeline as others. It also means reframing my morning routine lesson into something that fits you specifically, in the event that you aren’t a morning person and don’t want to become one.
- Daily Routine – chance of success is also pretty high as long as you thrive in a super fluid environment, don’t overschedule yourself, and can self-motivate 90% of the time. This is more difficult, but if you’re up for the challenge, get on with your bad self, girl!
Alright, so with all that said, time blocking is 100% the right approach for me.
Is it the best option for you too?
If so, keep reading for some action taking tips to build your ideal week with a time block plan.
Why Time Blocking my Week is Critical to My Sanity
I’ve managed my schedule many different ways over the years, but I’ve found the concept of time blocking to be what supports me in highest productivity while exerting less overall effort (hallelujah!)
Here are 3 key reasons why I feel this way.
- Boundaries are no longer difficult to keep. My brain doesn’t get a chance to say “Say YES! Look, there’s nothing on the calendar coming up!” Instead, there is always something on the calendar, so rather than giving an instant “yes,” it’s easy to pause, check my time blocks, and fit the commitment into the appropriate block, if it’s worth my time at all.
- Tasks are done, even when I don’t want to do them. “Creative inspiration” drives me most of the time. If I don’t feel like doing something, it’s REALLY hard for me to do it. A time block schedule provides some leeway to pump myself up if I show up to do something not fully inspired.
- Productivity is higher when using my own natural rhythms on a weekly, and even monthly basis. Since my time blocks get planned in advance, not only do I know exactly where to put certain tasks, but I know where NOT to put certain tasks. For example, I know that at the 10am hour, my brain needs a break and my body needs to move. This is my exercise block on days when I don’t have a conflict with a work call. When I have a call, I try to take it standing up and moving around.
How to Create Your Ideal Week with Time Blocking
There are 3 simple steps to creating a first draft time block schedule. Certainly, there are many more ways to maximize it over time, but for today’s purpose, follow these 3 steps to take action to create your first plan.
- Add your existing commitments. Enter anything that already exists and can’t be modified first. In the future, you can determine if these commitments are truly mandatory, but today, we’ll have to work around them. Stay broad in documenting your individual time blocks with things like “Work – Phone/Conference Calls” instead of the specific tasks.
- Add your anchors. Such as, “daycare drop-off by 7:45am = leave by 7:30am and get home by 8:00am.” That 30 minute block (“School Drop-off”) would be an anchor since it’s driven by outside scheduling (kid’s breakfast block at school). If we make it to school at 7:40am, then I have 5 minutes to chat with the teachers, or can go home and take a 5 minute break before starting my next block. Do I start the next block early? NO. It’s free time, plain & simple.
- Fill in the empty space based on your natural rhythms and must-dos. For everything remaining, you have to make a choice. As mentioned before, I know that 10am is a prime spot for exercise – my body just demands it at that point. This step must account for your work scenario (work from home vs. in an office has different time block flexibility), your natural rhythms (morning slump or afternoon slump?), and all of your existing tasks (possible to have a day with no work calls so you can catch up on admin tasks?). These are all considerations you must address as you build a time block schedule for Monday thru Friday. This step will take the longest to fill in, but go with your gut on the first draft. Modify weekly for about a month and see where the data leads you. I think you’ll be surprised to find certain patterns and each week will get more and more aligned to your natural rhythms!
In the end, this time block schedule must remain flexible and shift with the season you’re in at any given time.
I like to re-assess my schedule every quarter. Sometimes it stays the same, other times it gets a complete overhaul, often just a few tweaks are all I need.
You might also be wondering how long to make each block. The answer is that it completely depends on how long the set of sub-tasks will take. When you’re working on #3 above, document the sub-tasks that you want to fit in before you document that block, so you can get a better feel for the total time. Blocks shouldn’t be less than 30 minutes, but the higher end cap totally depends on your stamina.
For example, my 10am block is long enough for me to get dressed in workout clothes, access my Peloton class, complete the class, then shower and get ready. All of these things happen in my 90 minute “Self-Care Block.”
Once I see all the tasks within each block for the week, I can assess if there’s any way to be more productive by getting some things done ahead of time. But that’s another process for another day.
Here are some other helpful lessons to make your ideal week successful:
- Struggle with Procrastination? Check this post out.
- Ready to start a morning routine? Read about it here.
This post is second in a 4-Week Series on Intentional Time Management.
Check out the whole series below:
Helpful Hint! | If you loved this post, would you please save to a board on Pinterest? Not only is Pinterest a great place to keep your favorite articles in one spot (hello productivity!) but it helps place these tips & tricks in front of other mamas just like you who desperately need some support. Thanks, friend!