For any kind of work, scheduling is the name of the game. Whether you work in a factory, a fast food restaurant, or a more traditional office job, having a plan for your week is crucial to your productivity. This is especially true when you’re working from home; when you’re working remotely, it’s easy for hours to blend together and for whole days to go by without work getting done. The key to staying productive is making a schedule and sticking to it. Time blocking is a great way to do this, and in this article we’ll help you figure out how to time block your week in 10 minutes.
What is time blocking?
First things first, what is time blocking? At its most basic level, time blocking is a scheduling strategy where you break your day into chunks – or blocks – that are specified for completing certain tasks. This is probably something that most of us already do subconsciously while thinking about our weeks, but by taking the time to do it consciously, it will be that much more effective, That said, it’s a much more time intensive form of scheduling, often requiring you to break your day up into smaller pieces than you would instinctively which is a bit of an adjustment. But if you’re willing to put in the time to make it work, chances are it will greatly increase your focus and concentration.
How to set up your time blocking system
Once you get used to it, time blocking can be a very productive system. In the interest of transparency, though, it’s important to acknowledge that it will be a bit of a transition. As I already alluded to, it will take a bit of time to look at your projects and break down your work time throughout the week down to the minute. Time blocking is also not the most flexible approach. Let’s say you plan to work on a project until 10am, but it proves more difficult and you don’t finish until 11:30. Since your whole day was based on you moving onto the next project at 10, everything that comes after will be thrown off and you’ll have to move some things around. And if you work in a fast paced environment that requires you to pivot between tasks quickly and frequently, a time blocked schedule might be difficult to fit into that culture.
Fortunately, tools like Skedpal and Woven can make it much easier to rearrange your schedule as your go. But if you’re willing to put in the effort to work around these potential difficulties, time blocking is still a great way to plan out your week.
While there are plenty of online tools that allow you to schedule your day down to the minute; you most likely already use Google Calendars, and that is a perfect tool for time blocking your week and importing your calendar into Woven (in fact, once you link up your calendar, you can time block directly from Woven.) When you actually sit down to make your schedule, make it as specific as possible. That means simply saying “Work on X Project – 8am to 10am” won’t necessarily cut it. Include every part of your day, from your morning routine, to your commute, to your lunch breaks and your end of day routine. This may sound exhausting – and you don’t have to treat it as law – but it will pay off once you fully commit to the process. And here’s a tip: rather than leaving your email inbox open all day, which is a potent distraction, try to schedule a couple blocks over the course of your day to check and respond to emails. This will both minimize your distractions throughout the day as well as making the time you do spend answering emails more worthwhile.
The most important step, as with most productivity strategies, is prioritizing. When you sit down at the end of the week to time block the next week (a process I’ll get into in more detail later), think about which projects need to get done. Think carefully about when in your day you should schedule these projects. This will be different for everyone. If you work best in the morning, you will probably want to block out your mornings for your most important projects. And for those of us who are most productive after lunch, maybe try scheduling your lower priority tasks for the morning as a warm-up, leaving you the afternoon to tackle your most important projects. This will take a little trial and error, but the important thing is that you plan out your priorities while time blocking your week, not during the week itself.
If you’re struggling to rank your priorities for the week check out our post on The Eisenhower Matrix to find out an easy framework for setting priorities.
Timeblocking Your Week in 10 Minutes
Now that you have your priorities for the week, it’s time to make sure you actually follow through and effectively use your schedule. After all, you can make a list of tasks all you want, but if you can’t actually follow through, it won’t help you get anything done. In fact, you’ll probably just be more overwhelmed.
Set yourself a timer for 10 minutes and open your Woven calendar. This is to help you focus, but also to push you to trust the work you’ve already done to set priorities and trust your intuition about to spend the rest of your week.
Starting with Monday, set your calendar to “Week” view in the upper right hand corner and start by blocking out time for repetitive tasks.
For instance, I like to scroll through my inbox to the start the day, answering anything urgent, starring any message that’s important but not urgent, and archiving everything else. I can quickly click on 9am Monday, name the event, click “more options,” and set it to repeat every weekday. Voila.
It’s not a lot, but I’ve done it for all five days in seconds. Add in things like lunch, repetitive meetings, and even your commute (whenever we start doing those again,) hobbies and exercise. If you’re sensitive to notifications, turn them off, especially for these daily habits. It might seem counterintuitive to schedule less important things like email first, but it’s because they’re repetitive and routine. You can quickly do them for the whole week and get a more realistic view of the time you have available.
Then return to your to-do list and priorities. Here’s where you’re going to cherry pick the best blocks of your week, when you’re typically most productive and know you’ll have the least interruptions.
Start with your top priorities and make sure you give them the best spots before meetings and phone calls start coming in. In fact, if you have a strong preference for doing your deep work in the morning or afternoon, you might want to block off a few hours ahead of time just to protect those blocks of time.
Last but not least, fill in the extra spaces with the other tasks that are important, but don’t need large, uninterrupted blocks of time, or that can be rescheduled if something else comes up. It can help to color code these tasks to make your calendar easier to understand at a glance. For instance, green for your most important tasks, yellow for things that are unimportant but not urgent, red for urgent and important emergencies, and blue for everything routine. Whatever floats your boat.
Woven even allows you to choose whether people can use your scheduling links to book events during that time. Simply click “Show as busy” in the bottom left hand corner of your calendar and choose “show as busy” or “show as free” if it’s the kind of task you’d be willing to move for an important call.
That’s everything important. You’re welcome to take the time to add in your social life, fill out your home calendar and other responsibilities, but if you’re just looking to plan the most important work for your week, this will get you there in 10 minutes or less, guaranteed.
How to Minimize Distractions
As with most teams, staying in communication with your team members is crucial. While this is a good rule of thumb, it can throw off your time blocking. First, it might not be a bad idea to block out some time – probably not more than 15 or 20 minutes at a time – explicitly for checking in with your team members. Not only will this help keep you all on track, you might be able to energize one another or even help one another with your respective projects. Second, and perhaps more importantly, you and your team members might consider sharing your time blocked schedules with one another. While it’s important to respect boundaries and privacy, it could be helpful for all of you to be aware of what each other’s day looks like; that way, you will not interrupt any important work. But that will depend on your team and the way you work with one another.
Dealing with setbacks
Of course, when you schedule out your week down to the minute, it’s inevitable that certain things will not go the way that you planned. While you should do your best to avoid this, it’s inevitable, to a degree. It will be up to you to roll with the punches and do your best to keep your schedule on track. So, for example, if one task bleeds into the next block by ten minutes, don’t make the block after it ten minutes longer. Do your best to finish your next task within the original time block. Even if you still run over by a few minutes, committing to finishing it on schedule will keep you focused and hopefully prevent your entire schedule from going awry. But you shouldn’t feel defeated by these setbacks; after all, it’s all part of the process and the time block system certainly has a learning curve.
Assessing the results
Once you have made it through your week -hopefully with as few setbacks as possible – it’s time to block out the next week. When doing so, think back on the week. What worked? What didn’t? Do you find yourself underestimating or overestimating the amount of time it will take to finish certain tasks? Was the schedule you set up overly stressful? Or was it too open? Answering these questions will help you to figure your approach for the coming weeks, hopefully with better strategies and a better idea of what will work for you. Like I said, it will take time to adjust to this new scheduling process, and you have to be patient; it might not click the first or even the second week, but if you stick with it it will pay off.
When it comes to productivity, especially if you’re working remotely, scheduling is the name of the game. If you don’t have a solid schedule, you’re really flying by the seat of your pants and betting your productivity won’t suffer. That might work some of the time, but if you’re a busy person, or have a stressful week, it’s playing with fire. There’s a reason why the most successful people we know have the most detailed calendars.
There are many different strategies to accomplish this, but the time blocking approach that we’ve discussed here is uniquely effective for most people. It requires a bit of effort and forethought, but scheduling your day down to the minute can help you stay focused, motivated and productive, as well as make it easy to review your week and see where you might improve. Hopefully these strategies will help get you started time-blocking your own week!
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