Being able to control your time is simultaneously one of the strongest habits you can develop and one of the hardest to keep going. Time blocking, often called hyper scheduling, is one technique to gain control of your calendar and become a more focused and productive individual.
- Control the open time on your daily schedule.
- Keep focused on what the time is blocked for.
- Productivity will increase if done correctly.
What is Time Blocking?
For many who work with others and those who might work on small teams or work alone, the ability to control your time can become quite difficult. Others might be inviting you to meetings, you might become distracted by something, or something unexpected pops up and now your plans are gone. Part of that you can control and part you can’t. If you can focus on what you can control, you can gain some momentum.
The way I understand time blocking is to take the phrase for exactly what it means. You block time on your calendar for a specific thing. This might be time to prep for an upcoming meeting, time to go to the gym, or time to focus on a specific project. It doesn’t matter what it is, you’ve blocked out the time for something that you’ve determined as important.
You might color coordinate your calendar or organize things with tags, but the most important part is to just establish the practice of blocking out time on your calendar to focus.
How Calendars Get Abused
If you work for a company where it is quite normal for others to schedule meetings and invite you to them, it is easy to have your calendar abused. If the person scheduling the meeting sees everyone free from 9-10 a.m. on Wednesday, they send the invite and think nothing of it.
You might have had a plan to take care of a little project or get caught up on email or help someone else on the team. Now, someone else has decided that what they need you for is more important. If you start your workday at 8, you now only have one hour to get going before having to shift focus for this meeting. In fact, you might need to prep for that meeting. The 60-minute meeting is more of a 90-minute meeting for you. If immediate action items come out of the meeting, the rest of your morning might be derailed.
If you take control of your calendar and time block, that time is no longer available.
Yes, you might be able to decline that meeting, but it also puts the meeting scheduler in a bit of a bind. Be respectful of what they are trying to do too, but don’t be so cold-hearted that it’s impossible to get meetings scheduled with you.
You’re the Guest
Another way to think of time blocking is to think of it as a meeting with yourself. If others schedule a meeting, you drop what you were doing a few minutes before, head to the meeting, and shift focus to the point of the meeting.
If you scheduled time from 9-11 a.m. to write a new article, review some drafts, or to contact clients, that is now a meeting with you. Drop what you’re doing up until that time and “head to the meeting” to focus on the subject. For two hours, ignore the phone, ignore email. If you were in a meeting with one other person, you wouldn’t just take a phone call in the middle of it, right? Treat yourself with the same respect.
If you’re done with the work before the time block has expired, you now have a bonus slot of time. If it’s 15 minutes, take a break. If it’s 30- to 60-minutes, circle back to what you were previously working on, or get a head start on what your next time block is.
Kick Out Distractions
Train your mind to focus on the specific thing that a previous version of yourself identified as important for that moment. If you can block out the noise, you’ll actually increase productivity.
It will take a while to create that habit of blocking out distractions, but once you do, you’ll actually produce more and likely do it in less time than it has taken you in the past.
Being more productive will actually help lower stress. You’ll have less on your plate, less to worry about, and in the end, be a happier person.
Additional Time Blocking Resources
There are two great places to learn more about Time Blocking. David Sparks at MacSparky has a pair of articles to read: Hyper-Scheduling Without Making Yourself Crazy and Hyper-Scheduling Technology.
Plus, on one of David’s podcast, Focused, David and Mike Schmitz talk about Hyper-Scheduling on Focused #71. It’s a great walkthrough of how to get started and how to take it to the next level.