There must be something about spring that makes me fired up about time management. As I was drafting this weekly essay, I discovered I wrote about time blocking around this time a couple years ago. Is it the final thaw of winter? Maybe the blooming of all the flowers makes me want to do ALL THE THINGS! Whatever the reason, here we are again for a little spring cleaning of our calendars and to do lists.
First, let’s ground this essay in the Sustainable Productivity framework. Time management is a component of Mental Well-being and one of my favorite time management tools is time blocking. Think of time blocking as assigning a job to specific units of time in your day. This is less about making every second of your day productive and more about paying attention to what you pay attention to.
There is no special tool or magic product for time blocking. Cal Newport has a time blocking planner and links to videos where he teaches you how to use it. Some people swear by digital tools because their time blocks are managed by other people or change with greater regularity. The beauty is that there is not one best answer. The productive answer is whatever works for you. I keep my appointments in a digital calendar because it is shared with other people. Bixby can add things to my home calendar and my colleagues at my day job can add things to my Outlook calendar at work. But my time blocks go in a notebook. It is just a half-used notebook left behind by my son after he graduated from high school. I ripped out the Spanish conjugation and started blocking my days.
As with all Sustainably Productive adjustments, I encourage you to start small when you are learning to use time blocking for your time management. What is one task that you do weekly or 1 project you could schedule. This is not your appointments, this is working on what is important to you. This is not an appointment for your piano lesson, this is the time block for the piano practice ahead of the lesson. Determine when you will do the practice and add it to your calendar just like an appointment.
As you look at your calendar, (I hope) you have open times between appointments. If you do not, you may need to think about delegating – including delegating to the floor. More on that another time. Today I want to encourage you to think about what you want those empty blocks of time to do for you, what they could be dedicated to.
Paperwork or errands. Batching items can be a more efficient use of your time. You can just put “errands” on a 2-hour time block for the day, then fill in later what those are. Knowing you have Wednesday afternoons for running errands could alleviate the repeat trips to the same strip mall across town.
Catching up. What job do you want your commute time to have? It might be to just get you to work, but you also might want it to be when you catch up on podcasts (like the Sustainable Productivity podcast) or call a different friend each week to catch up (hands free phones of course!)
Rest. As mentioned earlier, the idea is not to cram 10 pounds of crap into a 5 pound bag by doing it efficiently. But if you can be efficient with your to do list for a couple hours, you may find yourself with an open hour or so most days. Or conversely, what if you scheduled rest, then built the other time blocks in your day around that?
Sustainable You Reflections
- What did you feel in your gut when you read that you can assign a time block to rest? Did it feel like you’d need to hide it from your people? Did you get nervous? Excited? Nervous belly?
There are lots of ways to time block. I would love to hear how it goes for you. You can reach me at Susan@SustainableSue.com or via DM on Instagram.
Until next time remember to create productive results in a way that you can sustain and that sustain YOU.
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