The Year I Try Time Blocking

I am trying to get a handle on the choas in my life right now. I don’t feel like it’s permanent chaos (a lot of it is related to a potential move or other temporary projects) or else I’d make some changes to remove some of it. Instead, I’m just trying to figure out how to adjust so that I can keep all of the balls in the air without dropping any of them or losing my sanity during this temporary time when chaos is reigning.

I went to a work retreat recently where I heard a speech referencing Time Blocking. This is the idea that you should block out certain times/days to do specific things so you don’t get

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I was in the middle of that sentence there ^ and I thought, I have to pee. So I went upstairs and I thought While I’m up here, I should bring down that stuff that needs to go to the street since it’s garbage day. And while I was carrying that stuff to the street I saw the recycle bins from yesterday and thought I need to put those in the back of the house. And while I was back there I thought I need to wheel this one bin to the street too. I did that and then came inside to finish the sentence.
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distracted or lose focus.

Let’s all pause for a minute to consider the beautiful timing of that series of events. LITERALLY, all of that happened RIGHT AS I WAS ABOUT TO TYPE THE WORD “distracted.” It suddenly became very meta around here. Obviously, I need help avoiding distractions.

ANYWAY. My point? I feel like there’s too much constantly needing to be done in my life and I’m not always focusing efficiently on those things. My To Do lists are there every day but I’m not always efficient in how much time I’m giving certain tasks. I stay caught up on some and get woefully behind on others.

So! I’m thought I’d try to start blocking some time. This seemed an easy idea at first. I just sat down and scheduled/mapped out the “ideal” weekday thinking I’d have time leftover to play around with.

HALF OF AN HOUR IS ALL I HAD LEFTOVER. THIRTY MINUTES! And then – after staring at that for a bit I realized – Um. I put NO time to write on that schedule. And I like at least an hour of every weekday set aside for just writing. So, OBVIOUSLY just jumping in and blocking out time was not the place to start. I put the cart in front of the horse in terms of Time Blocking. I realized I needed to wrap my head around my life a little more before actually trying to block things out.

So I thought I’d start with listing out the “categories” or so of time that I need make sure gets scheduled.

These are the categories I started with. I’m leaving the list open because – even as I’ve been writing this – I’ve thought of other “categories” I’d like to include in my days. Things like “communications.” I want to be more disciplined about setting aside time to touch base with people with personal texts/emails/messages. Or responding to emails and blog comments.

I also want to give myself time to “get ready” in the morning. I know it sounds silly, but that is SUCH a low priority in my life and I think it shouldn’t be. I think I should take time to look at myself and dress/style in a way that makes me feel good about myself and not just in a rush to get to the next thing. My appearance is often proof that I prioritize myself very last on the List Of People Who Need Care in my life. On the days I take time to put on jewelry or mascara I just feel so much better about myself! So I want that to be a “category” too. I called it “Self Esteem” time.

I think I’ll leave the list open for another day or two to REALLY get a feel on the “categories” in my life. I’m also going to try to log my time to see how long it takes me to do things like grocery shop and meal prep.

AND THEN…THEN…armed with categories and time logs I should be able to build a time blocking schedule that makes sense. I’ll report back and we’ll give this time blocking thing ANOTHER chance with hopefully a little more understanding of my own personal chaos.

Have you tried time blocking? Any tips or hints you can share?

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12 thoughts on “The Year I Try Time Blocking

  • January 3, 2017 at 12:21 pm
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    Sending you well wishes to get that worked out! People used to tell me how organized I was. I’m so glad they can’t see me now! I don’t know if it’s age or just no disciple, but my plate appears empty until I start trying to clean it up. Then I look around and wonder where to start. Have a wonderful day!!

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  • January 3, 2017 at 12:47 pm
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    I came to the realization toward the end of 2016 that I completely overwhelm myself with long to do lists. I am trying to limit the number of tasks I give myself every day to make the day’s goals more attainable. So instead of putting 20 things on a list on Monday and only accplishing 5 all week i am breaking the list down over the week and getting most every thing done. While not exactly the time blocking you are considering I think I could incorporate some of those same strategies into my new downsized way of tackling days.

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    • March 25, 2017 at 10:58 pm
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      I’m doing the same thing for the same reason. I’ve given myself a limit of 5 BIG things that I need to do on a daily basis in each area… work, home life, etc… which tend to run together because I work from home. But I’m finding that using blocked time is really helping me get a grip and give myself permission to do something that I usually neglect until I just can’t anymore, and that is rest.

      Reply
  • January 3, 2017 at 2:10 pm
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    I used to be like that. My life was literally scheduled down to the minute with stuff. A couple of years ago, I streamlined my life. Did I really “need” to be doing every single thing I was doing? Was I “doing” stuff for the right reasons? The answer was no. My house didn’t fall apart because I didn’t vacuum daily. I wasn’t shunned because I didn’t volunteer for stuff. I wasn’t hated because I made “me” time. We are finely tuned engines. If we don’t take time to stop, relax and enjoy, we stop working properly. My to do list went from a full page to maybe five items, ten items on what I call a busy day. Once my to do list is done, if I have time, I can easily add things. Life is much easier now and this principle carried over into my job as well. As I say, I’m no longer in the rat race, I’m taking the river cruise.

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  • January 3, 2017 at 5:54 pm
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    That brief interlude where you got distracted with a task which led to another task you noticed which led to another…….I am constantly doing that. Sometimes I get so far down the task rabbit hole, I forget what I was doing in the first place!

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  • January 3, 2017 at 7:39 pm
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    I’d like to see the second photo enlarged but, unlike the first one, I couldn’t download it. Help please!

    Love your points about making time to look good–I hope you find the time–you deserve it!

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  • January 3, 2017 at 7:51 pm
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    Misery loves company, right? I think the more accurate version is stress loves company. I’m in a similar boat. At first, I would right out every little thing I wanted to get done on my daily to do list (work, personal, home, etc.). Only to realize that it was completely unrealistic and downright impossible to complete ALL of those things. So I started leaving out the routine “house” or “chore” type things, because I thought it would make my to do list less overwhelming. Problem: those things ended up not getting done. So then I shifted those to my weekly spreads in my bujo. That didn’t work well either. I’m in the same boat of trying the time blocking/ladder type system myself. We’ll see if that helps any. Fingers crossed. Can’t wait to hear how your experimenting turns out!

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  • January 3, 2017 at 8:04 pm
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    I think you will love “playing with blocks” of time. It is something I started years ago and it has really helped me in so many areas…including sanity and focus. I have a free workshop available on time blocking time management if you’d like me to send you the link. Enjoyed your article and have a wonderful 2017.

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  • January 3, 2017 at 9:38 pm
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    I’ve done 3 things I think may help you. At least, you can set aside some time this week to ponder them 😉

    1. I started (in December) to track my days. I made a table in my bujo, from 0 to 24, and I track the major things I do that day. For me that is uni classes, studying, sleeping, wasting time (ie non-earned recreational time), recreational time (earned for every hour I study) and my flat (includes chores, cleaning, laundry, groceries, etc). I was just tracking for an entire month. This gave me a rough idea of how well I’ve been contributing to each category (and there was a lot of my purple time wasting one! more than I thought!)

    2. I implemented a top-3 into my current layouts. Every day, I ask myself what are my top 3 goals / priorities / areas of focus. These are the ones that I need to return to whenever I feel myself slipping off course.

    3. I am currently reading Getting Things Done by David Allen. He has a remarkable system about getting rid of all the stuff in your life that weighs you down. There’s so much good stuff in the book, that I couldn’t even begin to summarize it here. I really suggest you read it, though!

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  • January 3, 2017 at 10:42 pm
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    I literally just sat down with my coffee to do this exact thing and then I checked my email and ohhh I might just read this post and BAM! Preaching to the distractible choir here lol But good hint on the mapping out what needs to be done before just ploughing through your time schedule!!

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  • January 5, 2017 at 5:56 pm
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    I am trying ‘day blocking’ lately and it seems to be going…..ok as long as I never leave the house ever. I set aside Monday for cleaning (like actually going beyond just picking up socks after children), Tuesday for volunteer work (I’m organizing a fundraiser, volunteering with the kids school) Wednesday and blogging and writing, Thursday is running errands and one time projects (things that don’t repeat regularly like camp forms or researching a new CSA) and Friday is cooking. I try to leave Saturdays and Sundays free form as far as my personal productivity goals so I can do family things/ catch up where I got behind. So far I like it- today I have a meeting for my kids’ school- so I swapped Tuesday and Thursday’s goals. This way I’m copying over much less stuff from day to day in my bullet journal.

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  • January 9, 2017 at 2:43 am
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    Love it. I am retired but do lots of volunteering and forget about things I need to get done for myself. I am going to think about this for a few days, time the things I do do and figure out how to make this work. Especially taking the time to exercise and eat healthy with other things filled it around that – without health you have nothing.

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