Time Management Monday: Time blocking

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Time Blocking cropped

Something I’ve been doing lately that I’m finding very helpful is time blocking. I use a weekly planner with the days as vertical columns, and each day I use highlighter to block out set times for things I need to do that day. It’s a great way to get an easy visual indicator of how much time I have available, and it helps me be realistic about how much I can accomplish in a day.

I block scheduled items of course, but I also designate specific times for focused work (during my most productive hours of the day), weekly coffee with friends, my kids’ activities, and (maybe most importantly) travel time to and from places.

It’s eye-opening to discover how much time is automatically taken up in my day. It’s not enough to write things on the times they start; when I block the total time, I can see how much time that activity will take, and when I’ll have time to move on to the next item on my list.

Designating times for things gives me a comfortable feeling of knowing I am doing what I am supposed to be doing right now, so I can focus on the task at hand. I don’t have to worry about when I’m going to do that other thing, because I have designated another time for it.

As useful as it is to me, there is a fine line between feeling empowered vs. stressed out when I look at my time-blocked week. I have to make sure I don’t get overly enthusiastic about blocking out times that don’t really need to be blocked. I have to allow flexibility in my schedule for the inevitable unplanned things that come up.

I admit this method isn’t for everyone. I showed my friend my time-blocked week in my planner and she literally cringed. She said she would hate to think that every hour of her week was already accounted for. What brings comfort to some feels restrictive to others.

Have you ever tried time blocking? Did you find it helpful or restrictive?


10 thoughts on “Time Management Monday: Time blocking

  1. I block out study time at night, usually after my exercise or errands. Since my studying this semester is so diverse, I have to study 5-6 days a week (I take a day off from studying altogether — the week that I tried to study for 7 days straight burned me out). Blocking out time lets me know, “Hey, this is dedicated study time,” and I sit in my study nook, get out my materials and begin. When the time is up, I’ve usually made enough progress to be satisfied with.

  2. Yes, I have used it and was much more productive because I could see that I did not have time for messing around and at the end of the day I felt good that the important items were all taken care of and not guilt from flitting around instead of working.

  3. I love blocking my times. It helps me know how much time I have for each thing I’m doing and helps me see my availability better. I can’t imagine not blocking my time. It would throw me off. Great post, Laurie!

  4. Funny you should mention that today, I most recently wrote about it last week, http://www.pennywiseconsulting.com/2014/working-time-blocks/

    Some fear the blank page, I was overwhelmed by an open calendar. Time blocks help me provide some basic structure and more importantly balance to my day. It’s very easy to get caught up in work and by setting a time block appointment I give myself permission to take a break and work on something else. It’s helped me be more efficient and to prevent burnout.

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