Living Your Most Efficient Life: Time Blocking
If I could choose one practice that has helped me grow from ADD intellectual train-wreck to matured business woman with sustainable operations...it’s time blocking. Here are some of my favorite time-blocking habits that have revolutionized my working life.
Planning Time vs. Execution Time
I like to batch work. It keeps things interesting and narrows my focus. If blog writing is the task at hand, I'll spend an hour brainstorming potential blog posts for the future one day, outlining and researching several of those ideas in an hour or two another day, and on a day when I'm feeling particularly focused and free, sit down to write, write, write. It takes what can sometimes feel like a series of overwhelming tasks and breaks up the monotony.
Office HoursOffice is a loose term, sometimes it’s my home office, sometimes it’s my kitchen counter, sometimes it’s one of my (many) favorite coffee shops, sometimes it’s the Whole Foods dining area with arugula between my teeth. No judgement.
If I have a deadline (even one that’s self-imposed) it’s on. I turn off my notifications and put my phone out of sight, I mute any notifications on my laptop, I pop in earbuds with the best focus playlist that Spotify has to offer, wield my most effortless resting bitch face and I’m heads down, off to the races. In all my years of cafe-laptop work in even the most aggressive of environments, very seldomly has someone been so in dire need of talking to me that they fully pull me out of my concentration-- it will happen, but it’s rare.
Some people have that one spot in their house or at their office where they are totally invincible. Where focus easy and work is flowing. I do not (as evidence by the above). Thus, I’ve trained my brain to treat a few specific playlists to working-only time. If I’m listening to them and not being effective, I turn it off and try to get something else done. When I'm ready, I resume the music, and hopefully my focus.
Giving Myself a Break
I don’t mean taking the dog for a walk, or grabbing coffee with a friend, or making an early lunch (second breakfast). I mean cooling it with the massive amount of earth shattering pressure. I, like many of you, am so damn hard on myself.
I catch myself setting near-impossible goals and then completely distracting myself with “I’m not worthy” lies. When you spend a lot of time writing or heads-down in client work, it’s easy to be pushing, pushing, pushing, for deadlines and sometimes-- the mind simply rebels.
I used to fight that lack of focus with moseying into the kitchen, or scrolling through social media, or watching tv, or a litany of perfected procrastination tactics. One day I decided that I, a mere mortal, couldn’t fight the focus-vacuum but I could still be productive and relax my mind. I gave myself carte blanche to read. Not internet articles, not tweets, BOOKS. Like a big nerd. And when I’m ready to work, sometimes after 20 minutes, sometimes after an hour or two, I’m ready.
Prioritizing Time Blocks
There's a post-it on my desk that stares back at me, asking,
"Are you inventing things to do to avoid the important?" -Tim Ferriss
Often when I'm struggling on a project or with my focus, the answer is a resounding, "Yes." Prioritizing the work that's important is something I do each and every day. In the morning I sit down and write out my top 3 to-dos that will allow me consider the day a success. There are days when I try to sneak 4 to-do items into one, but I make sure I keep a running to-do separate from things that have to happen that day.