The flexible schedule that comes with self-employment can be a blessing and a curse. If you’re new to entrepreneurship, the freedom can even feel paralyzing.
With no concrete schedule, it’s easy to lose focus and feel stressed about your to-do list. In this blog, you’ll learn about time blocking, how to do it, and how it can help you accomplish your daily tasks.
What Is Time Blocking and How Does It Help?
Time blocking is a time management technique used to create structure.
As a small business owner, you know that entrepreneurs can have little to no structure when it comes to their daily agendas. Time blocking helps create a schedule and allows you to see how much work and time you actually have during your week.
How Do I Time Block?
Step 1: Identify Your Working Hours
Identify when you plan to be working during the day. Make sure to consider any days where you have strict time constraints due to outside commitments.
Step 2: Prioritize Your Tasks
Review your tasks and note their due dates. Then, review the due dates and prioritize your tasks accordingly.
WISE Tip: Prioritize your tasks based on two factors: 1) the due date and 2) the amount of time that it will take to complete the task.
Step 3: Pick Your Medium
Decide between a hard-copy planner or a digital calendar. This depends on your personal preference. If you need help deciding, here are some benefits to each:
With a digital calendar, others can see when you plan to be in a focused work block vs. when you’re free for a meeting. You can set reminders several minutes before the start of the next task if you are constantly getting wrapped up in your work. You can also add links, emails, and other resources in the notes section for easy reference. Lastly, digital calendars are easy to rearrange if necessary.
Hard-copy planners are often less distracting because they are not connected to your computer. If you prefer to color-code your projects, they allow for more creativity with colors. Plus, they allow you to combine your work and personal commitments.
Step 4: Identify Your Working Habits
Identify when you’re the most energized vs. when you’re the least energized and plan your tasks around that.
For example, if you feel most energized at the beginning of your workday and completely drained by the end, plan to do tasks that require the most focus and energy in the morning; save tasks that require less focus and energy for the second half of your day.
Step 5: Start to Time Block
Once you have prioritized your tasks, identified your working hours and habits, and picked a medium, you have everything you need to time block.
It is best to time block at least two weeks ahead; however, if you are new to this technique, try working one week ahead.
If you have recurring tasks, it is smart to add those to your calendar for the next few months.
WISE Tip: Leave 15 minutes in-between each block of time to account for bathroom breaks, unexpected phone calls, etc.
Step 6: Evaluate Your Rhythms
After a few weeks of time blocking, see if you can identify patterns.
What were your busier days? How is your energy at the beginning vs. the end of the week and how can you plan your tasks around that? If you are consistently interrupted during a certain day, build time into your schedule to handle interruptions.
The Secret to Time Blocking Success
To be truly successful with time blocking you need to be disciplined. Only you can hold yourself accountable and stay focused during your scheduled blocks of work.
“Only you can hold yourself accountable and stay focused during your scheduled blocks of work.”
To help yourself stay focused, turn off all notifications and distractions.
For example, put your phone on silent, turn your team chat (like Slack or Teams) notifications off, and close your email to ensure that nothing distracts you during your work time.
That doesn’t mean you can’t check your messages and email during the day. That’s what those fifteen minutes in-between blocks of work are for. Schedule time for communication if you find yourself needing more than the pockets of fifteen minutes in-between tasks.
Finally, it’s important to be disciplined about performing your time blocking. Schedule time weekly to time block for the next one to two weeks.
WISE Tip: Before you turn your notifications on silent, update your status to “working” so that your team knows you’re working on a task and not ignoring them.
Self-employment is exciting and exhausting. If you’re disciplined and make time blocking habitual, you’ll be on your way to a less stressful and more productive work week.