As a business owner, a consultant, an aspiring author, a wife, and a mom – I use time blocking to keep myself on track toward my goals without sacrificing my other priorities. While it’s not an exact science, I have found the practice incredibly helpful and freeing.
Are you feeling overwhelmed with your to-do list? Do you have a list of goals that you never seem to get any closer to reaching? Do you feel like you have no time to be “off”? Time blocking may also be for you.
Let’s take a more in-depth look at time blocking with the work-from-home or freelancer parent in mind.
What is Time Blocking?
Time blocking is the practice of scheduling out your day with everything from work, family time, social activities, exercise, and so on. Think of it like a Marie Kondo makeover for your weekly planning – a place for everything and everything in its place.
As the name suggests, the practice involves segmenting – or “blocking” – out different parts of the day to accomplish your tasks to reach your goals.
How Do I Know If Time Blocking Will Work for Me?
Time blocking can solve many issues. It can help you lose the guilt over “I should be doing something else” – because you have dedicated time to do what you need to do. Moreover, if something changes in your schedule, you know where you can move things around. So, last-minute issues become easier to manage.
At the same time, it can be time consuming to set up. And, if structure is not your friend – you’re going to struggle with time blocking.
Key Rules for Time Blocking
Time blocking takes some effort to set up. But, once you get into the habit – it becomes second nature. If you’re taking your first adventure into time blocking, try using this process for success.
Step 1: Establish Your Top Priorities
Everyone has different goals when trying time blocking. It may be to make space for more focused work without distractions. Alternatively, you may want to manage the amount of time you spend handling emails, sitting in meetings, or putting out minor issues. Perhaps you want to be more deliberate in the time you spend with your family or self-care.
Understanding the top goal you want to achieve with time blocking will help you structure your time more effectively – and make you more satisfied with the result. Keep in mind; there is no wrong answer here, so be honest with yourself before you start structuring your day.
Step 2: Start Outside the Workday
It can be tempting to jump in and start blocking out your time during the workday. After all, that’s likely what you’re most eager to get under control. Take a step back and start by defining how you want to start and end your day. Make those time blocks sacred. They are just as important to productivity as what you do in the workday.
Does a morning workout help you focus? Make a block for that. Is a designated time for family breakfasts a goal? Make a block for that. Are you working on a project that requires a lot of creative focus? Make a block of time to do that. Do you need a certain amount of sleep to perform at your best? Block it in.
Here is an example of a time blocking strategy for a mom with one to two school-aged children. Keep in mind; everyone will have different goals and circumstances. Also, different people will need to be more or less specific about their blocks. There are many schools of thought when it comes to breaking down your day. But, this will give you an idea for a work-from-home freelancer, who is also a mom.
Step 3: Factor in Time-Consuming Tasks Versus Quick Tasks
One of the reasons that I love time blocking is – without consistency in practice – it would eat away at the time I need to accomplish bigger, more meaningful tasks that get me to my goals. So, I recommend starting with your meaningful work tasks and then incorporating the daily work and administrative tasks.
I subscribe to the practice of using the meaningful work/daily work distinction in my blocks, and then I add in tasks based on how much time I have that particular day. Meaningful work includes any to-dos that take more than 15 minutes to complete – it could be for your business, or it could be making progress on a client project. Daily work includes small tasks, emails, phone calls, and quick follow-ups. I also factor in meetings and sales time throughout the week to ensure that I am reaching my goals.
It’s essential to consider your client’s needs and best business practices when designing your time blocks. For example, using Monday as your “sales day” may fit the best in your schedule, but you’re less likely to get high conversion rates because your leads are just coming off of the weekend.
Here’s a general template to get you started. Again – everyone is different, but this is to demonstrate the concept.
Step 4: Factor in Time for Reactive Tasks
You’ll notice in the photo above that there are blocks for sales follow-ups, emails, showering and getting ready for the day, and so on. If you block out every second of your week without factoring in these sorts of things, you’ll find time blocking to be a less than successful endeavor.
The beauty of time blocking lies not in eliminating these necessary things – but rather in taking control of when you do these things. That way, you can ensure that they don’t infringe on your meaningful tasks.
Step 5: Write Your To-Do List & Add it to Your Blocks
Now that you have a template, you can start allocating your to-do list into the time blocks.
For managing my to-do list with projects and repeating tasks, I use the Things 3 app. I schedule to-dos that I know need to be done on certain days every week or month, and I automate those to populate on the appropriate day without me having to think about it. Then, I create categories for each of my clients, my household tasks, child-related tasks, my business goals, and so on. Then, I add in temporary to-dos for each week into those lists.
Once I have my to-do list established, I take a conservative approach to deciding how much time each will take. Then, I assign tasks into my blocks. I use Google Calendar for my time blocking, so I just put these tasks into the “description” box for every block.
And there you have it! A perfectly scheduled week, ready for you to crush your goals!
The “Parent” Caveat to Time Blocking
So – let’s talk about the elephant in the room.
If you are a parent and you own your own business or work from home – there is a hard and fast rule about children: They laugh in the face of your plans.
Like, big belly laughs.
It’s not intentional; it’s just the nature of having kids. Someone is always sick, needs a little more help with their homework, or just needs YOU. And, when those things happen – everything else takes a backseat.
First – know that there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. So, drop the working parent guilt right here, right now.
While I do my level best not to move client appointments unless there is a sick kid situation, it is common for me to reschedule many tasks to after bedtime because my toddler just needed more time with me. It may mean that I work until one or two in the morning, but that’s actually where time blocking helps me keep it all together.
With time blocking, you can see what you need and want to accomplish that day, and how the rest of your week looks. This means that if one day doesn’t go as planned, it is easier to switch things to later that day, a different day, or even the following week. That way, nothing falls through the cracks, and you can focus on what you am doing in the moment without feeling overwhelmed about everything left to do.
Time Blocking & You
Have you tried time blocking? What was your experience? Share in the comments!