Let’s talk about time today, shall we?
I don’t know about you, but I find that time is one of those precious commodities that’s often in short supply.
As busy people, we constantly bounce from one thing to the next. Our days are filled with meetings, after-school activities, basketball practices, and errands.
In fact, for many of us, our days are so chaotic that we have little time to work on our side hustles, passion projects, or big goals that we’ve set for ourselves.
With New Year’s just around the corner, I’ve been working with my clients to set some incredible goals for themselves. And as we map out a plan, we’ve also been exploring potential stumbling blocks along the way.
Perhaps not surprisingly, one of the biggest obstacles for everyone is time.
How can we gain control of our schedules and make time for what matters most?
If you ever find yourself asking similar questions, then you’re in luck. Because that’s exactly what we’re talking about today.
We’re exploring my favorite strategy of time blocking to help you make time for your goals and New Year’s resolutions this year.
How to Find Time for Your Goals in the New Year
I’ve been a big fan of time blocking for years now. It’s a real game-changer in helping me gain control of my schedule and make time for what’s most important.
And I think you’re going to love it, too.
What is Time Blocking?
Before we dive into all-things-strategy, let’s first talk about what time blocking actually is.
Simply put, time blocking is a time management strategy that helps you divide your day into clear blocks of time. Then, you take your to-do list and put each task into one of the designated time slots.
Sounds easy, right?
In fact, the simplicity of time blocking is one of the reasons why I love it so much.
Why You Will Love Time Blocking
There are so many benefits to using time blocking for your busy schedule, and chief among them is helping you reach your goals.
Because let’s face it, whether you’re a 9-5er, a stay-at-home-parent, or an entrepreneur, efficiently accomplishing your projects is key.
Time blocking will help you get there.
When you implement this strategy into your daily routine, you will uncover the excitement to get started on your big projects. You will find the drive to stay focused. And you will create the motivation to keep going, even if obstacles pop up along the way.
Have I grabbed your attention? Awesome! Then let’s talk strategy.
How to Use Time Blocking
The basic approach to time blocking looks like this:
- Consider your to-do list for the day.
- Decide how much time each activity will take.
- When you’re starting out, allow for an extra 15-30 minutes to complete it. (As a rule of thumb, tasks often take longer than you think when you first this strategy.)
- Put your to-do list on your time blocking template, and allow for short breaks in between (more on that later).
- Rock your to-do list!
As you can see, this strategy is incredibly straightforward. That being said, there are a few different methods to the approach. I’ve included the three most popular strategies below including: the half-hour time block, the hour time block, and the 52/17 time block.
30 and 60-minute Time Blocking Strategy
I’ve grouped the 30 and 60-minute strategies together because they use the same method with different time frames.
Essentially, you break down your tasks by the hour or the half-hour, and after you complete each segment of time, you take a 5-10 minute break.
30 Minute Time Blocking
The 30-minute block strategy is especially effective for smaller tasks. I love using this approach in the afternoon when I’ve already worked on my high-priority projects for the day; I find the short time segments help keep me moving through my to-do list without getting lost in the details.
Do you have several voicemails waiting for your reply? Is your inbox filling up with emails? Does the kitchen need a quick scrub-down?
The 30-minute time block is perfect for these types of tasks.
You see, 30 minutes is long enough to get something important accomplished, but it is short enough to keep you moving forward and checking smaller tasks off your list.
For example, when answering emails, it is easy to get long-winded. It’s easy to spend far too long writing and rewriting different sentences.
When you’re racing the clock, on the other hand, you’re pushed to practice concise, direct writing that gets to the point quickly and efficiently. And when you do that, you free up more time for the bigger items on your to-do list. (Yes!)
60 Minute Time Blocking
The 60-minute time block has a similar approach to the 30-minute format, but it allows room for longer and more involved tasks.
I don’t know about you, but it sometimes takes me a while to “get in the zone” when I’m working on a time-intensive or complex project. If I use the 30-minute time block in these situations, I find myself stuck in that transition period without ever hitting my stride.
The 60-minute format, however, allows me to really sink my teeth into the project and make progress in my work.
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The Time Blocking Process
With both the 30 and 60 minute format, the process is simple.
First, use the time block template to schedule your tasks in 30 or 60-minute sections throughout the day.
Next, continue with the cycle of 30/60 minutes on – 5/10 minutes off.
And make sure that you allow time for breaks; it’s important to let your brain recharge. Go for a quick walk, sip a cup of tea, play catch with your dog, whatever.
Repeat this process until you’ve crushed your to-do list or you’ve reached the end of your workday.
Long Project Alternative
As a side note, if you have a lengthy project that lasts longer than an hour, the 30 and 60-minute approaches still work great.
Let’s say you’re working on a 3-hour project in the morning. Simply schedule that task over a 3 1/2 hour period, which allows for three 60-minute sessions, as well as three 10-minute breaks.
The 52/17 Rule
I know, I know. What a random division of minutes, huh? Believe it or not, there’s science to back it up.
There was a study done in 2014 where a business tracked the productivity habits of its employees through a productivity app called DeskTime. Their discovery was quite surprising.
The study found that the top 10% of employees did not put in extra hours. What’s more, they did not even work the full eight hours of a typical workday.
Instead, they took breaks. 17 minutes breaks, to be exact.
So after 52 minutes of work, the top-performing employees took 17-minute breaks.
And importantly, many of the employees would physically stand up and move away from their computers. They weren’t checking email. They weren’t watching YouTube videos. And they weren’t reading the latest news headlines. Instead, they chatted with a coworker (not about work), read a book, went for a walk, etc.
Time Blocking Stumbling Blocks
I will be the first to admit that there is a bit of a learning curve here. Yes, the time blocking approach is super simple. But it also takes a bit of trial and error to understand which method(s) works best for you.
Additionally, it takes some time to discover how quickly you can realistically accomplish your tasks.
Accurate Time Estimates
Many of us tend to underestimate how much we can accomplish in an hour or a day.
So what can you do?
When you first begin this process, give yourself a little flexibility. Allow some wiggle room in your time blocks for if/when projects take longer than you think.
For the first few weeks, make a note of how long your regular tasks actually take you. You will gain a better understanding of your pacing and workflow, and you’ll have an easier time making an accurate time block schedule going forward.
Try Different Strategies
Try out each of the 30, 60, and 52/17 approaches. See which one(s) work best for you.
You might find that you prefer different formats at different times of the day or on various days of the week. If you are more productive in the morning, for example, schedule a longer block of time for a more thought-intensive task.
Alternatively, if your afternoon slump hits around 3:00, schedule in a simple 30-minute task that requires a low level of brainpower.
For example, 3:00-4:00 is my afternoon slump so that’s when I block off time to walk my dog. It’s an important task that I need to accomplish, but it also requires less brainpower than, say, writing the script for my podcast.
Turn off Distractions
When you’re using a time blocking format, it is important to turn off distractions.
It is far too easy to “quickly” check your email, or scroll through Instagram for “just a second.” But as we all know, those brief moments of time add up quickly, and all of a sudden 30 of your 52 minutes have mysteriously disappeared.
So do yourself a favor and silence your phone. Block off specific times to check email and voicemail. And seriously, avoid social media like the plague.
The more you accomplish during these dedicated sections of “work” time, the more freedom you have at the end of the day.
So that’s it, my friends! Your complete guide to time blocking.
Snag Your Time Blocking Goodies Here!
If you want more strategies to really rock your time blocking schedule, be sure to check out episode 11 of the I’m Busy Being Awesome podcast, which offers a deep-dive into all-things time management and time blocking. You can find it here:
Start using these strategies and you’ll be rocking your New Year’s resolutions in no time!
Do you want to take your productivity to the next level? Be sure to sign up for a free 30-minute coaching call with me here! We will talk about goals, time management, and all-things strategy. You’ll be living your best life in no time.
Need your copy of time blocking templates? You got it! Snag your time blocking workbook here!
Let’s do this!
Have you ever tried time blocking before? What’s your biggest stumbling block when it comes to time management? What New Year’s resolution are you working on? Let me know below!