Block It

timeblocking

Distractions.  Do they plague you as much as they do me?  The phone buzzing with calls and texts.  Social media beckoning me.  The requests of children.  Tick-Tock, the clock ticks.  Minutes pass into hours and if I am not careful the day has passed and no progress made in areas of priority.

One of my favorite time management practices is to time block.  There are many things in my day I can simply do as time permits and some I can even do while multi-tasking.  However, if I am going to make progress towards my priority areas and goals, I have to set aside time to focus, to work with intentionality.

time-blocking

My weekly calendar often looks similar to this.  As mentioned, I don’t time block everything, but I do time block the priorities. Anything related to my businesses goes on my calendar in green (my favorite color and representative of money).  I put personal objectives in red, often highlighted in pink.  Time blocking helps me focus.  I am a visual person.  When I see the time literally “blocked” on my calendar I respect it.  I protect it.  This allows me to then keep these designated hours and to work without interruption.  I often turn my phone on silent, tell the girls what I am doing and how much time I need (when they were younger I often sat a timer) and then with gathered supplies set to work.  I rarely have huge blocks of time, but even 30-45 minutes of uninterrupted time affords me the opportunity to get a lot done.  If I am seeking to make progress on a major life goal, this uninterrupted time is a necessity.

I also us time blocking when I begin to feel life is out of control.  Sometimes life changes, we enter a new season.  Our kids enter school, we begin a new job, additional family duties develop, we develop new hobbies etc…  Sometimes it is simply that I have lost site of my goals, I have stepped back from personal discipline.  Whatever the reason, when life feels out of control, my stress level rises, my productivity declines, I use time blocking to track a week.  Using time blocking to track your time gives you a glimpse into your reality.  Where is your time really going?  What is using up your time?  I am a firm believer that KNOWING, creates change.  When I am really aware of, KNOW where my time is going, then and only then can I begin to manage my time.  Not KNOWING, means my time is managing me, and that is when life becomes chaotic, stressful.

I challenge you this week to time block.  Either block off the tasks you know you have, or simply take this week to learn something about yourself-where your time goes.  Time blocking is a tool.  Time blocking requires discipline.  Time blocking can be ever evolving.  However, if you want, like I want, to be an effective woman, time blocking is the key.

Use this form to track your time. PlannerPadCopycat

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Friday Planning for Monday

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I used to do my weekly planning on Monday.  I was always in a rush on Friday to wrap things up, or had something fun planned as my little reward for getting things done during the week.  As a result I often went into the weekend with all these little tidbits of information and thoughts spinning in my head.  My desk would have at least one good pile of papers sitting on it.  I seldom looked at my calendar until Sunday night family planning time, when my husband and I make an attempt at coordinating schedules and I holler across the house asking my girls what all they have the coming week, what items they need, asking if I have signed all the papers etc…  You know.  The mom drill.  Monday morning would come around and while I would awaken ready to start the new week off with a bang, at least two hours would be consumed with going through the pile of papers, trying to get on paper all those tidbits of information.  I’d be border-line exhausted by the time I had my plan of attack for the week mapped out.

Then, during the course of my much time management related reading, I came across two authors recommending Friday Planning.  David Allen, of “Getting Things Done” highly recommends this practice.  I hate to admit this hit me like a ton of bricks.  What a novel idea.  You see, being the type A, rule following girl that I am, it would never have occurred to me to “change” the ever acclaimed process of Monday planning.  That had been the mantra of most of the authors I had read, with the exception of the few mom authors who acclaimed the Sunday night planning.  After pondering the idea for a bit, and getting over the fact that I had never considered this before, I gave it a try.  I LOVE FRIDAY PLANNING FOR MONDAY.

I attempt to reserve time after lunch for planning.  I block off thirty minutes to one hour.  It’s amazing how quickly I can develop the next week’s plan of action on Friday.  It is also amazing how much I can get done Friday AFTER my planning session.  I sit down with planner and phone.  I use the monthly calendar on my phone for scheduling appointments etc…  I still transfer this information to my paper planner, but I don’t carry my planner with me at all times, so my phone calendar serves as the “master” calendar.  I make certain everything on the phone calendar is written into my monthly paper planner and weekly planning pages.  My next step is to review all of my project lists (remember from my previous post I try not to have more than 4-5 projects at any given time).  If there are new tasks to add I do so, while also marking off completed tasks and transferring to the coming week’s pages any tasks for that week.  I then review the current week, looking to see if there are any items pending or undone.  I either determine to get them done Friday afternoon or I transfer the task to the following week’s list of “to do” items.  Thirdly,” I make a list of anything I am going to need to buy in order to complete the next week’s tasks.  Lastly, I block off time to work on long range goals-those items that are value to me, build my business and my ministry, and are on-going.  This is in fact my weakest area, but I am finding that as I continue to practice Friday planning, I am much more likely to have the time for working on these long-range goals and keep the time appointment with myself.

Why does Friday planning work?  First, most of us are not up to starting new tasks or doing any “heavy” work on Friday afternoons.  Focusing my energies on planning for the following week gives me an opportunity to “wrap up” and bring closure to the week.  The little things left undone are typically items that are simple, require little thinking and can be done in about 15 minutes if I just do them.  Things like getting the filing caught up, sending a thank you note or business letter to a lead, researching hotels for future trip…  Sometimes it is even going back and reading all those articles I pinned or put in my “follow up” folder in e-mail.  Secondly, Friday planning gives me an opportunity to brain dump.  I can go into the weekend knowing that anything I didn’t get accomplished the previous week has been assigned a new date and time, and will not be forgotten.  I read once that a great deal of our mental fatigue is caused by thinking about things we HAVEN”T done.  This practice helps eliminate that.  I can get it off my mind because I know it is written down and taken care of.  Thirdly, I can truly wake up Monday morning and jump right into work.  This usually means I am VERY productive Monday through Wednesday, and then my energies begin to slow.  But hey, that’s ok, because 80 percent of my stuff gets done in 20% of my time.

I challenge you to give it a try.  Friday planning for Monday.  It might just change your weekends and your Mondays.