The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Time Blocking

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You set a goal to manage your time better this year, but you still find yourself complaining about not having enough time, not getting enough done, being too busy, and not being focused enough to get done what you need to get done.

It’s an endless cycle. You overfill your to-do list, end the day frustrated that you didn’t complete it, and begin the next day determined to try harder to squeeze it all in, only to miss the mark yet again.

How do you get the most important things done and not stress about your schedule?

By time blocking, my friend! And here’s how you do it.

Know and honor what matters most to you.

What are your priorities? Your family, your health, your clients, your writing, your home, your faith...

Put your priorities on your calendar, with the most important things first.

You have the freedom and ability to say “yes” and “no” in your own life and business. If nobody has told you that before, allow me to tell you now.

You get to decide what matters most yourself, and use those priorities as a lens for making decisions about what you allow in your life and what you let go, giving your best “yes” and your gracious “no” to things as you see fit.

Think about it this way: if you say “yes” to something because you think you have to, even though you’re not completely invested or well-suited for it, you’re filling a spot that wasn’t meant to be yours, a spot that someone else would be a better fit for. You owe it to them and the other people involved to politely turn down opportunities that don’t align with your values and priorities or fit into your schedule or strengths.

Do just one thing at a time.

It’s called single-tasking, and it’s the complete opposite of what many of us pat ourselves on the back for: multitasking.

We’ve glorified busyness and multitasking to the point where we think we’re not being productive or doing enough if we’re not doing all the things all the time. But that only leads to burnout, my friend, and I want better than burnout for you!

The solution is to focus on one thing at a time, not three.

You can’t do more than one active thing at a time, trying to listen to a friend and read an email or watch TV and write a blog post. You can do an active task and a passive task, like walking and talking, but your brain can’t do two active things at once; none of our brains can do that. Trying to do so will only cause both to suffer as you try to rapidly task switch between the two.

Doing this requires limiting distractions.

My favorite ways to limit distractions are to turn off notifications, close doors, close browser tabs, and turn off music with words. You can even turn on “do not disturb” settings to block out some dedicated time without interruptions.

Time block like a rockstar.

So how does time-blocking actually work?

First and foremost, it means actually devoting blocks of time to specific tasks.

Instead of using vague language like “work time,” it’s far more helpful to break it down into email time, social media time, blog writing time, or client call time. I like to schedule everything I can so I know exactly what I’m doing and when. I do the same thing for household activities like making dinner or working out.

Set a timer if you need to so you don’t have to worry about having enough time or going over and running late to your next commitment or task.

Use post-its for writing down things that come to mind to come back to them later instead of getting up right then and there to tackle them, interrupting the work you had set out to do.

Add buffer time.

Don’t forget to build in buffer time for yourself. You’ll be less stressed if you know your schedule isn’t too rigid, if going a little over on one task will automatically make you late for all the rest.

I’ve learned this practice the hard way recently. I had an extra busy work schedule and evening plans every night, which made for some tiring days. Even running just a few minutes late made me stressed because I had to let people know I would be late for our appointments, which I hate doing.

I don’t like being late or disappointing people, so I was in an almost constant state of stress. I had been telling people to time block and carve out time for things, but I had neglected to build in buffer time between my own time blocks.

Sometimes we have to learn the hard way, but hopefully you can learn from my experience and not have to burn yourself out or apologize to people just because you’re running ten minutes late one night. Instead, build in a little bit of buffer time between activities, and you’ll be more relaxed during transition times, commutes, and even give yourself a little bit of a break here and there in your day instead of going, going, going all day long!

Let your people know what they can expect and when you’re available.

Email signatures can be a great way to establish some boundaries and communicate your expectations with those in your circle. You can let people know what days and times you’re available by email and even create vacation- or break-specific signatures when you’ll be taking extra time off (which I encourage you to do!).

You can also help yourself and your people by establishing a family calendar, where everyone’s plans get put in the same place so you don’t double-book. That way, you won’t have people feeling like their activities are less important because they were forgotten. If everything’s in one place, you can easily see what’s going on in everyone’s lives and work to create more balance in your home.

Be very clear

Along with setting timers for yourself, you can start setting timers for your kids. Whether it’s for their homework time, tv time, or even getting one of those clocks that changes colors at a certain time in the morning so they know when they can get up in the morning, it can help to establish regular routines, set healthy limits, and give you more time to get your work done, too!

Another helpful habit is to use signals like a closed door vs. an open door. If you’re working really hard on a project, you could keep your door closed until you’re done (or you’ve reached the end of that time block). And when you’re done, or if you’re working on something less in-depth, you could keep the door open to communicate that others can say hi or ask you a question if they have one. It makes it easier for others in your life to know when a good time to talk to you is, and it keeps everyone on the same page.

Track your time

Last but certainly not least, I highly recommend getting started with a time tracker to know how you’re currently spending your time.

It will lay out exactly where your time’s going now so you have a solid place to start from as you think about how you’d like to spend your time.

Then reflect upon how you’d like to spend it and determine what steps you can take to make those changes incrementally.

It’s like a budget for your time. With your money, you have to decide where you’re going to spend it, right? But you have to start with paying attention to where it’s going right now before you can figure out how you’re going to spend it in the future.

It’s the same with your time! Start with how you’re currently investing it and then make a plan to distribute it in time blocks among the things that are most important to you.

You can get your own free Time Tracker Tool here to start paying attention to where your time’s going and answer some questions to determine how you can start investing more of it in what you love.

Here’s to time blocking our way to doing more of what we love and less of what we don’t!

-Jessie

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