I have a friend that I speak with regularly. We talk about the things going on in our businesses and our lives. During the pandemic she thought the shutdowns would give her more opportunity to implement some new programs and marketing campaigns. The challenge for her was, as a result of Covid, more people needed her services and she became incredibly busy; struggling to get everything done.
Knowing that I use ‘time blocking’ successfully she asked how she could use this to help her complete everything that needs to get done. Here’s what I told her.
Time blocking is a process that helps you free your mind, emotions, and physical abilities to allow you to focus on completing a specific piece of your work. It is not magic and it cannot help you complete 40 hours of work in a 24 hour day (unless you have a team, but that is another article). These are the constraints of reality that must be met.
Block It All
I often say, “if it is not in my calendar it does not exist.” Everything I do I put in my calendar and block the time. I even block time to prepare, pack, and travel. I don’t like to be unprepared and surprised. Especially, when it comes to my clients or prospects. I want to know I have time to be with my clients when I’m supposed to be with them — That I have time for my kids when they need me — That I can complete my contracted work and meet my deadlines — That I will be able to say yes to more work and be confident I will meet their requirements — That I can volunteer in my community and complete the duties well, that I take on. By doing this I can stay focused. I’m less distracted and I get more work done.
- I don’t have unwelcome surprises in my business
- I have less worry about what needs to get done
- I can clear my internal ‘to do’ list and make it come to me at the time I can do the work.
90 Minutes – One Focus
If I am working on something that takes a significant amount of concentration then I know I need to focus. Here are some interesting facts I read some years ago from an article I cannot find anymore, but the idea is fascinating. When surveying programmers, they found that once they are ‘in the zone’, which is a term referring to an almost meditative state of extreme productivity, they can accomplish a significant amount of work in a shorter period of time than if they were distracted. In fact, they found that if they are distracted, it can take up to 45 minutes to get back in the zone. So if you are trying to get work done, block at least 90 minutes. This will allow you to get ‘in the zone’ and be extremely productive. It will help you get more work done and check more boxes off your to-do list.
Know Your Priorities
Priorities are sometimes not an easy object to identify, but it is important to know what things about you can affect your decisions about the choices you make. I find that priorities are often determined by these three things:
- Your values
- Your purpose
- Your passion
Your values are how you make decisions. If your number one value is family, then making decisions go against your value of family will likely not happen. On the other hand, family may be a big distraction. Your purpose and your passion are the drivers to action. If you want to be less distracted so you can stick to your priorities, ensure you have identified and incorporated your values, purpose and passion into your work.
Remember, these are the aspects of who you are and how you react to life’s ups and downs. They help you make good decisions and will motivate you to do the things you need to and want to get done.
Distract from Priorities
There are a couple things that I know are great distractions to priorities, causing lost productivity and missing deadlines.
- The people that rely on you, that you are committed to
- Your ego
The people you are committed to may be your family, clients, employees, communities, your church, your neighbours, charities you support, etc. There are so many reasons we could commit to supporting different people in our lives. Sometimes, what I have found is, when people over commit to the people that are important to them, they have not evaluated how that time fits in their priorities that focus on their values, purpose, and passion. They over-commit because they either feel bad for not being a better supporter, or their ego wants them to show up to more things to be seen. Both of these require personal work on ourselves and self-confidence.
Show up powerfully by having the time to commit yourself fully, again because it aligns with your priorities, not because you want to be seen doing more.
Be All In
Don’t try to do more than one thing at a time. Have you ever had extra time, just before another appointment you had in your calendar? While waiting, you try to complete a couple of extra things and, BOOM, you miss your meeting or call? I have and it sucks to get onto a call, flustered and apologizing for being late. It is not the image I like to portray to anyone, especially clients. I’d rather be seen as organized, knowledgeable and prepared.
Basically, I find that knowing when I’m going to work makes the time that is not blocked actually open for me to play, without the guilt of missing my deadlines or disappointing a client. I’m less distracted, less stressed, and I get more work done. It is a more balanced way of living.
If you want to get more done, be more prepared, and show up with a professional, organized image, learn how to manage your time with time-blocking.