Life Area: Professional
Many of you know my simple time management technique. You start with a brain-dump to create a Master Task List, then from that develop a Weekly Task List, with your Top Three becoming your Daily To Dos.
Time blocking is essentially assigning your tasks to different time slots of concentrated work throughout your week.
Why Time Block?
Organizing your tasks into time blocks helps you prioritize better. Assign your number 1 task to your number 1 time slot. Your number 1 time slot may not necessarily be your first time slot of the week…make it your best time slot based on the cycles I talk about below.
There is also a psychological reason why time-blocking makes more sense. In what is known as the Zeigarnik effect, which basically states that we remember what we haven’t done better than what we have done, an uncompleted task weighs on us, leading to stress and insomnia. However, when we have all of our tasks placed into a specific time slot, we sleep more soundly knowing everything that needs to get done is assigned a time to get done.
Cycles and Biorhythms
I’ve written here before about the Pomodoro productivity method which recommends at period of focused work, usually 50-60 minutes, followed by a brief break of say 10 minutes. In spite of having a three hour block of time, be sure to “break” it up.
Before you start calendaring your time slots, think about how your energy and work both flow. Are there work cycles that could affect how much uninterrupted time you will have? And what times of day do you have the most energy or are best suited to do the tasks you need to do? “Don’t schedule a hard task in a time of day where you typically lag, and don’t schedule a big task in a small amount of time. Wishful thinking can’t change the reality of your schedule,” Cal Newport adds in his new book Deep Work.
Here’s how it works: Remember this: your Master Task List may contain 100 items but you know from previous mentions here that the Paraeto Principle states that 80% of your results will come from 20% of your efforts. The same holds true for your tasks. They will break out like this: 10% will be your highest priorities at any given time (with 20% of those yield 80% of your results). The bottom 10% WILL NEVER GET DONE. And the 80% in the middle will slide up and down, be replaced, drop-off, etc. So here are the numbers from your brain-dump of 100: 10 will be of highest priority (2 will be game changers), 10 will never get done, and 80 will constantly be on the move to completion or deletion.
Now, make your Weekly Task List the Top Ten. Pick your Top Three. Calendar your two game changers in your optimum time slots and derive your Daily Task List.
ALLOT ENOUGH TIME
Inevitably we will underestimate the amount of time it will take to complete a task and the distractions that will show up. So I allot myself DOUBLE the amount of time I estimate, knowing that some will take more time and others less. In the end, it’ll even out.
I read somewhere, and I’m sorry I don’t remember now where in order to cite it for you, that it takes us 20 minutes to get back in the zone after we’ve had a period of concentrated work flow and are distracted. I say this to remind you, and me, that if I take the time to turn my attention to a 30 minute distraction, it’s gonna take me nearly an hour to get back in the flow where I left off.
For me, this goes for phone calls, emails, “gotta minute?s” and the like. Don’t be tempted to acquiesce, treat your time slots like an appointment…you would be unavailable. Which reminds me, when you are first creating your weekly calendar on Sunday evening or Monday morning, put your meetings and appointments in first, then schedule your time slots around them, giving a time slot to un-calendared meetings so that you have a trade-off when important meetings and appointments show up unexpectedly.
KEEP IT FLEXIBLE
If Time Blocking is new to you then treat it like an experiment. You’ll find over time what works and doesn’t work for you. Don’t even hold your first couple of weekly schedules as cast in stone. Find your rhythm, identify your body and energy cycles and soon you will find your sweet spots for getting in the flow.
YOUR ACTION STEP
Download my Ideal Week template and create your Ideal Week. Do your brain-dump to get everything out of your head and onto a Master Task List. Select your Top Ten priorities for the week. Spend Sunday night calendaring your time slots…and give it a go.
In continuation of a sampling of the 100 Things Successful People Do from the book of the same title by author Nigel Cumberland (but not all 100 🙂 Here’s another 5:
1. Stay focused
2. Love more
3. Forgive others
4. Get past your past
5. Be grateful.
One of my missions in life is to move and inspire people to live their highest vision. It is my honor and privilege to serve you in this way. I make it an absolute MUST to inspire each and every one of you to STEP UP and live the life of your dreams, NOW, and not settle for less than you can be, do, have, say or believe.
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