Time Blocking: A Busy Person’s Guide to Getting It Done

Time Blocking

Time Blocking: A Busy Person's Guide to Getting It Done

I mentioned time blocking on Instagram the other day when I shared a photo of the Inspiralized birthday cards I had made. Time blocking is what helped me achieve this goal (I’ve always wanted to create a little limited edition greeting card line, focused around spiralizing.)

I had a lot of people asking me about time blocking, so I figured I’d cover it in today’s #livinginspiralized feature!

But first, a What I Ate Today!

What I Ate Today, May 9, 2017

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Breakfast

A Daily Harvest smoothie – in a bowl! I made the Banana+Greens smoothie (use code INSPIRALIZED when you check out and get three free smoothies – I really recommend them for those busy people out there!) and added Vital Proteins collagen powder and Justin’s almond butter – to amp up the protein and flavor. Topped with organic blueberries, Bob’s Red Mill gluten-free granola, and some toasted coconut flakes.

Snack

I had a KIND Breakfast Bar – I’m obsessed with their new flavors (Almond Butter is my favorite). I had the Maple Cinnamon one, because that’s all I had left – it has 8g of protein and is made of great ingredients. It always fuels me when I need it – and it has a subtle sweetness that satisfies that craving.

Lunch

I had saved leftovers from the night before and it looked like a big bowl of mush when I took a photo, so instead, here’s the photo of my dinner (I reheated the meal!) It’s a Vegetarian Burrito Bowl – with bell pepper cauliflower rice, a homemade pico de gallo, romaine lettuce, avocado, and a black bean-pinto bean mix. DELICIOUS.

Snack

Had my usual raw nut mixture (cashews, almonds, pecans, walnuts) with a pear.

Dinner

I made my Golden Beet Arroz con Pollo – Lu always loves this dish! We ate the entire skillet, no leftovers. No regrets 🙂

Dessert

I had a few handfuls of Veggie Stix and about 1/2 cup of Lu’s Halo Top birthday cake ice cream (he’s been loving the stuff and I always steal a few bites – the ingredients actually aren’t terrible, especially compared to some other ice cream brands out there.) It was definitely a mindless munch, and I forgot to take a photo!

Time Blocking: A Busy Person’s Guide to Getting It Done

Time is our most valuable asset. With the proper management of our time, we can get anything done! I truly, really believe that.

One of the business gurus I follow, Gary Vaynerchuk, constantly talks about how people aren’t using their time effectively and thus, aren’t achieving their dreams or their potential. Instead of spending 1 hour each night on a business plan, for example, they’re watching television, playing video games, or scrolling mindlessly on Instagram.

OR, if you are a productive person, you may be trying to accomplish a task, but not even knowing it, you’re also trying to do 3 other tasks at that same time and thus, getting that original task done is taking THREE times as long! If you time blocked, the tasks would be done in 1/3 of the time and it would leave that extra time to complete other tasks as well. Voila – you’re more productive!

So how can we better manage our time and make sure we’re making the most of it? TIME BLOCKING.

How do you time block?

Make a to-do list, but prioritize it

Before you go to bed/end your day, spend 10 minutes on making a to-do list for the next day. This could be a personal to-do list, a work to-do list, or a combination. For example, here’s a sample to-do list of mine:

  1. Clear out my Inbox
  2. Write today’s blog post
  3. Organize Dropbox
  4. Build editorial calendar for June
  5. Schedule video shoot for May
  6. Write proposal for brand X
  7. Update Inspiralizer manual
  8. Cook 3 blog recipes
  9. Sign 500 book plates for HSN
  10. Mail out return packages
  11. Workout

Then, prioritize this list. Pick a certain number that’s attainable (I like to select 5, it seems realistic) and mark those tasks as priorities. By marking them, this means that you MUST get these tasks done in the day – everything else is just an added bonus if you get to it.

Now for me, I set those 5 tasks as priorities and then I give myself an additional 2 priorities on my personal list – so, a total of 7 tasks per day for me.

So here’s what my priority list looks like, from most important to least important:

  1. Write today’s blog post
  2. Clean the office
  3. Update Inspiralizer manual
  4. Cook 3 blog recipes
  5. Write proposal for brand X
  6. Personal: workout
  7. Personal: Mail out return packages

*Note: I always time block e-mail responding, but it’s never on my “priority list”, because it’s something I do everyday regardless of what tasks I have to accomplish each day.

Set aside time for your tasks on your calendar: time block them

Now that you know exactly what you need to accomplish for the day, it’s time to set aside adequate time to accomplish those tasks. And no, this doesn’t just mean saying, “Okay, I’m going to spend 20 minutes today cleaning.” It means actively scheduling the time in your calendar and setting alerts in your calendar to let you know when it’s time to start. I like to set times for everything in my day, so the time blocking flows more. You’ll see the schedule below.

VERY IMPORTANT: I also recommend not time blocking for more than 2-3 hours at a time, because the more time you time block, the more ‘liberal’ you’ll be with your time. “But I have 3 hours to do this tasks, it’s okay if I just check Instagram for a few minutes!” NO. Be realistic about your time blocks. If you know it’ll only take 20 minutes to do something, don’t allot 1 hour to that task – and if the project is much larger than time blocking can afford, break it up into segments. For example, when I’m writing a cookbook, I set 1 hour time blocks 4 hours a day to write – just for writing. But, they’re spread out, so I know I only have a limited amount of time and it’s a feasible amount of time to be zoned in and unplugged from everything else.

Schedule the actual time in “blocks.” Your alerts should simply say, “CLEAN THE OFFICE” – exactly what the task is, and you should take no more than 3-5 minutes to wrap up what you were working on and start the next time block. If you let 10-15 minutes pass by as you finish up an e-mail or whatever, that time adds up to hours throughout the day. Be mindful!

Now, if you don’t use an actual calendar (who are you?!), then write it down on a piece of paper and then manually set the individual alerts in your smart phone.

Here’s today’s schedule, as you’d write it down on a piece of paper:

7:30-8:15am: Get ready, eat breakfast & get to the office
8:15-9am: E-mails, social media message responding and checking, community building
9-10am: Write today’s blog post
10-10:30am: Clean the office
10:30-11:30am: Write the recipes for today’s blog cooking
11:30-11:45am: Check e-mails
11:45-2:30pm: Cook 3 blog recipes (this includes 10-15 minutes to eat lunch for me, since I usually eat a blog recipe)
2:30-2:45pm: Check e-mails
2:45-3pm: Mail out return packages
3-4pm: Update Inspiralizer manual
4-4:15pm: Check e-mails
4:15-5:00pm: Write proposal for brand X
5-5:15pm: Wrap up e-mails
5:15-6:30pm: Workout
6:30-6:45pm: Shower
6:45-7:45pm: Make & eat dinner
7:45 – 10:30pm: ME & LU TIME 🙂

At the end of the day (7:45pm), I have time to just relax with Lu, and I know that I’ve had a very, very productive day. If anything ends up coming up, of course, I have to adjust my schedule, but since it’s all in my calendar, it’s easy to adjust and move around.

What’s great about using a calendar is that you don’t even really NEED a to-do list, because your calendar alerts you when it’s time to move on to the next task. So, if I finish a task early, for example, I’ll check some social media messages, respond to e-mails, etc.

During your set time blocks, don’t do anything else but the scheduled task

This is the hardest part about time blocking, and I still struggle with it, because I am a self-proclaimed master of multi-tasking. But, no matter what, multi-tasking isn’t the most efficient way to finish a task.

Time blocking WILL NOT WORK unless you actually BLOCK off the time. That’s why it’s called time BLOCKING. Imagine you’re inside a block and you can’t get out. During that time, put away all your distractions – close out all other browser tabs, put your phone a comfortable but just-far-enough distance away so you’re not tempted to use it. Do not do anything else but the task at hand. Some things you may not realize that add up are texting, checking the news, checking your Facebook feed, reading e-mails, Gchatting, checking how many likes your photo got on Instagram, or making a snack.

The first time you try to time block, you’ll make the mistake of not truly shutting yourself off from the outside world. It’s tough, because our minds race like crazy and we’re so connected.

My advice is to make your workspace as prepared as possible – load up on a snack, water, tea, a blanket, whatever it is that you’d usually get up for. Have it all there and ready, so you have no excuses.

This method is simple but powerful

You will be amazed at how productive you are after a successful day of time blocking. It’s truly life-changing. On the days that I don’t time block (just because the day gets ahead of me and I get distracted, things come up – it happens!), I never feel as accomplished, and I always feel anxious or like I’m trying to catch up all day.

And if you haven’t color-coded your Google Calendar (or whatever calendar you use), DO IT. It’s the best thing you can do for your sanity.

Let me know what you think and if you have any questions – leave them in the comments! I can’t wait to see all you hustlers out there crushing your dreams, thanks to time blocking!

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