Time Blocking: How To Utilize This Powerful Time Management Tool!
Step 1: Identify Your Priorities
What are the priorities in your life Right Now? I say "Right Now" because priorities change depending on what season of life you're in Right Now. Maybe you're a high school, college or university student who's top priority is school, classes and working a part time job. Maybe you're a new parent and your priority is keeping a very small human alive while trying to maintain a level of sanity and organization in your home. Maybe you're starting out your career and prioritizing 100% of your time to growing it. Maybe you have children that are in school and you're running between your career and kids activities, prioritizing both almost simultaneously. No matter where you are, your priorities will change, and I can't tell you where your priorities lie, thats going to be up to you to identify them.
Lets take a look at where your priorities lie right now. Take out a piece of paper or open a note app on your phone and spend a couple of minutes honestly looking at what your priorities are right now. No one is judging you or telling you what priorities you SHOULD have. Instead identify the top 4 or 5 priorities that consume your life. Everyones priority list is going to look different since priorities are so unique to each individual.
Bellow are my listed priorities:
- My Husband
- My Daughter
- Family and Friends
- An Organized Life
(Note: My own personal self care and my relationship with my spirituality is woven between all of these priorities during my day.)
Relationships, education, career, spirituality, financial, physical, personal. Some, or all of these priorities may be on your list, but its important to identify them in order of importance before you begin your schedule.
Step 2: Understanding Fixed vs. Variable Time Blocks
When you first start a budget you identify what items are fixed expenses (housing, utilities, car payments. Item's that have a fixed price associated to them) and what items are variable expenses (personal care, dry cleaning.. Anything that will change daily or monthly and is more liquid in nature).
Time blocking is very similar in this respect since you need to identify what events throughout each specific day are 'fixed' and what events are 'variable'.
A fixed time block is a chunk of time that has been spoken for or "nailed down" for a specific event or task. For example, be work from 9:00-5:00PM. This 8 hour time block would be blocked off in your calendar so you wouldn't be able to add any additional events to that time span (outside of the work your doing of course!). Another example would be getting the kids up and out the door for school. Identifying that you require 7:00-9:00AM Monday to Friday to get the kids fed and out the door to school means that you block that time off in your calendar. You know, that from 7:00-9:00 every task must be related to get the children ready for their day. That could include getting breakfast on the table, making lunches, making sure kids have everything they need in their backpack's, driving them to school etc. This would NOT be the time to do your household administration, budgeting or phone calls. Attempting to combine tasks in uncomplimentary time block's can lead to stress and disaster.
A variable time block on the other hand, is more fluid and mobile and completely in your control to design. You in essence are blocking off a period of time during your day or week to an item that if necessary, can be moved to another time block. These time blocks are can be used for your priorities that you've identified above, or necessary household administration tasks.
Step 3: Utilizing Spreadsheets to Create Your Perfect Schedule
Now that we've identified your top priorities and you've thought about your fixed and variable time blocks, it's time to jump on Google Sheets or Microsoft Excel (or whatever spreadsheet platform you may be using) and start your weekly spreadsheet.
- On the first column on your sheet I recommend that you write down intervals of time. I like to work in 30 minute time slots, however you may choose to do 15 or 60, whatever will work for you.
- On the top row designate each column to a specific day, Monday - Sunday.
- Begin filling in your fixed time blocks (school, work, children's activities, classes etc.)
- As you work through your fixed time blocks during your week, an image will emerge of the time you have remaining for your variable time blocks.
- Now we can look back at your priority list and see if there are blocks of time throughout your week that you can devote to each one. Let's look at a couple of examples:
- If you've identified that fitness is one of your first priority, you can now look at an outline of your week and see where you can slot in the time to devote to it.
- If you've identified that building a stronger relationship with your faith is another top priority, where can you find blocks of time during your week to devote to it?
- If you've identified that getting out of debt is a top priority, where can you schedule time during your week for possibly more work or a side hustle?
- As you input your variable time blocks, remember that these blocks should be designed so they can easily be moved throughout your day if necessary. They are not fixed, and an acurrate image would be to imagine them floating.
Bellow, I've designed two example schedules for time blocking for two very different people.
Note: I am only using 2 different colors to identify the fixed time blocks (purple) and variable time blocks (orange) to illustrate how they work together. When you design your spreadsheet I encourage you to assign a color for each item (work, personal, class etc.)
Example of Time Blocking for a Student (click to enlarge)
- Supporting self through college
- Growing relationship with spirituality
Note: There are blocks of time here that are open to allow this student to slot in time with friends, additional shifts picked up, group projects etc.
Example of Time Blocking for a Working Parent (click to enlarge)
- Home (organization and running smoothly)
- Get out of debt!
- Career advancement
Some Note's: On Saturday's I have identified a variable "Home Time Block' with tasks listed underneath. I am in no way suggesting that this person attempts to get all of these things done, but instead identifies what must be done during this specific day of the month and focus on that. If, for example, there is no deep cleaning to be done then that would be stricken from the list.
Being a working parent presents its own set of unique challenges. There is very little time in your day to tackle anything other then work and your children! So, I usually recommend tackling household items on the weekend where you may have more help and can work together as a family to complete chores. I also advocate mental health and the true benefit of outsourcing. If its going to give you breathing room, clarity and balance to hire someone to come in and clean once a week or once every two weeks (and it works with your budget) then DO that.
Step 4: Working With Your Planner
When you've completed your spreadsheet you will have a detailed picture of what your week looks like. Now its time to open up your planner (paper or digital) and, working with the spreadsheet, start planning out your week. this is a great time to also hash out what items you would love to slot into your personal morning and evening time blocks as well!
For me, time blocking is the true key to my success. It allows me to get everything done while at the same time allowing me breathing room throughout my week!
Have you tried time blocking? I'd love to hear how its going!! Shoot me an email or comment to let me know your thoughts =)