How to take control of your time with time-blocking

Time-blocking is a way to pro-actively schedule your calendar so you get the most important things done without rushing and going from task to task.

How to take control of your time with time-blocking

As a growth marketer and entrepreneur, I know that there is always another project you can work on. It's difficult enough to say 'no'.

When you 'visualise' the work that you should be doing, it's easier to say no.

"Can you help me on this project instead of going out for dinner with your friends?"

Doesn't sound too inspiring, right? But that's the decision you're making (implicitly).

To make it easier to realise what you say 'yes' to, I use a system called time-blocking.

Rocks, Pebbles & Sand

If you don't prioritise the bigger tasks first, you end up with unfocussed work and you move from email to email and from notifications to phone call. You might have heard this analogy. It's a good way to look at organising your most important work.

With time-blocking, your calendar will go from the left situation tot he right situation: big blocks of time to work on important tasks and to finish things in one sitting.

Do you know the feeling of having a FULL DAY WITHOUT MEETINGS. It's glorious. And getting that every week (even if it's one day) will make you feel like you're on top of your work.

If you want to read more on the topic, I recommend the book Deep Work by Cal Newport

Here's how I set up my time-blocking to get stuff done.

Time-blocking template

Use this time-blocking template to write down the commitments you have every day/week/month. The commitments are the work you were hired to do, but sometimes don't have time for, because you're too busy with other stuff.

Write down all your commitments

Take 15-20 minutes to write down all the commitments you have.

Fill out the "Commitments" tab to get to a list of tasks you have to do monthly as per your job description. In the example, I've added stuff for me as an entrepreneur - your list will be different. These questions might help

  • What work do you have to handover when you go on a longer holiday?
  • What is in the job description you were hired to do?
  • What are the recurring meetings in your calendar (go back 4 weeks and look forward 4 weeks)
  • Reporting, analysing, thinking about strategy should be on the list as well

Schedule the commitments in the weekly calendar

Go to the 2nd tab in the sheet and add blocks of time for each commitment. On the right hand side are your commitments. Check them off when you've added them.

The likely outcome is that you have too many commitments. If that's the case, prioritise the work and see if you can delegate the work to other people.

Create a time-blocking calendar in Google Calendar

When I first started using this, I added all the recurring blocks to my 'normal' calendar. That doesn't work because meetings will be scheduled and the schedule you've made won't follow the reality of meetings :)

That's why I create a secondary 'Ideal Week' Calendar. This way I can check how I did in a week. Here's how you set that up.

I'll show you how to set up a secondary calendar that you can use as a lay-over on top of your 'normal' calendar. That way other people can't see your new setup and you can play around with it.

Add recurring meetings for time-blocks

When you have the secondary calendar set up, add the commitments to your calendar. Make sure to repeat them every week (or whatever the frequency is)

Change colours between primary and secondary calendars

To better distinguish the 2 calendar, change the default colour.

Reflect at the end of the week

At the end of the week, display the time-blocking calendar on top of your primary calendar. How well did you stick to the schedule? It's important to keep a growth mindset. Don't beat yourself up if the 2 calendars are different.

What can you learn from it? Maybe some commitments were missing. Or maybe other projects that had a higher priority came up. Have the (internal) dialogue on what's most important. That's the goal of this article on time-blocking: What can we learn from how we spend our time?

Conclusion

It's my goal to help you be more aware about how you spend your time. Implementing a schedule that works for you takes time and it won't be perfect immediately. That's OK. Keep growing and learning what works for you.

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