Today Christina, one of our managers here at Dolphin Outsourcing, is talking through time blocking your tasks within your small business! So, what is time blocking? Are there different ways to time block? Is it worth my time?
Find out the answers to all the questions above and more by watching the video or reading the transcript below.
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"Hi everyone, it’s Christina Barker, Manager of Dolphin Outsource Ltd. Today, I’m here to talk to you about time blocking. So this sentence explains it well. A 60-hour working week without time blocking produces the same output as a 40 hour time blocked workweek. If you don’t control your schedule, it will control you. Think about that for a second. How do you balance meetings, email, team chat, etc., by focusing on what you want to get done. We all need a strategy to help us focus in a world full of distractions, especially at the moment, and that’s where time blocking comes in. Time blocking is a simple yet effective way to take back control of your working day. Do you juggle different projects or responsibilities, spend too much time responding to email messages? I do that every so often; find your day jammed with meetings. You battle constant interruptions from the day; then, time blocking could be the thing for you. So what is it? Time blocking is a time management method that asks you to divide your day into blocks of time. So each block is dedicated to accomplishing a specific task or group of tasks and only those particular tasks. Instead of writing a never-ending to-do list that you’ll get to eventually, whenever you’ll do it, you’ll start each day with a set schedule that lays out what you work on and when. So the key to this method is prioritising your task list in advance. So I would recommend that you did this weekly. If you look at what’s coming up for the week ahead, make a rough plan of your time blocks for each day. At the end of each working day, review the tasks that you haven’t completed and any new tasks that have come in. So then, you can adjust your time blocks for the rest of the week accordingly. With days blocked in advance, you won’t have to choose what to focus on constantly. So all you need to do is follow your time block schedule. Go off track, or you get distracted? You can look back at the plan to whichever tasks you’ve blocked off time for, and then you can go back to it a lot easier than wondering where you were before. It just takes off that time with pressure. So time blocking has got some variants to it as well, which are worth considering. So you might have heard of these you might not, but it’s task batching, day theming and time boxing.
So time blocking divides the day into blocks, as I’ve mentioned before, with each block dedicated to accomplishing a specific task or activity and only that particular task or activity. So, for example, you might say, I will write a blog post every day, from 9 am to 11 am. I mean, you’re going to get a lot of stuff done in that time, but that could be an example that you do.
Task batching is grouping together similar tasks and doing them all at once. This avoids switching to something else, so for example, I’m going to answer all my emails at three o’clock.
Day theming is dedicating each day of the week to a specific area to focus all of your responsibility on. For example, on Monday, I’m going to focus on doing some content creation. Every Tuesday, I’m going to focus on content promotion. Every Wednesday, I’m going to focus on research etc.
Timeboxing is setting a limit on how much you want to dedicate to specific tasks. So, for example, I will write a 1500 blog article between one and 3 pm. Maybe if you can get 1000 ways within that time, then that’s good, but that’s an example for you.
Task batching is when you group similar smaller tasks and schedule specific time blocks to complete them all at once. So by tackling similar tasks in that group, you’ll limit the amount of switching between tasks that you have to do throughout the day. Then you save time and energy as well. So, for example, that could be scheduling like two 20 minute blocks to do emails during the day, which is more efficient than checking inbox every 15 minutes and replying. You don’t realise how much time that takes sometimes, but if you block those into separate times, you know that you can get that done within that time. And again, by batching similar tasks together, you’ll minimise switching to different things throughout the day as well.
Time blocking goes well with task batching because it saves you from scheduling like every individual task on your calendar, and that’s another thing that many people do. Instead, you can block off chunks of time each day or week when you want to complete a specific batch of activities. For example, you might want to do emails, invoicing, meetings or blogs, etc., whatever it is that you do for your business.
Day theming is an extreme version of task blocking for people who have many areas of responsibility. For example, an entrepreneur often has to pay attention to many things simultaneously. These might be marketing, sales, product development, customer support or HR. So instead of setting aside time blocks for each area of responsibility each day, day theming would dedicate a day, like a full day each week to each responsibility, and save each day to a single thing that creates a reliable pattern of work it limits you switching again.
Why is time blocking effective? If you want to answer this for me, before I say the answer, go ahead and write in the comments. Otherwise, I will let you know. First, when you schedule a chunk of time to work on specific tasks, you focus on one thing rather than spreading yourself thin. Trying to get loads of stuff down when you can’t, so the more you sort of single task it, the more you build those mental muscles required for the work and the easier it becomes to stay focused. Second, it makes you aware of how you spend your time because obviously, you’re writing it down. You can see where you spend your time and where you need to improve and do things a little bit differently. So most people are pretty bad at time management, and we’re all terrible at estimating how much time things will take as well; we tend to over-commit. So time blocking also forces you to confront your current priorities and commitments and get intentional about how you spend your time. Finally, it counteracts perfectionism because I know many of us, especially in our own business, are perfectionist; we want to get it right. We want to get it perfect, but sometimes, you can’t always be that way.
So there are a few things that I would recommend that you could try to improve your time blocking skills if you’re not already doing any time blocking. So it would help if you got a sense of how long you spend on tasks by using time trackers. So you might use Rescue Time, which I use, or Toggl is another one; they’re probably the two main ones that people know. But something like that shows you all the websites and everything you spend on all the different things you’re doing. It picks it up, and then you know exactly how much time you’re spending on them, and you’ll be surprised by the answers you get sometimes. I also recommend setting priority tasks. Get those tasks done first; then, you’ve ticked them off your list before focusing on the next task. Many of us tend to leave that task until the last one that we think will take so much time, and you know, it’s not something you want to do, but it’s a priority. So you need to move that to the front and get it out of the way. Then you know, if you’ve got something else that’s not so much of a priority, it can be moved to the next day. Still, if you have one main task to focus on and prioritise, no matter what you know you’ve got that done, how much better are you going to feel knowing that that task was complete. Also, keep at least some of your free time free. You could spend all this time doing all the time blocking and then think I haven’t got any time to myself. Permanently block off some time when you know that’s the end of your working day when you’re going to relax. That’s your free time. It doesn’t matter what they’re doing, block off time that is your free time.
What other tools can you use for your time blocking? So to implement time blocking, many people use good old fashioned pen and paper or a calendar. It can be digital or diarised, like whatever works for you. I like to use icalendar. A lot of people prefer Google calendar; I’m using that a lot more now. But we do have an E calendar that you can purchase directly from our website, used in Trello. It includes over 200 marketing dates for your business, so I recommend you give that a try. Trello in itself is a free platform, and you can even have it as an app on your phone, so you can edit things as you go.
Trello is a good application. We highly recommend it. You can also do colour coding or labelling within that. If you want to do that on your pen and paper one, that’s fine, or you can do it on Trello or wherever you got your calendar.
Coding or labelling makes you see things a lot clearer. Stuff like that might be more helpful for your business, and you can see them at a glance as well. For example, if you were scheduling posts, you could see that your Facebook posts are colour coded blue, all your Instagram posts are in purple, etc. It shows up, and it just looks nice as well. So if you like aesthetically pleasing things, and you’re a little bit OCD like me, then you will love it! If your company has a shared calendar, or maybe you’ve got a team of people, you might find it helpful to publicly book off that time for things to keep as a good chunk of that time free. So, for example, I might put in mine that I’m out of the office, for example. And then the rest of the team will see that, and they know not to bug me, or if they try and bug me, they know they’re not going to get hold of me. So I suggested doing that one.
Scheduling your task in advance can seem like a waste of time to some people. You could be using that time to get things done. Although some people say, “Why do I bother doing that? It’s going to take more time?” it doesn’t. So when you aren’t controlling your calendar, it’s easy to let those distractions take over. So by making decisions on what to work on in advance, then you’ll be saved that time and energy when it comes to getting those things done.
So my thing for you is to give time blocking a try at least for a week, and then see how it feels, take back control of your time and attention and let us know how you get on. I’d love to hear more about how you are getting on if you didn’t use it before, and then you suddenly use it now. How has that affected you? How has it affected your business? Has it helped you? Has it not? Let us know in the comments, or feel free to send us a message at any time. I hope this video has helped you all and if you do have any questions, please let us know. I will see you all again next week with another educational video."