Using Time Blocking to Get Control of Your Day
Having a good to do list at the beginning of the day, planned the day before, is great. You know exactly what you need to do. But if you don’t have a clear idea of how much time it will take you to do it, you can end up spinning your wheels. Knowing that you will have enough time to get those things done and when can make this even more transformational.
Block SchedulingMapping out your day for the tasks at hand is often referred to as block scheduling or time blocking. You are basically making an appointment with yourself to work on a particular task or project. In doing this, you have to have integrity and keep your word. What do I mean by that? I mean that you have to show up on time to that appointment. Whatever you are doing at the time has to stop, so that you can move on to your next appointment. If you do not do this, then the current task will eat into the time for the next one, and that successor task may never get done.
Mapping Out Your DayThis time blocking can be done on a daily, weekly, monthly, and annual basis. It all depends upon how long range your projects are. If you know you have a trial coming up next month, block out time in the intervening weeks to prepare for it. This will prevent it from being filled up by other things (client meetings, initial consultations, etc.) that can distract you, and take time away from, this high priority project that must get done. Are you planning a vacation? Block out the time now, even if it’s 6 months away. Want to have a few “mental health days” scattered throughout the year? Put them on your calendar now, so that day off has “dibs,” and you will be forced to plan around it to preserve that time. The important thing is to think beyond the next day in the office. Be more strategic in your time blocking, and use that evening before to tweak the schedule a bit and fill in the gaps.
Daily Time BlockingIn planning your tomorrow, look at the 1 to 3 things you have planned to do, and then do your best to estimate the amount of time each task will take (then round up). Always assume it will take longer than you think it will. Set alerts on your electronic calendar for five, 10, and 15 minutes before each time block, to help me remember to wrap up the task you’re working on, in order to be ready to move onto the next. In my office, each workday has three standard tasks that I schedule for 30-minute slots. From 9 to 9:30 AM, I return calls from the previous day. From 1:30 to 2 PM, I review my email inbox. From 4:30 to 5 PM, I review emails again and block my time for the following day, to the extent they are not already commitments on my calendar. Then I fill in my time from there. During the time blocked, be rigorously focused. Do not be tempted to do other things, such as checking email or other time-wasting activities. Then when that time block ends, wrap up what you are doing and move on to the next task.
Weekly Time BlockingTime blocking on a weekly basis is also important. Remember that I stressed the importance of doing a review of all your pending Tasks and Projects. You should identify the most important ones, and then set aside some time during the week to work on them. It is during this activity that you give strict priority to your marketing. You must block out time, and stick to it, to work on your marketing initiatives. Otherwise, they will never get done. Dan Kennedy and other business coaches recommend setting aside one day a week as your “marketing day.” This is you giving priority to working on your business, rather than in your business. If you don’t focus on these important marketing activities, you will end up putting them off in favor of other things in your business, and never get them done.
Monthly Time BlockingThen there is monthly planning. I produce a twice monthly podcast and edit a newsletter that also comes out twice a month. I have a templated project list for each of these activities, setting forth everything that I need to do to release either a podcast or a newsletter every Friday. I then block the time to do it. As a result, I have a podcast with over 150 episodes, and have sent out hundreds of electronic newsletters over the past several years. One of the goals here is to have workdays that are completely booked and planned. There shouldn’t be any unplanned activity. By having your day blocked out with specific activities, you have a clear idea of what needs to get done and how much time you have to do it. This forces you to maintain focus on those tasks in order to get them accomplished within the assigned time block. This keeps your mind from wandering and spending your time unproductively. Every day you know exactly what you are going to do, and what you are going to accomplish.
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You are never going to gain control of your practice, be more effective, and more profitable, if you don’t have dominion over your time. You control it; no one else. Get more information on how to regain control of your time by downloading my free book, The Ulitimate Guide to Taking Back Your Time. Want great business and professional practice tips in your inbox every week? Then subscribe to my newsletter! How about more personalized assistance? Then click on this link to schedule a call with me. We can discuss your situation and then set up a free one hour coaching call.
Finally, for more comprehensive information on how to transform your solo practice, you can also get a copy of my book, Getting Off the Hamster Wheel.