As someone who is highly organized (seriously, my super power is color-coding), I use journals and planners to plan out my week. I've received many comments on my planners over the years because some people feel as though using a planner or task list to plan out the day seems to take more time than it's worth. I strongly disagree. A short time of planning each week helps me be as productive as possible during the day. It's become something I enjoy and look forward to doing each week, and helps me get the many tasks I juggle each week done efficiently.
One of the things I've learned to bring my time management planning to another level is hour blocking. It allows you to get the most of out your day and empowers you to take control of the minutes in each day.
Here's how I've learned to incorporate hour blocking to take advantage of this valuable technique.
1. Start with planning.
Make a list of all of your important tasks for the week. Then, narrow this list down to three to five essential tasks. Be realistic about your planning. Avoid thinking that you can do a million tasks in one day or week.
2. Block your hours.
After you have a short list of tasks, block the hours on your schedule each day. This is called time blocking and essentially requires you to take each hour and assign a task or item to it. It's always better to group related tasks together and add them to specific blocks of time. Don't forget to schedule lunches and breaks. I even block time for working out because it's been so important to my mental wellbeing throughout the day. Taking time to rest your mind and body is important! Your breaks allow you to get back to your tasks with renewed energy.
3. Reduce distractions.
Hour blocking requires that you eliminate distractions, so you don’t lose focus.Sometimes that feels impossible, especially lately as more people are working remotely than ever, and distractions at home are sometimes difficult to avoid. Figure out what your main distractions are. Do you waste time on social media or constantly check your phone? Do you spend hours in your email inbox and respond to every message instantly? Eliminate or reduce these distractions. You may want to set aside a specific chunk of time each day to handle your social media, email inbox, and other tasks that distract you from your more essential actions. Another thing that has helped me tremendously is to let others know when I'm busy or need to focus on something important so they can limit the interruptions.
4. Keep the time blocks flexible.
Unless you know the exact amount of time each task will take, it’s important to keep the time blocks flexible. This is something I've had to learn to be okay with over the years. Being flexible with your time will also allow you to take care of other important things that come up with a minimum amount of stress or changes to your schedule.
5. Review your time blocks regularly.
Make adjustments as needed. If your tasks change, or you find that they take more or less time than you thought, modify your time blocks to take the new information into account Reviewing your time blocks will also give you the chance to see when you’re most productive. If you do your best work in the morning, schedule more important tasks during these hours. Reviews will help you evaluate your productivity levels and decide which parts need attention. Another advantage of doing reviews is that it gives you the chance to see if your reminders are working or if they need to be changed. Use alerts on your phone or computer, sticky notes, or traditional alarms to remind you that it’s time to move to the next task. The key is to find something that works for you.
Hour blocking has become such a useful tool in my planning and time management toolbox. Starting off the new year always seems like a great time to start something new, and adding hour blocking planning will help you get the most out of each day, hopefully reducing stress and increasing your productivity, whether it be at work or at home (or both!).