Does your to-do list look anything like this?
You're not alone. Most people begin each day by tackling a to-do list that looks like this or similar. Let's be honest, you know you have six things to tackle on your list but when is it actually going to get done?
Instead of solely going by your to-do list, take your to-do list and organize it in time- blocks so you know exactly when you're going to do what you need to do. Time-blocking is a productivity “hack” that helps you to make the most of your work day by assigning very tasks to a specific block of time. It keeps you in a proactive state versus reactive state.
Why Should You Time-Block?
Concentration- Time-blocking allows you to concentrate on one matter for a specific block of time. When you sit down to tackle something off of your to-do list, you can devote your complete attention to it.
Control- Even with a to-do list, many people just let the day happen to them. By time-blocking, you get what you need out of the day by being intentional on how you're going to spend it. You can start each day knowing what needs to be done and most importantly, when you're going to get it done.
Clarity- Your day is much more productive when you can see clearly where your priorities are and say no to anything that will distract you from what you have scheduled to do.
How Should You Time-Block?
Be Realistic- If you know you can only focus two hours at a time on deep work, don't schedule four hours. Schedule your day to maximize the times you are most productive. If that's the morning, use the mornings to do your heavy and most difficult work and spend the afternoons on more routine tasks.
Tackle Top Priority First - What's the one thing you need to do to win the day? Make sure that's the first thing you do in your day.
Remove Distractions- What are your biggest distractions? Is it email, social media or the phone? Whatever it is, eliminate those distractions so you can focus on the task at hand. At the end of a project, schedule 30 minutes to check up on email, social media or return a phone call. I get it, it's addicting at times, so think of it as a reward for staying focused.
Schedule Downtime- People have a hard time following a to-do list or schedule because it seems so rigid and doesn't allow for leisure or time to just think. But you can actually schedule downtime to help you stay on track and productive. The problem is when people are unintentional with their leisure and end up unproductive because of it. Block out time to plan, to rest, or spend time with family.
Stick to It- Don't get sucked in the trap of making a color coded calendar and then go back to your old ways. Make a commitment to yourself to do what you said you were going to do when you said you were going to do it. Watch how much more productive your days are as a result.
To illustrate how to effectively time-block, notice that the to-do list from the beginning has been turned into time-blocks in Google Calendar. So throughout the day, you can know what you're supposed to do and when you're supposed to do it. You can take it a step further, by color-coding the calendar to help you stay organized.
Bonus: Use a timer to stay on track. Give yourself as many as 90 minutes or as little as 30 minutes to work straight through without taking a break. There are apps you can use such as Pomodoro or simply the timer on your phone to work off of. .
Time-blocking doesn't necessarily have to replace your to-do list. I personally use them both. The to-do list serves as a way to brain dump everything that needs to be done. However, the time-blocks organizes my to-do list in a way that I can see when in the day everything needs to be accomplished. Try this strategy for yourself and you will see why time-blocking will be your best-friend.