Time block in six simple steps

You may say, "if only I had more time?"

We say the same things about money. If only I had more money, I could (fill in the blank). However, what if we learned to be better with the money we have in our possession? Can we still buy and do the things we want with the money we have? By doing so, we are becoming better stewards of our money. The same is true for time. What if we only needed a little time necessary? We need to be better stewards of the time we do have. You are likely an entrepreneur who runs a household or works a 9-5 and then runs your small business by night. Your time is limited, so it is imperative to use it efficiently.



Many of us believe that it is possible to multi-task; however, when we break it down, we are not capable of being fully present in multiple tasks. Further, the time it takes us to complete a job is extended when we try to do various things simultaneously vs. just focusing on one. For example, think about the last time you cooked dinner. The kids ran in and out, asking when dinner was made. The dog threw up, so you cut off the boiling water to tend to Spot. Then your spouse calls from the other room that they can't find the remote. On the other hand, think about how much quicker you would have cooked dinner distraction-free. 

We do the same multi-tasking in our offices, except we spend more time on tasks that potentially don't even get done. You know the feeling of working hard in your office to turn off the lights like you didn't even accomplish much. However, as a small business entrepreneur, you must capitalize on every spare minute you dedicate to your business.



Distractions are detrimental to finding your groove in a task. According to a University of California Irvine study, "it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back to the task" (Lastoe, 2020).

23 MINUTES!!!!??? Many of you may not even have 23 minutes to spend in your office some days. Instead, I recommend focusing on one task at a time to alleviate task switching. This technique is known as time blocking.

According to Readdle.com, "Time Blocking is a simple time management technique where you schedule your day such that it is split into time slots that are dedicated to specific tasks or groups of tasks."

Instead of trying to run an inventory check on your closet while pressing tees, we will focus on one task at a time and see it to completion. Not only does this allow you to stay more focused, but you will see tangible progress made in your business by marking off important tasks.

Time blocking requires planning and tracking of tasks down to the 10-minute block increment. Plot out tasks for the day by assigning them to a block of time during the day. As you work, update the time block to reflect the amount of time spent on the task accurately. You will not work on other tasks during another task's assigned time block.



Step 1: Identify your non-negotiables

Specific tasks in our business or personal events in our lives have to get done or occur on a particular day or time. Therefore, there is no wiggle room, and we aren't willing to forego these tasks/events. Here are some examples of non-negotiables:

  • Drop off kids at school every weekday from 8:30 am-9:00 am
  • Work 9-5 at a primary job
  • Take mom to doctor's appointment every Tuesday at 3:00 pm

    Action step: List your non-negotiables for next week. Plot them in your time block tracker in a primary color to signify a non-negotiable to remind yourself these can't be shifted.


    Step 2: Write a to-do list

    There are usually a million and one things we want to get done in one day. Brain-dumping them onto a list will free up mental space and allow you to not stress about forgetting that task. Of course, this list will become long very quickly, but that is okay!

    • Press live sale orders
    • Call the doctor for a prescription refill
    • Brainstorm next month's mystery box
    • Order new business cards
    • Change ink cartridges
    • Change air filters

      Action step: List everything that comes to mind that you need to do


      Step 3: Choose your Top 3

      If everything is a priority, nothing is a priority. There are going to be some tasks that absolutely need to get done or will have a future ripple effect later. You will complete your top 3 items before working on anything else on your to-do list. If you can only do these three things for the day, you will leave feeling accomplished, knowing you moved the needle forward.

      • Press live sale orders
      • Call the doctor for a prescription refill
      • Brainstorm next month's mystery box
      • Order new business cards
      • Change ink cartridges
      • Change air filters

        Action step: Choose your Top 3 priorities for the day. Plot these three on your time block schedule.


        Step 4: Schedule buffer time/self-care

        Creating a schedule that leaves little room for a buffer is very easy. However, sticking to your time block schedule 100% is unrealistic and will only generate more unnecessary stress for you. It is okay to leave a 10-minute block unscheduled between tasks. Suppose you run over, no worries. You have already scheduled in buffer time. 

        What about a break? Schedule breaks in your schedule to give you time to grab a snack or go for a walk.

        Action step: Sprinkle a few breaks into your time block schedule.


        Step 5: Match remaining tasks & time

        You will likely see open spaces in your schedule that still need to be assigned. This is where you will fill the remaining time slots with tasks from your to-do list. If you can do these tasks, great! If you still need to meet all deadlines.

        Action step: Match the spare time in your schedule with a to-do item.


        Step 6: Identify recurring tasks

        Some tasks need to happen every week, month, or year. When you notice these tasks, help future you by writing them into the calendar for the rest of the year, so you don't have to fear forgetting them.

        • Press live sale orders
        • Call the doctor for a prescription refill
        • Brainstorm next month's mystery box (20th of every month)
        • Order new business cards
        • Change ink cartridges
        • Change air filters (every three months)

          Action step: Identify recurring tasks and project them out for the rest of the year.



          The first day you start time blocking, you will instantly feel more disciplined and accountable for the tasks you must complete. Of course, it will feel uncomfortable at first. But, you will appreciate your dedication when you see the results you can produce by time blocking. If you still think you are running short on time and need to know where you can optimize your time, reviewing your time-blocking records will allow you to see where you spend most of your time. If you can't shorten this task, this may indicate an area where you want to hire some help. How much time should you hire them? Good thing you have a record and know exactly how long it should take!


          SO WHAT

          Work first, play later is at work here. Focus on your Top 3 priorities before you work on anything else. By ensuring you accomplish the big needle movers in your business, you will continue to grow and scale without spinning your wheels.

          Need help getting started?

          Grab my template shown here in Google Sheets instantly by clicking the image below.



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