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  • Writer's pictureMadhura

Time Blocking

Hello my morning people, welcome back to yet another episode of Morning Cup of Sunshine podcast. I am so glad that you are here today. I am going to talk about Time Blocking today. Do you know what time is blocking? It is the one of the most useful tools that you should possess in order to increase your productivity. Few years back, I came across a Youtube video about this Time Blocking. Initially, it felt too simple to be effective. But I was definitely intrigued. I decided to try it out for myself and slowly I got a hang of it. I realized that we already implement Time Blocking to the extent in our day to day life but then I started implementing it in my daily life more intentionally. Most of us wear so many different hats in our daily life, we play the role of homemaker, a working professional. Sometimes we have a side hustle and what not. As our life gets busy and our schedule gets overwhelming, time blocking can help us to navigate through that overwhelm. So, come join me today to find out more about Time blocking but before that I want to share a fun moment with you.

Happy Moment of the Week

It was a lazy Sunday afternoon. We just had our lunch and all 4 of us were just relaxing in our family room. We were playing cards but then we thought of playing a game which I used to play with my parents and sister when I was around the same age of Maitreyi. It is called Kan Goshti or the whisper challenge. One person whispers some funny word in another person’s ear. You can say that word only once and then that person has to whisper the word that he or she heard into the next person’s ear. The last person has to say it loud and then the first person basically confirms or denies if he told the same word or not. This was a very popular game when I was a kid. We played this game after years with our kids and it was so fun. We were laughing so much. Maitreyi was changing the words as she pleased to do. Mihir was trying his hardest to hear the word while the rest of us were laughing like crazy. We enjoyed this simple game so much. It was extremely refreshing. I really love simple games that don’t need much preparation but are great fun. It was one of the best Sunday afternoons that I spent in a long time. It was definitely a moment to cherish. What about you my friend? How was your week? Close your eyes just for a moment and try to remember the moment that brought you joy, that brought a smile on your face. It could be a small, trivial moment but if you felt happy in that moment then cherish it, treasure it and of course share it with all of us over at my Facebook group - Morning Cup of Sunshine community. Join the group of inspiring and inspired people to share some joy, positivity and happiness.

Alright, let’s dive into today’s topic. Time Blocking. What is time blocking? The formal definition of time blocking says that it is the time management method that asks you to divide your day into blocks of time and then accomplish a specific task in that dedicated time block. I have learnt a very important lesson in the last 16 years of my professional journey. If you don’t control your schedule then in no time, it will control you. This is the story of a modern workplace. Time blocking becomes extremely crucial if you are juggling multiple roles in your day to day life. Of course it is a must have skill for any working professional but it is equally important to stay at home parents, working from home professionals and almost everyone who has continuous ongoing to do list in their head. Whether you work a nine-to-five job, telecommute, or stay-at-home with the kids, everyone needs to learn this effective method for managing their day. It is a skill, it is the practice, a learned technique that can help you feel more in control of your own schedule. You must have heard this quote, you either run the day or the day runs you. So, before you get overwhelmed with the amount and variety of work you have in your day, let’s find ways to block your time dedicated to each role and tackle your to-do list with more ease and comfort.

Step 1 : Determine all your roles and responsibilities -

Have you heard about 4 burner theory? I first read it in a blog post written by James Clear. In this article, James Clear writes that imagine your life is represented by a stove with four burners on it.Each burner symbolises one major quadrant of your life.The first burner represents your family. The second burner is your friends. The third burner is your health. The fourth burner is your work. The Four Burners Theory says that in order to be successful, you have to cut off one of your burners. And in order to be really successful, you have to cut off two.

You can not turn on all 4 burners to the highest setting at the same time, especially for a long time. You need to pick and choose which one to burn at its maximum capacity if you want to achieve the desired goal in that area. This exactly applies to Time Blocking, instead of getting distracted by different roles that you play in your day, focus on one thing at a time but for that you first need to write down your different roles and responsibilities. Self awareness comes first. You are a mom, you also have a 9-5 job. Let’s say, you also run a small etsy shop as your side hustle. You also want to focus on your health so you go to your local gym at least 4-5 times a week. You also want to spend some time each week connecting with your friends. These are all your roles on a very border level.

Once you know all your roles, now start by making a list of all the things that you need to get done every single day. What are some of your repetitive tasks for every single day? Make a similar list of all the things that need to get done for the week. List all your work projects, your family commitments, even your exercise goals. The goal is to include everything from the telephone calls you need to make to the meals you need to prepare. Put stars next to the things that absolutely have to be completed.

Whenever you want to acquire any new skill you first need to know what you already know and what are the possible challenges. This is the exact same thing. In order to start working on Time Blocking, you first need to know what you have on your plate. Take one nice Sunday afternoon and do this exercise, first list down your main roles and priorities in your life and then make a list of all small, granular tasks that you perform day in, day out. Alright, are you done with your list?

The Next step is to allocate time blocks to each of those tasks.

Step 2 : Allocate time blocks.

Time blocking is different from the regular time table that you used to make in school days. Time blocking does not ask you to prepare a schedule for every single waking minute. It does not mean that you have to write down, 7-7.10 coffee time, 7.10 - 8 packing kids lunch boxes, 8-8.30 get ready for office. It is not your regular time table instead it asks you to divide your day in blocks of time. Let me give you an example. I divide my day into these time blocks - Early Morning, Morning, Mid afternoon, Afternoon, Evening and Night time. .After preparing the list of my roles and tasks that I perform every single day, I know what are my tasks that I need to perform in the early morning. Early morning is generally from 5-6.30 - I get ready, meditate, journal, and work on podcasts during that time. It is my ME time, it is my time to work on my passion. It is time for me to wear the hat of a podcaster. Morning block is from 6.30 - 9.00 - I wore the hat of a mom at this time. I make breakfast, lunches, get my kid ready for school, drop them off to school. So this time is all about my mom's duties. Then from 9 - 5 , rest of the morning, mid afternoon, afternoon is completely dedicated to my work. It is my work time and I wear the hat of a working professional. Evening block is for my workout, preparing dinner, and playing with kids. I once again wear the hat of a homemaker and finally the night time block is all about bedtime stories, family time and some quiet and wind down time for all of us. These are my time blocks. You might have a different way of structuring your day. You might have a coaching business and your timenings might be different. You might love to workout early in the morning. You might not be a morning person so you might not have an early morning time block, you might use late night as your time block. It all depends on your own schedule, your roles and your tasks. Once you block your time to accomplish certain tasks the chances of you completing that task are much higher than if you just think of the task without any real time set aside to work on it. Do you agree? Let’s say you want to clean your garage. If you just say I want to clean a garage, do you see yourself really doing it anytime soon? But what if you set aside a time in your calendar let’s say Saturday Morning for cleaning a garage, you are more likely going to clean your garage. It might seem that blocking the boundaries for a task might reduce your productivity but it is the exact opposite. You ultimately become more productive at work because you give yourself hard-stop limits. Time blocking helps you reduce that overwhelm. It helps you get rid of that feeling of constant falling behind. It helps you keep motivated, focussed. Time blocking keeps you focused on a single task for a period of time. This stops you from bouncing back and forth between multiple tasks. Are you a people pleaser? Is your automatic response the answer “yes” when someone asks you ro do something? This can lead to overwhelm and the problem of not getting your important things completed. By blocking out time, you know whether or not you have time to do an additional task for somebody. If you don’t have the time for what you are being asked to do or it is not important, let your calendar be your excuse to say “no.” But time blocking needs to be done mindfully. How, let’s talk about that in the next step.

Step 3: Be mindful of your time blocks.

Time blocking does not mean you have to be on your toes 24*7. It does not mean you have to over occupy yourself. You need to block your time mindfully. Try to find the time when you feel motivated, focussed. Set that time block for the task that needs you at your best possible, motivated self. For me it is early morning. I feel at my best in the early morning. My creative juices are flowing, there is quiet in the house. I use that time for my writing. I feel a little sluggish and less energetic in the mid afternoon. I use that time block for tasks that are easy and repetitive. I call them shallow tasks. All the tasks that need my complete focus and energy are deep tasks and they need to be scheduled in a time block where you feel the most productive. So, know yourself and accordingly set your time blocks. Your time blocking could look completely different than mine. Keep all the distractions away from you during your focussed time block. Especially keep your phone away, close all unnecessary tabs on your browser. Focus on the tasks at hand completely.

Another important mindful tip for setting up time blocking is to put personal , ME time, wind down time, relaxing time in your time blocking. You are not a perpetual machine, you need breaks, you need time to rejuvenate. Schedule that in your time block even if it is just a quick walk in between the meetings. It is important to give yourself a break.

Also, always put a buffer at both ends of your time blocks. This will avoid the feeling of constant burnout.

If you can add a little time block in your schedule for learning new things then that will help you lift your mood and confidence. I also like to schedule an overflow day, it is my day to play catch up. For me it is Saturday, whatever I can not finish in the week, I try to get it done on Saturday cause really speaking, I need this catch up Saturday most of the time. Life happens, you can plan for a day but then the unexpected tasks show up, deadlines change, kids get sick, laundry gets piled up. You need to have some time for reactive tasks. These are the tasks which were not on your list originally but they showed up because we are human and life happens. In your workplace, you can not say no to an urgent requirement because it doesn't fit in your time block. You need to accommodate sometimes. But for the most part, you should feel in control of your own schedule. You might need to revise sometimes, but you can do that since you are in much more control of your time. It is okay to revisit and revise your time blocks based on the seasons of your life. Give yourself some grace in case you are not able to stick to it 100%. It is okay, there is always tomorrow and life is all about learning from past experiences and moving forward. But if you want to be more in control of your own schedule then there is no better tool than time blocking. If the dream that you set out for yourself is worth having then blocking the time to work on it should be equally worth it. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes in creating the time blocking system, don’t stop because you are afraid. Tomorrow is always the busiest day of the week, so it is a good idea to start today. Grab your pen and paper and start creating the time blocking system that works for you. Afterall, Productivity is never an accident. It is always the result of commitment to excellence, intelligent planning and focused efforts.

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