Productivity is one of my favorite topics so naturally when I learned about block scheduling I was all about it, but to be honest it took me a long time to figure out how to make block scheduling work for me and my schedule. Today, I am sharing how I block schedule my day and have changed my productivity.
Paper Planner vs. Digital Calendar
Before I dig into how I block schedule I think it is important to know how I manage my schedule. I use a combination of a paper planner and an digital calendar. What this means is my paper planner is used on a weekly basis where my digital calendar is used for the big picture.
I use my google calendar to keep track of all appointments, meetings, events, birthdays, reminders and more. I also share that calendar with Eric so he knows my schedule at all times. For example, if I scheduled a meeting with a client that is 2 weeks away I would put it in my digital calendar, not my paper planner.
My paper planner is used to schedule the current week. The Sunday before each week I look at my digital calendar and write down any appointments, meetings, events, etc. that are happening that week in my paper planner. If I happen to schedule an additional meeting for later in the week I would add it to my paper planner (so I can block schedule around it) AND my digital calendar (so Eric can see I have a meeting and I can pull it up on my phone if my paper planner isn’t with me).
As for a paper planner my hands down favorite planner I have used is The Simplified Planner and my favorite digital calendar I have used is Google Calendar. This video tutorial explains more in detail how to use a paper planner and digital calendar.
Fill In Appointments
The fist step to block scheduling your day is to look at your day’s schedule and fill in any appointments, meetings or events you have going on that are not already filled in. If you need to travel to a meeting or appointment make sure you block off the time that you will be traveling to and from the event.
Make Your To Do List
The second step is to make your to do list. Typically I will do this the night before and then review and add to it the morning of. Make a list of everything that needs to get accomplished and when it needs to get done by. For example, you may be overwhelmed because you have 20 things on your to do list, but after reviewing your list you realize that 8 of those things can be done later in the week.
Block Schedule Your Day
I try to block schedule my day in 30-60 minute increments. I personally feel like anything lower than 30 minutes gets overwhelming and difficult to follow and anything beyond 60 minutes means you are not allowing yourself enough mental and physical breaks from your tasks. Below is an example of what a daily to do list may look like for me:
To Do List:
Post in Tuesdays Together Facebook group
Work on S+T’s design proposal
Finish K+A’s wedding timeline
Email my accountant
Clean my office
Place K+A’s wedding floral order
Drop client gifts at Fedex
Blog post for next week
After I make my to do list I start scheduling out my day. I try to add balance throughout the day like scheduling tasks that more challenging in the morning (when my mind is fresh), following a challenging task with less challenging task, doing more physical tasks in the afternoon when I am feeling more lethargic and more. Below is an example of a block scheduled day.
6am Wake up, coffee, breakfast & read
8am Get ready
9am Emails + Post in Tuesday Together group
10am S+T’s design proposal
11am K+A’s timeline
12pm Lunch + Vacuum
12:30pm Leave for Fedex
1pm Mail client gifts
1:30pm Place floral order
2pm Clean office + email accountant
3pm Blog (next week)
4pm Emails + prep for tomorrow
4:30pm Prep dinner + tidy house
6pm Shower + start dinner
What if I know a task will take more than 30 minutes but less than 60 minutes? This is a perfect example of emails for me. My emails differ everyday but most days take about 45 minutes to get through. So instead of scheduling a full hour for emails I schedule the hour for emails plus another 5-10 minute task, like posting on our Tuesdays Together group.
What happens if I finish a task early? I try to do one of two things if I finish a task early. First, I typically try to add a few 5-10 minute tasks into my to do list every day (i.e. post on Tuesdays Together, shoot an email over to my accountant, throw a load of laundry in the washer, etc.) that way if I finish a task early I can complete another task before my time is up. OR sometimes when I complete a task I give myself a quick physical and mental break before moving onto the next one – so I force myself to get up and walk around the house, stretch, refill my water bottle, etc.
What happen if I go over my scheduled time? I always say if you are in the zone, getting great work done and your time is up – keep going! Getting into the zone can be so hard so don’t break your concentration while you have it – you can always rearrange your schedule for the rest of the day or scoot one item on your to do list for the next day.
Get up and move. If you spend most your day sitting – make sure you get up and move your body at least every 60 minutes. After 60 minutes you may not feel like you need to move around but it will keep you so much more energized throughout the day.
Be realistic with your to do list. I know it feels like you have a 100 things to do everyday but realistically we cannot accomplish 100 tasks (well) in a day. I still remember sitting with my friend, Rachel, at a coffee shop and being frustrated that I couldn’t get everything I needed to get done in a day – when she asked me to read her my to do list – she reminded me that no one could accomplish that many tasks in one day. That is why I love using my Simplified Planner because I know if I have more tasks then the allotted ___ lines on the daily to do list – I cannot accomplish everything that day.
Set office hours & personal time and stick to it! I did not start doing this well until 6 months ago and it has totally changed my productivity. During my slower months, I wake up at 6am every morning and allow myself 3 hours of personal time and time to set myself up for success for the day. I start working at 9am and wrap up my day around 4:30pm (unless there is a meeting scheduling or I planned to work late. After that it is considered personal time and I do not respond to emails or phone calls unless it is an emergency.
My overall advice is to try it out and make it your own. I read a lot of different approaches to block scheduling and productivity before I found a system that worked for me. Remember to tailor it to you and your schedule and you will find the perfect balance.
Do you have any tips for block scheduling and productivity? Comment below and tell me!