Have you ever thought to yourself, “There just aren’t enough hours in the day”? Most people probably have at one time or another, and it’s a common sentiment among business owners and nonprofit leaders.
But often it’s not about the number of hours in the day as much as how we approach using them. That’s where time blocking may be able to help.
Before diving into the details, let’s take a minute to recognize that we don’t all actually have the same 24 hours in a day. Some people have more privilege and more resources than others to help make the most of those hours. Business owners with a team can do more in a day than a solopreneur who is juggling all the things. Organizations (or individuals) with the budget to outsource key functions of the daily grind can manage more than the person trying to do it all on their own.
With that in mind, let’s talk about time blocking as a tool and how it may help you feel more in control of the time you have, both in business and in life.
One of the best resources about time management is Laura Vanderkam’s book, 168 Hours. It has a great mix of research, data, and anecdotes that really make you rethink how you view time. If you haven’t read it yet and are interested in this topic, definitely buy a copy or check it out from the library.
Here are some of the key things we learned from that book and from several years of practicing time blocking in various forms.
Track where your time is going
If you really want to get a handle on your time, start with logging where it goes for one week. What are you spending most of your time on? Try not to change your habits, but rather just gather data about what you do each day broken down into 30-minute blocks of time. There are some greats resources for how to do this available on Laura Vanderkam’s website.
Start with the biggest priorities
Big rocks, then little rocks, then sand, then water. Put the most important things on your calendar first. Once you designate what needs to be done first, it creates space in your calendar for all the other things to fall into place naturally. For example, if you have an important project deadline coming up, be sure to block time for that first. On the personal side, block out your family commitments, whether date night with your partner or your kid’s soccer game, then build around those priorities.
Leave some white space
There’s a common misconception that time blocking means scheduling every little thing and having a very regimented routine, but that’s honestly not feasible for most people. Sometimes life throws a curve ball or things simply take longer than expected. Don’t try to time block every minute of your day. Leave some open space in your calendar so you have flexibility and room to go with the flow.
Adjust for what works for you
Time blocking can be done on a digital or paper calendar where you specify what you plan to do at a specific time each day, but that’s not the only option. A slightly more fluid approach is to block what you plan to accomplish in each week but with flexibility to move things around within that time frame. We’ve found that this works well for creative types who want a less rigid plan to allow for creativity in their work.
With either approach, consider what time of day is best for certain activities. Are you more alert in the morning and able to tackle hard tasks? Or do you prefer to ease into the day with little things and get to the big stuff after lunch? Everyone is different, so it just depends on what works best for you and your brain.
By identifying your priorities and being more intentional with your time, you can help reduce that feeling of not having enough hours in the day. The process of tracking your time and time blocking might also identify some opportunities to delegate tasks that you hadn’t considered before. If you decide to give it a shot, let us know how it goes!