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Playing With Blocks

Interruptions come at us from all angles. An unexpected phone call, a morning tea invitation, a flat tyre.... and if you're anything like me, this can you lead you down the rabbit hole of an "unproductive work day". But attempting to Block Schedule your week can help you deal with these interruptions without actually.... interrupting. Make sense? Perhaps not. Here's what I mean.

Changing Times

Block Scheduling is not a new concept, but with the way our daily living has changed, it seems like a more common 'go-to' than it once used to be (although, we have all probably experience block scheduling in the form of secondary school time tables).

With more people working from home, the potential for interruptions to pop up and the extra rigmarole involved in everyday living, block scheduling is proving itself again.

There's a difference between working an 8 hour day, and being productive in an 8 hour day.

Our 'New Norm'

I was talking to some friends lately who have both had their work situations change. They now both work from home.... the same home. The dining table has been confiscated, the kitchen is visited frequently, and they're both taking calls and answering emails around each other. This may seem convenient to start with, but your productive time starts to decrease, procrastination comes in to play, and distractions such as hanging out the washing, or making another coffee seem to creep in.

Cue Block Scheduling

There's a difference between working an 8 hour day, and being productive in an 8 hour day. Shifting your To-Do list into allocated time slots means no back and forth, and no excuses. By block scheduling, you'll find you focus better, production levels increase, and focus increases. Once your time block has finished, you move on to the next! And everything should fit into one of two categories.

The Firm and the Flexible

Sounds like a soap series. Let me explain. Block Scheduling is the practice of allocating set times in the day to do set things. Our schedules and responsibilities are so variable from one person to another, but this notion of scheduling can work for anyone, you just need to personalize it to make it work for you.

The 'Firm' is what I call anything that you do every week. Whether that's paying bills, answering emails, cleaning the bathrooms, a scheduled work meeting etc. For me, that includes taking the kids to their weekly after school activities, work emails, social media, laundry, just to name a few.

So it's no guessing that what I call 'flexible' is everything that doesn't happen every week. Things such as doctors appointments, a child home sick, a business meeting, or that half marathon you entered six months ago.

My schedule changes all the time. Time that I think can be used for office work often gets filled with appointments. But there are definite 'firm' tasks that either need to happen every day, or every week. It's a matter of trial and error to find the right block scheduling balance for you.

Show Me How

  1. Write your 'To-Do' List for the week. Or if you don't have a to-do list, at the start of each new thing in your day write that thing down and observe what your list looks like at the end of the day (I moved from hanging out the washing, to having a coffee, to taking a phone call....etc).

  2. Split the list into Firm and Flexible.

  3. Input your list into a weekly planner. Be lenient on how much time you delegate to each task. After a few weeks you will get a better feel for how long things take.

  4. Colour code it so you can see each block separately.

  5. Begin your week.

  6. Observe what things in your day you look forward to, what times you are feeling you can accomplish the most, and when you're at your most creative. Allocate your blocks accordingly.

Below is a weekly plan I put together using Google Calendar - roughly based on my ideal week.

My situation: I have four kids, run two businesses, have a running training plan, and have the house to look after. And I work from home. My Mondays look different because I'm normally at my in-laws for the day. Tuesdays I normally cycle instead of run so I do this after dropping the kids off at school. Looks busy huh!!

So Why Use a Paper Planner??

This Google Calendar is my base. Its the Task Master, my go to when I've lost my routine. BUT it's my Weekly Planner that has my actual "To-Do's"(call Fred, check last weeks payments, change the lightbulb).... the little bits and pieces that are broken down into these larger time blocks. To write them all on an online calendar, or my phone would be an utter shambles! But to have them all written out in front of me, on paper, where I can tick or add as I please.... simplifies it all. My to-do's are completed DURING the scheduled time blocks.

That rabbit hole I mentioned earlier may still crop up, but by using a block schedule, you will find it a lot easier to get back on track. Give it a go!

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