Action Planning, Business Productivity, Daily Routines & Rituals, Managing Distractions, Personal Productivity, Process Improvement, Task Management, Time blocking, Time Management

Do You Struggle with Time Blocking?

Has this ever happened to you? You started the day motivated, full of good intentions to get a lot accomplished, but nothing got done. You let another productive day slip away.

It’s not easy to keep yourself disciplined and focused on your most important work, especially when you are only accountable to yourself. Interruptions, notifications, email, and interesting information steal our focus and time. It happens to the best of us. How can you stay focused and on task to get your most important work done?

The answer is time blocking.

I mentioned this to a client who said, “I suck at time blocking. But go ahead, let’s talk about it.”

Time blocking is NOT scheduling every minute of your day.

Time blocking is setting aside time on your calendar to do your most important work. It’s simple. Block out a chunk of time to work on your top priority and just do it.

Blocking the time is easy. Doing the right thing during that time isn’t always so easy. So what do you do?

Get crystal clear on the task to be performed during the time block. You want to sit down and do the work, not spend the whole time figuring out what to do. Be specific enough to act.

Protect the time. For real. If this is truly your most important work, silence your phone, shut the door, close open tabs, and eliminate distractions. Put a sign on your door if necessary. No, you don’t have a sec. You want to get in the zone and stay there. The rest of it can wait.

Schedule the right amount of time. Don’t automatically default to a 30-minute or one-hour time block, especially if the task is small. Your most important work may be a 15-minute task. Remember Parkinson’s Law: work expands (or contracts) to fill the time available. Conversely, your most important work may be a bigger project. Break it down into manageable pieces and time block the pieces. Or set a longer time-block and take short breaks to stay fresh, then get back to work.

Don’t time block everything. Time blocking isn’t the same as scheduling. Sure, might have a general plan for batching phone calls, checking email, working on a marketing piece, etc. When everything’s important, nothing’s important.  

Try this tomorrow. Review your priorities and block time to do your most important work. It will take repeated practice to make this a habit, but it’s the repeated action that leads to results.

Daily Routines & Rituals, Organization, Personal Productivity, Physical Organization

Organize like a Kindergarten Teacher

Do you ever wonder how a kindergarten teacher maintains order and control with 20 or so five- and six-year old children? It’s a simple, yet effective method that can work in your home or office, too. These simple steps will help you create and maintain order in any space.

Follow Simple Routines

Kindergarteners enter the classroom, hang up their book bags and jackets, put their snacks in the snack basket, sit in their assigned seats, and work quietly on morning work until the bell rings. After just a few days, every student knows what to do when he/she comes into the classroom.

Simple routines simplify life. Routines allow you to complete repetitive tasks with little thought so you can spend your energy on the things that take more thought, effort, and work. They give your day a simple structure so the things that must be done every day get done first. They become your habits: get dressed, make the bed, eat breakfast, brush your teeth, grab your purse or backpack, and head out the door.

Establish Work Centers

Kindergarten classrooms are set up in centers – the art center, reading center, calendar center, etc. All the supplies needed to do an activity in the center is stored in or near the center. It is easy to do the work and clean up afterward. Yes, cleanup is part of the activity.

Label Everything

Labels are everywhere in a kindergarten classroom. They help the students learn how to read and identify things. Labels can be written or verbal, and both help to identify where things belong and where they can be found. Books belong in the reading center. Scissors and paint smocks are found in the art center. Everyone using the classroom knows where things are kept.

Use Appropriate Storage Containers

Make it safe and easy to store and retrieve items. Baskets for snacks, storage cubbies for lunch bags, hooks for coats, trays for puzzles, cans for scissors, and folders for papers keep supplies orderly. Use the right size of the right type of container for the job.

Personal Productivity, Process Improvement

Top Ten Productivity Tips

Highly productive people use techniques like these to get more done every day. Give one or all of them a try!

1.  Review your goals daily.
Post your goals in plain sight or refer to them daily when you plan. Take one step every day toward your goals and you WILL achieve them!

2. Start or end your day with planning.
Take a look at your calendar for the next day and the rest of the week. What do you need to do to be prepared for upcoming activities? Add those items to your task list. Now prioritize the most important things you need to spend time on.

3. Schedule your day.
Now that you know what you need to do, decide when you’ll do it and schedule it.

4. Group similar tasks. Save time by working on one kind of task at a time instead of jumping from task to task. Phone calls, email processing, errands, computer work, desk work, and faxing are some easy tasks to handle in batches.

5. Keep your list short and in front of you. Limit your task list to the top 3 to 5 things you need to accomplish and keep it in plain sight. You can always go back and add more if time allows AFTER you have finished the most important things.

6. If the task can be done in less than 2 minutes, JUST DO IT! Often little tasks that we put off or avoid doing can be done in 30 seconds or less.

7. Use a timer to stay on schedule. It’s easy to get sidetracked, especially when you’re on the computer or in the middle of a project. Allow time to wrap up your task before starting the next one.

8. Use a timer to help you stay focused. Timers set for short periods of time, 5 to 15 minutes, can help you stay on task. Set your timer, work until it goes off, then take a short break or move on to something else. This works well for kids, too.

9. Use your voice mail. Don’t answer the phone when you’re in the middle of your important work. Let the call go to voice mail and check it when you’re finished.

10. Clear off your desk at the end of the day. Allow time to wrap things up for the day, plan for tomorrow, and leave a clean desk. This closes out the workday and helps you shift easily into personal time.