In an earlier time, I had a one year old baby, a husband, new home and an impossible mission: organize programming for 300 children three times per week.
Obviously I had help. There were over 100 volunteers that I had the privilege of recruiting, training, encouraging and working alongside. I owed it to these wonderful people to give them the best of me. The children needed the best of me. My family needed the best of me. And I know y’all are nodding – this is you too. You are pulled. In. All. Directions.
During this season I was mentored by a man I still admire, in leadership, volunteerism, counseling, inspiring others and management. A big part of this wonderful time in my life was just that – the time. How could I find the time to prepare, to research, to write curriculum, to be mentored, to mentor, to lead conferences and retreats, to teach and to guide? How could I find time to meet my own needs so I’d even be able to get half of this done?
My mentor taught me a concept called Time Blocking. (I just googled it and had a zillion hits for everything from scheduling date night with your spouse to how to use google calendars. So really – I have no idea who to credit for this idea. I think it came from a book – do you know which one?)
Do Less not More
The concept is simple. Use chunks of time. Not 30 minutes. Not a whole day. We tend to go to extremes – booking up appointments every 30 minutes or scheduling a week of “finishing that book”.
[clickToTweet tweet=”We tend to go to extremes – booking every 30 minutes or scheduling a week for 1 thing.” quote=”We tend to go to extremes – booking every 30 minutes or scheduling a week for 1 thing. #timemanagement #covey”]
Somewhere I’ve heard that it takes a coder 45 minutes to get back on track once distracted! 45 minutes!! So every time I check my email or let that Facebook buzzz distract me – it’s another 45 minutes to get back on track! You may not be a coder, but I bet it takes you awhile to get your head back into the frame of mind you were before the distraction.
Time blocking encourages you to choose 4(+/-) blocks a day. I use a block before lunch, one before I pick up the kids from school, one after school and one after dinner.
Now you can plan your priorities around these blocks. I dare you to give it a try – you’ll be amazed how productive you are when there aren’t distractions! Below is what my Tuesday looks like when I make the effort.
An Example – my Tuesday
These are my Tuesdays, mostly.
Block 1 Coding
Block 2 Writing
Block 3 Meetings/ phone calls
Block 4 Family Time
Obviously it makes sense to do our most difficult tasks during the times that we are most productive. For me it’s definitely first thing in the morning – before email. Before I get caught up in phone calls and Facebook.
But email is my main method of communication with my clients – so I need to check email often. Ironically, it’s when I block it out that I can get so much more done – and am more available for my clients.
On time-blocked days, I check email after my morning productivity block, before lunch, after lunch and before the end of my work day. When I actually keep to that schedule, I have amazingly productive days!
[clickToTweet tweet=”Ironically it’s when I block email out… I am more available for my clients.” quote=”Ironically it’s when I block email out… I am more available for my clients.”]
The second concept in Time Blocking is to scrap the to-do list and use priorities instead.
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Urgent vs. Important
Have you seen this matrix by Stephen Covey before?
This absolutely revolutionized my priorities in that early children’s ministry. And it has been the paradigm through which I try to view all tasks ever since. Wouldn’t it change your life if you didn’t attend to everything just because its urgent? Someone else’s urgency does not necessarily mean it’s important!
[clickToTweet tweet=”Someone else’s urgency does not necessarily mean it’s important!” quote=”Someone else’s urgency does not necessarily mean it’s important!”]
When I started this business, things were in different squares than they are now. For instance, marketing was the first important thing we had to do – it was urgent and important. Now it is important but not so urgent.
Email/phone/meetings are all important but some are more urgent than others. I divide up the big business things like marketing & sales, bookkeeping, HR, and R&D to make sure that I’m working on the business as well as in it.
A couple times per year at a planning session for the business, I brainstorm which items are a priority for the year within those squares. Which items must be done in innovation/ R&D? Which marketing and sales items need a boost? This has kept all other ‘opportunities’ and ‘ideas’ in their place. Some are great – and some are simply a distraction. Decisions are a lot easier when you know what you want to accomplish and how you will do it.
If you haven’t given time blocking a try – I challenge you to try it for a week. The first day you will notice a difference, I promise.