Think about how many interruptions you get in a normal day. Social media, text messages, and email notifications. Success requires dedication towards productivity methods. Here at Zero to Complete, one of our favorite productivity techniques is time blocking .
Time blocking, in simple form, reserves specific times during the day to complete important tasks. During these reserved timeslots, an expert time blocker will cut out all distractions and focus 100% on one task. Only once the task has been completed will the ardent time blocker dare stray from his/her domain.
You might ask, what if my project is going to take multiple days or weeks? Well, then you need to start breaking down your project into major milestones. From the major milestones you can form a work breakdown to further specify the smaller tasks that make up the big picture.
Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe. ~ Abraham Lincoln
If your normal place of work is too loud for you to concentrate, then book a conference room. For those of you with an office door, simply shut it. At home you can use a spare room or pick a quiet place where you will not be disturbed. Do not take your phone as it will be a distraction. Go to a coffee shop if you want a change of scenery. Sometimes your house may feel like a pitfall of distraction. If you have kids or pets, shut them into a closet or leave them at the park unattended…just kidding. However, find a way to have someone take care of them.
As with anything new, give yourself time to ramp up on time blocking. Perhaps a simple 30 minute time slot to get started. After you see it as a valuable tool, you can start ramping up and time blocking with more regularity. Build your time blocks the night before you start a busy day or immediately upon waking up. Research has shown that planning out your day the previous night lends itself to greater success. With practice, you will increase productivity by a large margin.
Where do you time block? Pick the calendar tool that you are most comfortable with or that you are currently using. Start filling in 30 minute to 1 hour chunks around meetings. For maximum productivity allow 5-10 minute breaks between two time blocks. For the truly focused, aim for an hour tops. After an hour, take a walk around the block or go get a glass of water. Pat yourself on the back for the sustained focus!
Once a time block is scheduled, treat it like an important meeting. Do not let others set meetings over it. Mark it as busy or out of office if needed. Treat the time with the utmost priority. Do not shift around your time blocks too much unless you really need to. Find out when the most productive parts of your day are and schedule time blocks during these times. If you are a morning person, utilize that valuable time with a time block for your most important work. For night owls, plan the time before bed when things are quiet. Regardless of the time you choose, pick a time and stick to it!
Once you have successfully implemented time blocking into your daily routine, you should notice that you are able to focus on tasks for longer periods of time. This is a proven benefit of this technique. As you become less distracted, you will become much more productive and produce much higher quality work.
Finally, we leave you with a checklist that will transform you into a time blocking expert in no time!
- Close all e-mail programs
- Mute your phone and kill the vibration
- Close all social media, youtube and other unproductive sites
- Shut off the TV
- Slap your roommate and tell them to shut up
- Lock your kids/pets into a closet (get them out of the house)
- Turn on your favorite music if it helps