By Jenifer Francis
It is time to break out your colorful markers because today's topic is “Block Scheduling.” Many of you have probably seen this before. Microsoft Outlook and Google Calendars does a fantastic job of managing your time for you in this manner. Block Scheduling is very much what it sounds like – blocking out chunks of time for each item in your schedule. If the computer thing works for you, wonderful. More power to you. But I find that because it is a calendar housed on a computer, it often falls under “Out of sight, out of mind.”
If you are a visual person, like I am, then you know that just because you put it in your calendar three months ago does not mean you will remember to do it. Or remember how much time the task/meeting/process will take. So what I like to do every Sunday is ‘block' the coming week.
In Microsoft Excel (or just on graph paper for that matter) make a grid. In the far left-hand column, write out times. My scheduled day starts at 8 am and goes until 8 pm. So I have one row for every 15-minute time window in that time frame.
Then, across the top, I have the days of the week (Monday through Sunday) and the date. I draw in the boxes and voila! I have a Time-Block calendar. I print this out and get to work blocking time. I go through all of my appointments first. Let's say I have a doctor's appointment on Friday at 11 am. The doctor says it will take half an hour, but I know better. I will block out an hour. So in the Friday column, I will write “Dr. Appt.” in the 11:00 am slot. I will then color in the 11, 11:15, 11:30, and 11:45-time slots with a marker or highlighter. I have now “blocked” this time out. I do the same thing for all appointments and events I have for the week.
Then, I turn to my “To Do” list. I look for the things that have hard deadlines first. For example, I must have this article submitted to Holly Hanna by Sunday, the 25th. I had that hard deadline this week, so I will determine the amount of time I THINK I need to get it done. I'd say about 45 minutes. So I will block an hour, just in case. Then I will block another half an hour on another day to re-read and edit. I will also block time for all of my TO DO's that have hard deadlines this week.
Next, I turn to my TO DO's that aren't due this week but could use some of my time. For example, a quilt I am working on for my niece. I should work on it for at least 3 hours every week to get it done. So I will block those three hours within the remaining space I have left for the week. I will do the same with all other TO DO's that should get a little attention this week.
Lastly, I will add in my “Me” time. Want to read a book? Block out an hour before bedtime. Want to go to the Gym? Block it out on the calendar. Want to watch a movie or catch up on your favorite show? DVR it and watch it during blocked time, or block the show's time slot if DVR isn't an option. Do this for all the ME time items you want to fit in this week.
When you are done, your week will probably look very full. But everything you want to fit in should have a time slot. Don't forget to prioritize! If it won't “fit” in your schedule and it has to get done, reassess some of the other items and ask yourself if they are a higher priority than the item that won't fit. Some items may need to get moved to next week. Also, don't be afraid to break up your time. You are more likely to accomplish a 3-hour task in 1-hour increments than you are if you block an entire afternoon for one item.
When you are satisfied with your week, post your schedule somewhere where you will see it. Photocopy it and put it in multiple places if need be. I put one on my fridge, one on my mirror in my bathroom, and I keep one in my car. That way I will always know what I've blocked out next. And don't forget to be flexible! Things pop up, mid-week that don't fit! Move things around as needed, but don't become too lackadaisical either, or the things you planned to get done will fall by the wayside.
Block Scheduling is a great way to keep track of all of your TO DO's, and how long it will take to do them. And it is more likely you will finish each task if you schedule in “Me” time. The ME time acts as a reward for keeping on track. When life is crazy, and you've got more than a handful of things to think about (as almost all Moms do!) Block scheduling is a great way to relieve the stress of trying to remember it all. You've got it all in front of you!
Good Luck, and let me know how it turns out. Any tips you've picked up along the way?
Jenifer Francis runs the blog, “The Time Management Mama”. I’m a Mom who is dedicating my time to helping other Mama-preneurs learn time management skills & find their work/life balance. I was born & raised in Southern California, where I currently reside with my husband and our dog, “Captain Pup.” I’ve spent over ten years working as an office manager/event manager/marketing manager & have had the opportunity to teach about time management to college students. I obtained my MA in Administrative Leadership from San Jose State University in May of 2009. I’ve worked for Fortune 500 companies, and major universities, and I pull my teachings & skills from my experiences there. Time is a tricky thing, but together I think we can manage. Feel free to email Jenifer & follow her on Twitter @TimeMgmtMama.