I used to believe in saying yes to every opportunity. The more nervous it made me, the better the opportunity. Then came the fall of 2020, my exhilarating (and crushing) year of opportunity. I learned three important things from the last year:

  1. You can say yes to everything, but you can’t do everything well.
  2. Sleep really isn’t optional. This is not an area you can use mind over matter.
  3. Time blocking makes it possible to give more yes with less stress.

What is time blocking?

Time blocking is a time management tool which involves dividing the day into blocks of time with each block dedicated to accomplishing a specific task or activity and only that specific task or activity.

I’m no expert and it’s taken me two tries to get the hang of it but now it’s working really well for me. Because I have part of my day divided and dedicated to certain tasks, I now no longer feel stress all the time about what I’m not doing at that moment.

Hard truth I had to learn: you can’t do everything all of the time.

I also use another management trick called task batching. This just means that I have certain blocks of time set aside, and I bunch all those tasks together. So everyday from 3-4 pm I answer emails. All email and nothing but emails. In just a week this has brought my inbox from over 5,ooo to under 1,000.

Another hard truth: having over 1,000 emails in my inbox stresses me out.

There are a ton of videos and articles on the magic of time blocking, so I’ll just lists some of the ones I used at the end of this. Things that made the difference for me was using my Google calendar instead of a printed version, seeing my time blocked schedule more as an adjustable journal than time incarceration and being kind to myself.

I think the key to unlocking the power of the time block yourself is customizing it to what works for you. I use my Google calendar all the time, so it makes sense I would integrate my blocks of time into it. Someone who doesn’t use their Google calendar would probably do better printing one.

As an example, here’s mine. You can see everyday before two is mine. I can do an art project, I can spend it reading, spending family time, walking dogs… it feels luxurious having all that free time. Then I like to start with a house task to get myself in the work mindset. This isn’t just something like dishes (unless that’s what needs to be done). It more like tackling a shelf of clutter, washing dogs, or painting baseboards.

That gets me in the work mindset, so when I launch into answering emails an hour later I am focused and ready to clean up an inbox. I start my work day. That’s a simplified version. The idea of this isn’t to lockdown every minute of my day but to make sure the important things are all getting done while I have more time to be a person. So far, so good.

Have you tried this yourself? Any tips or tricks? I’m a time block noob, so feel free to share.

Related posts on time blocking:


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