If there was one thing I would recommend to people who feel like they don’t have enough time, it would be calendar blocking. Hands down. We’re all busy and we all have the same 24 hours in a day. So how do you make sure you’re spending time on your priorities and meeting your goals?
I resisted scheduling myself for a long time.
I’m a free spirit! I’m an entrepreneur! I work from home for the freedom!
These were all of my excuses for refusing to set any sort of schedule for myself, but once I decided to give Calendar Blocking a try my life changed.
What is Calendar Blocking?
Some people call it calendar blocking, some call it time blocking. It’s really a combination of both, but I personally call it Calendar Blocking because you are actually filling out your calendar with blocks of time.
Simply put it is filling in your calendar with your daily routine, schedule and activities. It doesn’t matter if you’re the CEO of a multimillion dollar corporation or “just” a stay at home parent, we all have stuff to do and blocking out time on our calendars is the way to do it.
WARNING: If you think this sounds too rigid try to stay open minded and give it a try. You can be flexible and move things around as needed, but having your day or week all planned out will ensure you focus on what you need to.
Why should you calendar block?
- It forces you to prioritize. If you can see all of your time and everything you need to do on a calendar you will naturally have to prioritize.
- It prevents procrastination. I know what I should be doing at pretty much any moment in time so there’s no “I’ll do xyz later” because “later” is scheduled for something else.
- It prevents decisions fatigue. If I have 18 things to do in a day I tend to get overwhelmed and jump from one thing to the other without really finishing anything. With Calendar Blocking I know when certain tasks should be worked on and it prevents the thought process of "what should I do next?"
- It promotes productivity. When you have a certain amount of time allotted for a task or group of tasks you’re more likely to get them done. I’m so much more productive when I have a timeline than when I’m just doing tasks at random with no deadline to move onto the next.
- It helps with work life balance. If you schedule in work AND the rest of your life you will do a better job at making sure everything is getting the attention it needs. Once I started calendar blocking I forced myself to be really productive during work hours and to stay away from work during personal time and my stress levels and feeling like I was “always working” went down significantly.
- You actually get things done that need to get. Probably on time. Maybe even with plenty of time to spare. Seriously.
What does Calendar Blocking look like?
If you’re more visual like me it might be helpful to see what calendar blocking looks like before you jump in. Don’t worry I’ll give you simple step by step instructions on where to start, but for now let me show you what my calendar generally looks like.
You can see in the images above that I have almost all of my time during the week blocked out. Some of it is kind of vague and I will go in and edit that as needed, but I can clearly see when I should be working, when I have appointments, etc.
First let me go over the colors. I have several calendars set up in my Google Calendar and they are:
- Purple: Personal
- Hot Pink: Family Activities/Trips
- Brown: Daily Schedule (time that's automatically blocked out and I can color code/fill in later)
- Yellow: Hustle & Slow (this blog)
- Red: Resale business
When I block out my calendar I try to color code it as best as possible so it’s easier for me to read at a glance. You can see stuff like meals, spending time with the kids in the morning, etc are purple because that’s part of my “personal” calendar.
The brown boxes are my daily schedule so that I can outline my day even when I’m not 100% sure what’s going on. This has been key for me to schedule "work" and "personal" times, even if I don't know exactly what I need to do ahead of time. I will often go in the week of, or maybe even the day of, and break it down or get more specific with actual projects or tasks to work on.
So now that you can see my calendar, I’m sure you’re excited to get started. But first let me share some tips I’ve learned since I started doing this myself.
Calendar Blocking Tips
- Leave some blank space. There’s always stuff that comes up, or if you’re like me and have kids, something is going to interrupt you. I like to have a bit of margin to make up for stuff like that. I have a few "open" spots for this reason.
- Overestimate. I mean, don’t grossly overestimate, but add in a little time just in case. Again with the interruptions and most of us just generally thinking we can work faster than is realistic.
- Try and keep somewhat of a similar schedule daily. I tried varying the times and days I worked. But it’s much simpler if the things you’re doing daily are at generally the same time. For example in my calendar I work from 9-12 Monday through Friday. I used to try to do 9-12 one day, then 10-12 the next, etc. and it was just confusing and inefficient because I constantly had to actually check my calendar. Now I always know what I need to be doing because my schedule is very similar on a day to day basis.
- Know when your best times of day for certain tasks are. I used to be a night owl and do a lot of my blogging, etc. at night. But now that I have two kids my brain is fried at night (anyone else?) so if I have to do anything in the afternoon or at night I know to plan tasks that doesn’t require much thinking.
- Utilize the recurring or repeat feature. This is such a time saver for tasks or events that happen regularly. I know that google calendar has it and if you’re using another digital calendar be sure to check that out too. That way you can have it automatically populate on your calendar each time rather than starting from scratch.
How to get started Calendar Blocking
If you’re more digital I recommend opening up something like Google Calendar. It’s easy to add blocks and move things around as needed. If you’d like to map it out with pen and paper first (sometimes writing works best for me) then I’ve created some free worksheets to help you get started figuring out exactly how to fill out your calendarn blocks.
Note: First page is to help you figure out what needs to go on your schedule, the other two pages you can choose between (or use both!). One is a basic hourly schedule and one is block based so you can choose more rough blocks of time. Use which ever works best for you!
Let's get started!
Step one: Add in your daily and weekly appointments, activities, schedule, etc.
The first thing you want to do is figure out what is already recurring on your schedule everyday or every week. Maybe you work Monday through Friday from 8am to 5pm. Maybe you have a painting class on Wednesdays at 7pm. Or maybe you have school drop off at 7:45am.
Write down anything you regularly have on your schedule along with the days and times they occur.
9-10am (Monday & Friday) - Yoga
11-12am (Wednesday) - Coffee with a friend
Step two: Add in routines
Then move on to writing down any routines you have. Even if you don’t have set times yet, just write them down with time approximations. For example I spend time with my kids playing, getting breakfast ready and doing a few chores in the morning before my husband gets up. Next up I try to work between that period of time and lunch time. Then I always stop for lunch around noon to eat and spend more time with the kids before I get back to work.
Write down your routines and assign them certain times using your best guesses.
5:30am (daily) - Morning dog walk
6-7:30am (Monday - Friday) - Get kids ready for school & drop off
5:30-7pm (daily) - Make and eat dinner
Step three: Add in your daily or weekly to-do’s
Maybe every week you need to do laundry, grocery shop, meet up with friends, etc. but you don’t necessarily have certain times or days that you do that. Write those down.
Now look at the empty spaces in your calendar and fill them in. Maybe you now go grocery shopping every week on Wednesday from 7-8pm. Or if you’re a reseller like me and need to go sourcing for inventory regularly maybe you know that your local thrift store has sales on Tuesdays from 9-12pm so you schedule that time to go sourcing.
Write down your daily and weekly to dos and assign approximate time allocated so you can find space in your calendar to add them.
Pay Bills (weekly) 30 minutes
Laundry (3x/week) 45 minutes
Grocery Shop (weekly) 1 hour
Gym (2x/week) 30 minutes
Once you have those down see where you can fit them in.
Step four: Add in your wants
Are there things you don’t find time to do, but want to? Maybe you’d like to go to the gym twice a week or take a nice relaxing bath once a week. You might think these aren't important and you don't have time, but that's the point! Find the time!
Bath - weekly - 30 minutes
Read - daily - 20 minutes
Find spots to that those in. At this point your calendar might be kind of full so you might need to tweak things or shift some other items around.
Step five: Look at the big picture
Look at your full calendar! It might be overwhelming. Don’t be overwhelmed. Rarely does my week (or even my day) go exactly as planned. But it does help me to know what I should be doing at any given time and in turn it helps me be much more productive.
It also helps me relax and have down time because I know when I should be working and when I shouldn’t be working.
Now that you have your calendar together you can give it a trial run for a week or two to see how it goes.
Remember even though it looks rigid being scheduled like that, you can always tweak it as needed if you’re noticing something that needs to be changed. And obviously some days just don’t go as planned and that’s fine!
Do you already calendar block? If not, are you going to start? I'd love to hear your comments below!
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