You have too much to do. Your “to do” list keeps getting longer instead of shorter, distractions are constant, and the only solution is to work more hours. Or, is it?
There is actually a much smarter solution to slaying your to-do list dragon — it’s called Time Blocking.
Before you dismiss this as another “amazing solution” that only works for people who have a “normal” 9-5 job, here’s the back story.
Over the last decade, we’ve all been slowly sucked into a vortex of distractions. In a Darwinian way, we’ve become accustomed to our attention being hauled away by the truck load. And then one day we woke up and it seemed normal to flit from task to task, running on adrenaline, and frustrated that nothing important seemed to ever get done!
But it’s not normal. And it’s not productive.
What we need more of is “deep work”, a term coin by Georgetown professor and serial author Cal Newport. It’s the kind of work that moves the needle. It could be sending that overdue proposal, coaching your staff, writing your next blog post, or following up with sales prospects.
This is the kind of productivity that speaker and author Chris Bailey calls “Hyperfocus”.
“When hunkering down on something big, like writing a book, I’ll often block off time weeks, or even months, into the future,” Bailey said. “That way no one can book my schedule for that time and my brain learns that it’s focus time during those hours.”
I’m proof that time blocking actually works. In the last six months, I’ve doubled the revenue of my company, Blog Works, returned to my goal of finishing my workday around 5:00, and felt more productive than I have in years.
The solution is simple: I design my week and my days around time blocks.
Block Time to Make Time
Time blocking is an appointment with yourself to do deep work. Just like a client call, meeting with staff, or attending a webinar, you work towards those appointments. You clear your desk, close your email, grab a glass of water, and show up — on time — to do the work.
“Because we have a 17-month-old,” Ron Tite, speaker and author of Think. Do. Say, told me, “I would block time to write every night from 7pm to 11pm.”
Let’s dive into a simple five-step process to make time blocking and deep work a part of your everyday planning.
1. Make the list
Start each week by deciding what is the most valuable work to be accomplished. This should be a very short list.
For example, this week I needed to add a new writer to our team of 14 writers. So, I blocked time to write and post an advertisement. I couldn’t complete the whole task in one session but getting the ad written and posted moved the “boulder” forward.
2. Block the time
When you block time, think about when you are most alert and efficient.
Most people have peak times in the morning (like before 10:30) and early afternoon (1:30-3:30). Use peak time for writing, math(!), proposals, directing staff, and making financial decisions. Block time in non-peak time for routine, catch up type work, like paying bills, scheduling calls, checking in with your team. or editing a blog post.
3. Keep the promise
Hello? I’m speaking to you. Booking the time block is only half the work — now you need to keep to the schedule. My rule is: I can move the time block (after all, stuff comes up) but I can’t delete it.
“You need to be the one to take control of your life, your time, and your focus,” Paralympian and author Kevin Rempel said.
Trust me on this, if you want to have that day-before-vacation, uber productive feeling, you need to respect every time block.
4. Celebrate the results
We all need a pat on the back sometimes. When you keep to your time block and rocket through that writing project or sign up for that conference you’ve been debating about, you need to celebrate.
Keeping small commitments — like habit building — leads to more confidence and willpower for the next challenge. Don’t pass GO until you take a moment to recognize that you overcame temptation and got the work done.
5. Rinse and repeat
Success in business depends on two critical factors: systems and habits. Your new habit is to get off the phone with your new client and immediately block the time you need to send that proposal you promised them. Your new system is to design your week and your day around blocked time.
Warning: if you are thinking this is too robotic or mechanical and will dampen your precious creative soul, think again. The greatest minds in history blocked time for creative work, including Adrianna Huffington, Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, Freud, Kant, Beethoven, Mozart, Dickens, and Maya Angelou.
Now it’s time for you to block time for deep work, give those boulders a push, and watch the results come rolling in.
With a vision to “change the way work serves people,” Hugh Culver delivers extraordinary keynote experiences about personal effectiveness in the workplace. He combines business savvy with humour and real-world, practical advice that’s designed to make an impact long after the applause has ended.
Interested in learning more about Hugh and what he can bring to your next event? Email us at [email protected].