When you’re working from home, on your own time, a time management method like time blocking is crucial to your success. Without it, you may find yourself suddenly realizing day after day that by 11am you’ve done little more than drink coffee and check your email.
If you want to build the kind of business where you’re successfully scaling beyond $3k months without working around the clock you’re going to have to find a way to take control of your schedule.
After months of trying to “free schedule” my days, I realized I needed a better system in order to run my business effectively while taking care of clients and not working later into the night. I’d come across time blocking repeatedly and decided to test it out for myself.
It was like magic! No more wasted mornings or wondering where all my time went. I had a clear map for my days but with plenty of freedom built in so I could operate my business the way I wanted to.
What is Time Blocking?
Time Blocking is the process of breaking your daily schedule into blocks of time. Instead of obsessively planning minute-by-minute, you use blocks to roughly map out what your week will look like.
Here’s a before and after example from Zapier that shows the difference between a typical weekly schedule and a schedule created with time blocking.
Notice how the schedule that has implemented time blocking is completely full. Also, the titles of each block are short, generic categories.
Some of the categories you might use as a CEO include:
- Client Work
- CEO Tasks
- Social Media
- Content Creation
Some categories you might want to use for your personal time include:
You should plan both your business and personal blocks on the same calendar so that you only have to keep up with one. Switching back and forth between calendars can lead to disaster like being late for date night or missing an important meeting.
What are the Benefits of Time Blocking?
So, why would you go to the trouble of creating a schedule like this?
Do you want to stop checking your email every hour? How about a walk at lunch every day or spending one-on-one time with your kid(s) each night?
When you start using time blocking and actually schedule your priorities, you’ll get used to doing those things repeatedly, and they’ll eventually become habits for you.
If you’ve ever thought to yourself “That project will only take about an hour” but then you completely lost track of time and it took 4 hours… it’s time for you to update your time management methods.
Using a time blocking system will help you learn how long it takes you to do certain tasks, reduce wasted time (“Gotta stop scrolling! 11 am is client time.”), and limit yourself to a reasonable amount of work each day.
You’re writing a blog post. Then you get a call from a client. They need “urgent” help with a “tiny” thing. You finish helping them and realize you have 3 new emails. One is a webinar you wanted to watch. You watch it. Now it’s time to get back to writing, but you’ve totally lost your flow. Might as well just scroll through Facebook for a few
This is my favorite benefit of time blocking. You create laser-intensity focus blocks for 1-2 hours throughout your day, which helps you eliminate the distractions completely. Working on Hannah’s project and get a call from Karen? She’ll have to wait, and it won’t kill her or ruin her business.
Karen leads me right into setting boundaries. A schedule built with time blocking gives you automatic boundaries, and it’s beautiful. You intentionally create time off from your business, time to focus on your business, time for communication, time for your family, and time for yourself.
If someone asks you to do something, all you have to do is check your calendar. Find a block of time where their request can be plugged in and let them know when you’ll be able to help.
You NEVER have to do something immediately unless it’s a true emergency. And there are rarely true emergencies in online business. It’ll wait.
Have you ever sat down at your desk (or couch) to work and struggled to decide where you should start? Time blocking to the rescue!
Open up your laptop, check your schedule, and conquer one block at a time.
We’ve touched on this a little already. Some of the ways you’ll be able to increase your productivity are by eliminating wasted time and distractions, reducing the number of times you switch gears, and giving yourself permission to say no when your schedule is already full.
Say what?! It’s true. People who use time blocking are healthier (exercise blocks), have better relationships (family blocks), and experience less stress (self-care blocks).
With all these benefits, why wouldn’t you give time blocking a try? I dare you to test it out for 3 weeks and see how it changes your businesses.
Tools for Time Blocking
The best tool for anything will meet these criteria:
- Easy to use
- Within your budget
- Works well with your other tools
- You’ll actually use it
This is my personal favorite because I’m already using several other Google tools, it’s not a bloated calendar with too many features, and it’s very popular so it’s easy to share and integrate as needed.
I’ll show you exactly how I use Google Calendar for time blocking later in this post.
Paper - Planner, Notebook, Bullet Journal, Chalkboard…
If you are already using one of these systems for your schedule, and you’re happy with it, there’s no real need for you to change. You can time block on paper just as easily as you can digitally. Don’t feel like you HAVE to use an app if you prefer writing.
All you need to do to make this work is create an “ideal week” template. As you plan out your week in greater detail, just refer to your template to make sure you’re keeping to your blocks.
There’s an app for everything, and that’s no less true for time blocking. Apps change so quickly that I’m not even going to bother listing these out for you. Just head over to your app store and search for “time blocking.”
What I will say is make sure that you are choosing something that’s specifically designed to help you time block. A to-do list app, task manager, or general agenda is only going to frustrate you when you can’t set up blocks easily.
There are a few programs out there that I’m fairly impressed with. However, I have not tried these out myself since I’m happy using Google Calendar. You’ll need to do your own research if you decide to use one of these and make sure that it’s right for your business.
Tips for Time Blocking
- Try to limit the number of blocks that are less than one hour. Ideally, most of your blocks will be 1-3 hours. Remember, you’re not trying to schedule every tiny task.
- Schedule your priorities first. Start by blocking off the most important parts of your week. This could be family time, meetings, projects, or client work. Once you’ve added those blocks, fill in the rest of your schedule with recurring tasks and anything else you need.
- Color code your blocks. It makes using your calendar more visually appealing and enjoyable. It’s also easier to get a feel for your days with a quick glance.
- Don’t forget to schedule in some breaks. You’re not a machine after all. Some people say you should even schedule in bathroom breaks, but I don’t like those people. Ain’t no schedule gonna tell me when to pee.
- Communicate your schedule with others. Share this with your partner, family, team members, and clients (in part). By letting them know how you’re scheduling your week, they’ll be more likely to stick to your boundaries.
How I Use Time Blocking to Plan My Week
Step 1: I set up 4 separate calendars on my Google Calendar
- Client Work (teal)
- The Org CEO (blue)
- Meetings (purple)
- Personal (green)
Step 2: I created an ideal weekly schedule and set each block to recur weekly so that I have a template to use every week.
First, I added the start of each day which is a 1-hour block for getting ready, making breakfast, scrolling through Instagram, or whatever I feel like doing that morning.
Next, I schedule a half hour each day for lunch and chores (if I choose to do them). Sometimes this is 10 minutes, sometimes it’s an hour. I like to keep my breaks flexible because that’s what works best for my lifestyle.
Then I scheduled 2 recurring meetings that I have every week. If we decide to reschedule, I can simply drag that block to our new time if needed.
Finally, I added blocks for my 2 biggest clients, blocks for client work in general, and blocks of time to spend working on my own business and education tasks.
Step 3: I set Wednesday as my “free day.” Since most of my weekend is spent with family and friends, I needed a day that was just for me. I can go for a hike, see a movie with my BFF, schedule personal appointments, sleep late, read a book, or work on my business. The only things off limits are client work and TV.
Step 4: Whenever I schedule a new meeting, I make sure it goes straight on the calendar and that I include details for it like the Zoom link or necessary documents. My color code is set up so that meetings stand out. I never want to be late or miss a meeting.
Step 5: Every Monday morning, I open my calendar and rearrange as necessary. I shift blocks if I have personal appointments, extra meetings, or a big project deadline. This gives me an overall feel for my week.
Step 6: At the beginning of each day, I open my Google Calendar in a new window along with the other programs I frequently need like my inbox, Trello, Asana, and Toggl. As the day progresses, I can update my calendar to match how I actually spend my time. I don’t get OCD about every single minute, but I try to roughly track how much time I’m spending on clients vs. my own business.
Here’s what it looks like after a week of updating:
A few things I want to point out:
- I don’t time block my nights or weekends (typically). I don’t have kids or regular social activities (#introvert). Also, I prefer to be a little more spontaneous with my personal life so that I can Netflix and chill with the man, meet up with friends, or help my mom with yet another project. There are some things I try to work in though like house project time on Sundays and an hour of reading before bed.
- I don’t track individual tasks on my calendar. I prefer to track tasks for my clients and myself using project management software like Asana, ClickUp, or Trello. When I have a 2-hour block for a particular client, I just open up my project manager, view their project, and get to work on the tasks.
- I don’t flippin’ schedule bathroom breaks. I just wanted to repeat that one more time for the skimmers in the back. For real. All you people who are telling folks that they need to schedule a time for their “big girl sit down” need to cut that shit out (pun intended).
Reading this article is great, but it’s completely useless unless you decide to do something about it. So, are you ready to block off your schedule?!
I’ve created a Trello template for you that will help you map out your time blocks for an ideal week. Instructions are included on the board so head straight there!
Don’t like Trello or don’t want to give me your email? I totally get it, and I won’t even judge you (much). Grab the Google Sheet version instead!