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In mid-2017 I came across this delightfully written article by Laura Vanderkam. It was titled the ‘Busy Person’s Lies’. As a working mom, I was very curious to know exactly what she meant by the term lies and was keen to see if this would benefit me. I mean, I was exhausted by the end of the day and had hardly any work to show for the efforts I was putting into my routine! And that’s the first time I came across the term, Time Blocking. This is an integral part of time management that helped streamline my day, week and month.

Suffice to say, it has changed my life.

Sounds rather sweeping, doesn’t it? But it’s true! In the article, she mentions how she tracked various working women with kids who managed to head senior positions at their respective jobs. She also included women who volunteered their time outside the home and tracked their efforts at effective time management.

Vanderkam’s principle was simple:

  1. Track how many minutes/hours make up your waking day. She did this over a 12-month period.
  2. Analyse exactly what makes up each of those hours.

The results were surprising, to put it mildly. I won’t go into too much detail here since that article does a fabulous job of breaking it down.

But I will talk about a simple way to implement this in your own life. The post today talks specifically about blogging but it can be extrapolated to any field: Writing, Creative work, Dancing, Singing. The point is to keep the principles in mind and apply them accordingly. I’ll first refer to my blogging schedules and then explain how time blocking helps me achieve these things.

Are you ready?

How I use Time Blocking in my Day to get things done! #Blogging Click to Tweet

Use a Planner/ Journal

Laura Vanderkam uses a spreadsheet. I use a paper and pen planner. It’s easier for me to keep track of tasks if I actually write them down by hand. At first, I tried to create an excel sheet and enter in all the data but that became too confusing. Instead I found the Bullet Journal method ideal for planning and prioritising tasks.

In a usual day, what are the tasks you need to perform? Categorise them into 4 broad headings:

  1. Workย  (Depending on whether you work from home or outside)

  2. Chores around the home

  3. Blogging

  4. Time for the self (Reading/Workout/Watching TV/ Scrolling through social media)

Once done, list the tasks against each in a drop down column. Bullet points are great because they give you clarity on how many tasks you actually have in a single day.

Under ‘Blogging’ for example, if you only blog once a week, like I do, one day will be dedicated to writing the blog post. The rest of the week can be spent on:

  • Social media promotion
  • Engagement with readers
  • Responding to e-mails
  • Troubleshooting website-related issues
  • Joining blog link ups
  • Working on a social media/blogging strategy
  • Coming up with resources for your subscribers

It can take a while for you to find that groove but pretty soon, you’ll be doing it on auto-pilot.

Also Read: 5 Simple Tips for Working from Home


ย Break down tasks by day/week//month

At the beginning of the week (usually Sunday nights), I plan out what I need to do.

Daily: I start with the day ahead, Monday. I jot down all the to-do tasks and notes on my list. This gives me a visual mind map for the day ahead. Doing this just before bed helps me to organise my head and get into the right space for work the next day.

Weekly: I then jot down important tasks for the week and categorise them broadly into 3: Urgent/ Important/ Can be done. Can the job wait till next week? It goes into the last slot. Does it need to be done as soon as possible? It goes into the first slot. Is it paid work for a client? It goes into the second slot.

Simple, isn’t it?

Monthly: This is kind of perfect because I get an overview of 30 days and how much I want to invest in each focus area. If I decide to write 4 blog posts a month, I plan the ideas ahead. If I know there are days when I have engagements outside, I move the posts around to accommodate the schedule. For example, this post was supposed to go up on Monday this week, but thanks to a number of extenuating circumstances, I’ve had to push it to Thursday.

If you are a food blogger, for instance, you may want to track important seasons and the kind of foods that do well in each month. This is also dependent on festive occasions and celebrations. See why a planner works?

A post I highly recommend if you are in this niche is this one by Nandita Iyer: the creator of the hugely popular food blog, Saffron Trail: How to plan your food blog editorial calendar for the whole year!

Also read: The difference between urgency and importance

Of course, I am a planner by compulsion, so this tends to come easily to me. But that doesn’t mean it’s hard. Trust me. I love the Bullet journal video by the original creator, Ryder, for its simplicity and elegance. It’s just a very easy task organiser and, given my limited artistic skills, kind of perfect for how to organise my time.


How I use Time Blocking to get things done

Time blocking sounds like a very fancy term but it literally means just that: Blocks of time. It’s easier to break it down into measurable slots such as 20-minute or half-hour blocks and figure out what you’re doing in that time.

5 Ways I use time blocking in my life. ~#Productivity #Blogging Click to Tweet

1. Figure out time wasters

So, the first thing you need to do is track a week of your schedule. Observe where you tend to waste time and where you are optimising it. Do you log on to Facebook to ‘just check one thing’ and find yourself going down a rabbit hole for 2 hours? Do you tend to pick up the phone at each notification sound and then end up swiping through the various Whatsapp messages wondering which video made it to your phone? Or perhaps you thought of reading ‘that one article’ and found that you spent over 45 minutes reading ‘related articles’?

Sounds familiar? I thought so. Don’t fret. This is a tough habit to break but it can be done. So, like I said, mark the minutes down in the notebook for each day.

*Number of minutes spent on Facebook/Twitter/Pinterest (insert your favourite social media here)

See how many minutes you can shave off each session. Start by setting a timer and logging out of Facebook once 15 minutes are up. Do this regularly until it becomes a habit.

2. Commit to the Pomodoro Technique

I cannot emphasise this enough. If you can stick with a task, any task, for 25 minutes, you will find that your creativity grows and your productivity sky rockets. If you take a break to ‘just check Facebook’, your mind wanders and your focus plummets. Getting back on the work horse is nigh impossible. Set a timer and get to work. Don’t budge from your task for 25 minutes.

At the end of it, take a 5-minute break and stretch. Do not check social media or e-mail at this time. Just take a break.

Distractions can include:

*Phone notifications

*Multiple tabs open in a browser

Turn them off. Get work done.

3. Set short time-blocks for social media

If you are an active blogger with a presence on multiple social media platforms, it can get crazy to manage everything and not lose your mind. Set exactly 10 minutes at a time for any social media platform. Log into one, work on promoting your content, connecting with readers, checking notifications and then log out.

This is important: LOG OUT of the network. Re-enter the password each time you have to access it. This greatly reduces the impulse to check the notifications every 3 minutes.

I don’t have the Facebook app, the Messenger app or the Twitter app on my phone. But I do have 12 other important blogging-related apps. More on that in another post.

4. Don’t be always available

Instant gratification today gives people the impression that if a message has been sent, it must be acknowledged instantly. What’s worse is messages are now sent on multiple platforms if one doesn’t get a response! This is harmful.

If it is urgent, a phone call will do the job much better. If not, the task can wait till the next day. Have clear cut-off times from work. Separate the work day from the off-time you owe yourself. Block time for the family and stick to it.

5. Give yourself time to unwind

As much as work is important, it is equally crucial that you take time for yourself. Be it a regular workout, a good book to read, a movie you want to watch with the family, these help the mind de-stress. Social media would have us believe that if we aren’t up to date with every bit of news as it unfolds, we are missing out on something.

I can guarantee that the news is not going anywhere. You will get to it when you get to it. Be selfish with your personal down time. Time blocking works miracles here too. Think of it as a time when you get into a jacuzzi and relax. You don’t think of anything else but the water and how good it feels, right?

Make time for yourself. You’ve earned it.

So, do you think you have it in you to implement time blocking?

Go on and give it a try and let me know!


Time Blocking is one of the best ways to boost productivity and improve your work-life balance. With this technique, you will find that it's not a question of not having enough time. It's more a method of how to manage the same time effectively. #TimeManagement #ProductivityHacks #TimeBlocking #Tips

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Comments

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31 Comments

Shilpa Gupte · January 26, 2018 at 7:45 am

I so agree with you, Shailaja..about using time to its optimum, without wasting it on all the distractions we have been ‘gifted’ thanks to social media.
I, too, make a time table in my diary, and stick to that as far as blog posts is concerned. Using the phone and spending time on SM is far lesser today than it was last year. The amount of time that saves is impressive as I can use it for activities that need my undivided attention. It leaves me feeling contented at having spent my time wisely.
Shilpa Gupte recently posted The man who shone a spotlight on mental health. #WATWBMy Profile

    Shailaja · January 26, 2018 at 7:53 am

    So liberating, isn’t it? My focus towards blogging, time and social media underwent a significant shift in the last six months and I’m so grateful for it!

Shantala · January 26, 2018 at 8:00 am

I can vouch for the pomodoro technique, and the exponential benefits of time blocking. It has revolutionized how I handle and use my time. However bullet journaling is one thing I have stayed away from because of my non existent artistic capabilities. But I’ll definitely check out the video you shared. Thank for sharing, Shy.

    Shailaja · January 26, 2018 at 6:24 pm

    I love pomodoro ๐Ÿ™‚

    And I know what you mean about the lack of artistic abilities. Trust me, the Ryder video is perfect for people like us ๐Ÿ™‚

Sid · January 26, 2018 at 8:11 am

Damn! You have officially turned Blogging Guru ๐Ÿ™‚
No, that’s a good thing. It’s difficult to find people who are willing to share their nuggets of info, and for that I applaud you.
I’ve been using this method for a month or two now, and the results, as you may already know, are quite fabulous. It’s been helping me focus more on things that need my attention and keep those distractions at bay.
Plus it helps me quickly ascertain what I’ve done through the day too.
Thanks for sharing, Shailaja. More power to you.
Sid recently posted The DateMy Profile

    Shailaja · January 26, 2018 at 6:19 pm

    Thanks, Sid. Part of the re-branding for the blog that I was talking about if you recall ๐Ÿ™‚ Plus, first and foremost, I am enjoying myself thoroughly ๐Ÿ™‚
    Second, I love writing tutorial-style posts. They make me feel like I am back in my teaching days again. It’s something I want to go back to.

    So wonderful that the method has been working for you, Sid! Nothing quite like it, isn’t it? Thanks for reading ๐Ÿ™‚

Dr Roshan Radhakrishnan · January 26, 2018 at 11:01 am

extremely guilty of not following this… I waste so much time around insignificant things. Need to be more focused this year
Dr Roshan Radhakrishnan recently posted When a City Turned Night into Day for a Little Boy #WATWBMy Profile

    Shailaja · January 26, 2018 at 6:16 pm

    Hope these tips will help, Roshan ๐Ÿ™‚ It’s tough at first but gets progressively easier.

Shilpa Garg · January 26, 2018 at 1:24 pm

I needed to read this. While I like to think that I am pretty organised but I know that I waste a lot of my time which could be used in a better way. I am certainly going to implement the tips you have shared and hope to organize my time better. Thanks for sharing, Shailaja!

    Shailaja · January 26, 2018 at 6:09 pm

    So happy you found this useful, Shilpa. I’ve always thought that you manage your time rather well! But it’s true. We do tend to waste more minutes than we realise. Here’s hoping we can all improve ๐Ÿ™‚

Obsessivemom · January 27, 2018 at 1:22 pm

It’s like you are watching me and pointing out each of the tens of ways I waste time and telling me how to get around them all. Darn it! This year was the first time I started with some kind of planning – a rough monthly kind of check. I’ll need to take baby steps since I’m not a planner by default. But your post and the links are priceless. As always, I might add.
Obsessivemom recently posted Izzat is a strange thingMy Profile

    Shailaja · January 27, 2018 at 6:29 pm

    Ha ha ha, maybe I have a hidden camera in your home ๐Ÿ™‚

    I totally get it though so don’t beat yourself up. Things will happen when they need to. And thanks for the lovely compliment ๐Ÿ™‚

Rachna Parmar · January 29, 2018 at 8:10 am

I think wasting time is what most of us are guilty of. I don’t follow documented techniques but have been doing a lot of things like keeping time aside for work, social media, reading etc. Has been working out well so far. I am not too organized and somehow wish to keep it that way. ๐Ÿ™‚

Thank you for sharing these lovely tips.
Rachna Parmar recently posted How to Deal with a Disrespectful Child?My Profile

    Shailaja · January 29, 2018 at 2:59 pm

    Glad you’ve found a method that works for you, Rachna. Ultimately that’s the best thing. Thank you for the kind words ๐Ÿ™‚

Aparna @ Elementum Money · January 29, 2018 at 12:12 pm

This was a really nice post. I am a really big fan of Laura Vanderkam having been inspired to become a morning person thanks to her book “what successful people do before breakfast”. I have heard her TED talk for the same article that you mention and it makes you think as she specifically mentions how you will find time for something of you need/want to.

Honestly, I am quite surprised you manage to execute all this advice and make it sound like a breeze. I have tried and it is not easy. But, taking inspiration from you, maybe it’s time to try again ๐Ÿ™‚

    Shailaja · January 29, 2018 at 2:58 pm

    I agree that it takes time. It certainly did for me. Now I am more or less de-addicted from social media. Which was a huge wormhole of time honestly. Used as a tool it’s great. But glad to have inspired you. Let me know how it goes.

Caz (InvisiblyMe) · January 31, 2018 at 1:58 am

I’d never even heard of the Pomodoro technique before. I know I need to work on scheduling things, sorting my days out to boost productivity whilst pacing myself (which my pain management therapist will be happy about). Some great tips here so thank you! ๐Ÿ™‚
Caz x

    Shailaja · January 31, 2018 at 5:16 am

    You’re welcome, Caz! Scheduling works great not just for mental tasks but for physical ones too. Helps ease the stress on our body. Do try out Pomodoro. It’s amazing!

JayanthyGovindarajan (@JayanthyG) · February 2, 2018 at 11:55 pm

Something I need for this whole year Shy. Call it priorities of a new mother. Somehow what I call as the never ending tasks might find a proper end with this technique. This shows how important it is for me to start analyzing my day and work on it to make it better. Thanks Shy!
P.S: Sometimes I bookmark your articles to follow, slowly I am thinking just adding your blog to the favorite list would do more good to me
JayanthyGovindarajan (@JayanthyG) recently posted #WednesdayVerses: My Blessing In DisguiseMy Profile

    Shailaja · February 3, 2018 at 10:05 am

    You made my day, Jayanthy ๐Ÿ™‚ Thank you so much! I am so glad this is helping so many people. Truly!

Rajlakshmi · February 7, 2018 at 3:18 am

No wonder you get so much done… You are such an excellent planner. Time blocking seems so hard, but I really need to do that… And loved the 25 minute technique. That is something I can start with. I will let you know how it goes
Rajlakshmi recently posted Tasmania – White Sand, Shells & Wineglass BayMy Profile

Natasha · March 9, 2018 at 11:59 am

This is an eye opener! Thanks Shy. Bookmarking it.
Natasha recently posted Yearning for Briare: #FridayFictioneersMy Profile

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