Getting stuff done is hard, right?

When I used to work a ‘normal job’, I got it totally wrong. And when I started my freelance business, I got it totally wrong, too.

It took me several years to discover the benefits of time blocking, but it has completely transformed my working days and ability to reach the bottom of my to-do list.

I have a sneaking suspicion it will do the same for you, too. Here’s how to use time blocking in your line of work.

I’m practicing it right now

In the past, this blog post would have been written whenever I had time for it. Invariably, this meant one of two things:

  • I’d only get round to it at weekends or late at night; or
  • it would get continually bumped down the priority list until it barely existed as a priority.

As I type, it’s 8:05am, and that’s the time I’ve set aside every Monday in order to get my weekly Mark Ellis Reviews blog post written. It’s part of my 4-stage content repurposing process which results in a blog post, video and (when it eventually launches) a podcast episode.

However, creating this batch of content is only possible with time blocking. It’s why my weekly calendar features these do-not-move items:

  • Monday, 8am-9am: write and publish blog post
  • Tuesday, 8am-9am: write/plan next video
  • Wednesday, 8am-9am: film video a-roll
  • Thursday, 8am-9am: film video b-roll
  • Friday, 8am-9:30am: edit and publish video

This means I’m spending five and a half hours every week on my Mark Ellis Reviews brand, guaranteed, without it disrupting either my client work or my personal time. And it works, brilliantly.

Why does time blocking work?

If you have any interest in getting stuff done either personally or professionally, you probably work from some form of to-do list.

Time blocking is basically the process of creating a diarised to-do list. It’s you telling yourself that at 8am every Monday morning, you’ll be doing that and that only. It requires discipline to begin with, but the good news is that it soon becomes habit.

Human beings are creatures of habit. We like processes, normality and predictability, which is why time blocking is so effective. What’s more, it’s a process which reveals just how much time you have available every day.

It’s far more than you think.

As I noted at the start of this post, I totally screwed up my time when I used to work a regular job, and carried the same mindset into my freelancing work. I’d jump from task to task without any form of planning, and it always resulted in a feeling of being overwhelmed and under the impression that I was neglecting really important tasks.

Switching between tasks throughout the day isn’t problematic, but the time you devote to each one is.

Is time blocking hard to implement?

No. It really isn’t. Scour the web, and you’ll find countless example of how to time block. So many, in fact, that it’ll quickly overwhelm you.

But I think they’re making a mountain out of a mole hill.

Time blocking is, in my experience, incredibly easy to implement. And it’s important to note that I don’t time block everything. On the contrary, I only block out time for the stuff which I know is likely to get bumped if it’s not scheduled into my diary.

I have certain clients and relationships where I have to get stuff done no matter what, and they always take precedence, but time blocking ensures the passion projects and less deadline-heavy tasks still work their way into my day.

At the end of every day, just have a look through your to-do list for tomorrow and think about the tasks to which you can devote an hour in order to give them the time they deserve, but of which they’d normally be robbed.

Then, schedule that time with yourself in your diary. Or make a mental note of when you’ll undertake them (I do this occasionally, but it does take more discipline).

Simple, right?

What if I can’t find time for my scheduled time blocks?

This happens – trust me. In fact, it might happen to me tomorrow; my one hour slot for video planning looks like it’s going to be disrupted by a car journey I have no choice but to make for a client.

But that’s fine. I’ll just get up earlier and undertake the video planning session then, instead.

Time blocks aren’t completely immovable, but they do signal a promise to yourself that you’ll undertake them one way or another. Treat your time blocks with respect, rather than continually bumping them out of the way, and the desire to undertake that time in the way you’ve promised yourself will become second nature.

Time blocking has made this blog post possible, without setting aside any of my client work. I’ll let you be the judge of whether or not that’s a good thing, but I hope the same technique works for you.

Give it a go!