028: How To Set Up A Time Blocking Schedule That Actually Works

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If you’ve tried time blocking but it didn’t work, I’m going to walk through the steps – cause it’s more than just blocking “work time” on your calendar and hoping you get everything done. Find out why it works (and who it might not work for) and follow the steps in this episode to create your own schedule. Before you start, you’ll want to know these 3 things:

  1. What are your goals – what do you want to accomplish?
  2. What is getting your time (figure out these time buckets)
  3. Where are you spending too much time and could be spending less?

Your action this week is to create a time blocking schedule and try it out for 1-2 weeks. If something doesn’t work quite right, tweak it a bit. Tag me on Instagram with your schedule!

Discussed In This Episode:

  • Why knowing how to do proper time estimates is crucial
  • What are time buckets and how can you use them to your advantage?
  • Why blocking every spot in your calendar could be hurting your plan
  • How to plan ahead and be really protective of your time
  • Planning overflow blocks and catch-up times
  • How to structure your full time block system

Links for this episode:

Related blog posts:

Other Helpful links:


Welcome to Coffee Powered Systems, equipping women with actionable steps to overcome, overwhelm and streamline business and life. So grab your favorite drink and come hang out with me. I'm your host, Miranda Merten. Welcome back to another episode of Coffee Powered Systems, I'm your host, Miranda Merten Happy Friday.


Today I am drinking some red wine because it's actually nighttime for me as I'm recording this.


And usually I'm having some coffee or tea or water, but I am winding down, finishing up my weekend and having a little glass of red wine. So what are you drinking with me today?


Come have a chat. As we talk about time blocking, I want to talk about time blocking and whether or not it works for you or doesn't.


Have you tried it? Have you not? Maybe you've tried it before. It didn't quite work or you didn't understand it. Time blocking is one of those things for me where people always tell you to do it, but they never really explain the process or how. So what we end up doing is we kind of just block some time on our calendar and try to work during that time. And then when it doesn't really work out, we we assume it doesn't work.


And then we move on to the next strategy, quote unquote, that might seem to work for us.


So if you have tried time blocking but it didn't work, I'm going to walk you through the steps because it's more than just blocking off work time on our calendar and then hoping you get everything done.


And that's maybe that's why it didn't work for you, because you block some time and you say, I'm going to work from nine to 11 or I'm going to work from twelve thirty to four. And that's it. That's all you've done. You say now I'm working and you it doesn't really work. Right. So let's talk about two things. Why it works and why it doesn't.


So time blocking works because it's a dedicated, focused time. We dedicate a certain block of hours or time to do a certain type of work. That's good for us because it lets us know that this is the mind frame. Is that the right word? Mind frame? This is the mind frame that we are supposed to be working on at this time. And we block out everything, we block out distractions and we're focused on getting that one thing done.


Another reason why it works is because we are subject to Parkinson's law, which is that work expands to fill the time that we have available for it. And this is usually what my problem is. I work great on deadline. If you tell me I need to do something and it's doing an hour and I really need it right now, I can bang it out for you and get it done. But if you tell me oh it's fine. Have it to me by next Monday, chances are I'll be working on it maybe Friday or Monday morning.


So when we have a certain amount of time or certain block of time to do something, we're more likely to get it done in that time frame.


Also, we know what we're going to focus on during that block. The way I like to do time blocking is that I will say what type of work I'm working on during that time, and that really helps focus on that specific task.


So who doesn't time blocking work for or maybe why hasn't it worked before when you've tried it? Number one, if your day is so unpredictable that you can't block focused time out, then it probably doesn't work for you. And just like a lot of productivity strategies, everything doesn't work for everyone. That's why there are so many different ways to do it. And we have to try different ones and see which one resonates with us and which one actually works for us before one of them sticks.


And you probably have to give it a few tries before you give up on it. If this one doesn't work for you, you either have a super hectic schedule and you can't create focused time blocks around just specific things. Also, if you're bad at time estimations, this might not work because you do have to kind of have an idea of how long something takes in order to block time off for it. For example, if you are a graphic designer, but you really underestimate your time a lot, if you think it's only going to take one hour to create five original graphics.


But normally it would take you like three hours, then that's a time underestimation.


You have to know how long your work's going to take or how long it typically takes for you to do some things or else it's not going to work. You also have to be able to be good at stopping at certain intervals.


So if you give yourself 45 minutes to do something, then you have to know how to wrap up your time when it gets towards that forty five minutes so then you can go into doing something else or working on something else. Time blocking also is probably not going to work for you if you're in an environment where there are constant interruptions like you have opened. Coworking, it's one of those offices where everyone's desk is in the same room and it kind of gives people the ability to kind of pull you away or talk to you whenever they want to, or if you have children at home that really don't understand work boundaries, they might not get it.


So you have to really enforce if you are working in a in a situation like that, you have to really enforce that. You are doing specific, focused work and you need no distractions and interruptions.


And lastly, if you work in an environment where it requires your calendar to be flexible due to appointments, so you are likely to get appointments at any time, if maybe if someone else schedules your calendar for you and appointments kind of pop in on your calendar without you making them yourself, then it probably wouldn't work for that situation either. Let's go through how to actually time block and how to make it work for you. So before you start, there are a few questions you want to answer for yourself.


Number one, what are your goals? So what do you want to accomplish when you do your daily reviews or your weekly reviews? What exactly do you have to get done for the week? That's going to be key when it comes to making those blocks or creating those blocks or knowing exactly what you're going to have to do. Number two, what is getting your time? I've spoken before about time buckets. What exactly are these tiny buckets for you?


Is it family time? Is it client work? Is it content creation? You want to name those specific buckets that make sense for you, your business or your life. And that way you'll know what to frame them in. And number three, where are you spending too much time and could be spending less? Are you playing games on your iPad? And maybe you want to cut back on that? Are you on social media? Maybe you need to cut back on that, or are you spending way too much time creating content that's not really getting you anywhere?


You want to cut back on that or maybe outsource something like that. So you want to look at where you're spending time and kind of rein it in, because when you do time blocks, you don't want to spend four hours on one thing. So you want to understand how you're using your time. That's going to really help you hone in on specific time blocks and how to use them.


So I want you to print out an hourly agenda calendar, or you can just use a piece of blank sheet of paper and write, you know, write some hours on it. From your waking hours to your working hours. You can do like six to six or something. You're going to write down your expected time buckets and what you think you would like to accomplish during the day. So, for instance, if you woke up at six a.m., maybe you know that six to seven is your morning routine.


Last week I spoke about your beginning work routine, so maybe seven to seven thirty is your beginning work routine. And then, you know, you start working from, you know, seven thirty to noon, maybe noon is your lunch break. So between seven thirty and noon, you're going to take a look at your time buckets that you have written down slot in where these tiny buckets would go and make sure you make note of how long you want your day to be.


So if you know that you want to end your day at 4:00 pm or 5:00 PM or 6:00 PM, make note of that. Can you fit the buckets and the amount of time that you allotted for your day into your workday? If not, you'll have to go back and reevaluate where you are spending more time that you could maybe cut back on, because at the end of the day, you are creating your work schedule. Right? So if you want to finish at five o'clock, but you notice that you're going over when you've written down your time bucket and you've written down your length of time, that they're going to be if you look at it and you are ending up at six p.m. or six thirty, look at what you can reduce.


Can you create your content in less time? Can you do your client work in less time? Can you maybe cut back on how long you check emails or social media? So writing it out is going to help you evaluate if you can take away time or maybe at the end of the day you just need a longer work day and that might be an issue as well.


Now, when I blocked my day, I say, have your time bucket, but I don't block out every single specific thirty minutes because that's when you can get into a can overwhelm and you might run over doing this particular thing and then you get behind and then you get frustrated. So what I do is I will time my bucket. So I'll say client work from nine. A.M. to 11 a.m., but I don't put anything else in there, I just know that I'm working on client work at that time.


When I sit down at my desk, I have my major clients. I'll go into each of either their emails or their Asana and see what I have to do for that day. And then I'll take a look at what they are. And based on my time allotments that I think they'll take, I can see whether or not my two hour time window is going to be enough or if I have to maybe push something until later or shorten up a different time block, but not doing specific 30 minute blocks.


OK, now I'm going to work on Client A now I'm going to work on client B for these 30 minutes. I'm working on client C by not doing that. It gives me a little bit of flexibility within that block that if something comes up from a different client, I can jump in and handle it instead of worrying about, oh no, I'm supposed to be working on client B, but clients want something.


It just creates a little more stress than needs to be. So leave that a little bit fluid, but you still want to block out that time bucket.


So take a look at your schedule. You want to start with your pre work and your post work routine. So go ahead.


And after you, if you have a morning routine, figure out what time you want to start your pre work routine block in probably thirty minutes or less is good for the prior Christine. Which if you haven't heard that episode, I spoke about that one in episode 26, you can listen to that one at Miranda Merten dot com forward slash twenty six. So look at what time you wake up.


When do you realistically get moving, how much time do you normally take for your morning routines or your other household routines? And be realistic about that schedule. If you'd like to start doing something new, then try to wake up and pay attention for the next week. What time's your getting up, how long things are taking and what you would like to do in its place and you want to block that time off and the same for the end of the day.


What time would you like to finish and go ahead and mark off where you'll start your post work routine and where you'll do your wind down and settling in for the night? Next, you want to set aside time for your most meaningful work. And this is usually the things that you enjoy doing for your business and that help move your business forward. This is your creative work. This is if you're a content creator. Yes. When you're creating your content, this is when you do your best work.


If you're an author, you are probably writing your thousand words or however many words you write a day. This is the time where you work on your business and your things before you get into the hustle and bustle of the day and doing work for everyone else.


It's usually about one or two hours, depending on what time you wake up and what time you start doing all of your other business activities, then you want to block out time for meetings, phone calls, interviews, use a calendar booking system. If you aren't using one already, something like Calend.ly, Bookify, Simply Book Me, Acuity Scheduling, something where you give a link to your potential clients or your customers and they can book time on your calendar. But here's the key to that.


All of these schedulers will allow you to open up blocks of time on your calendar.


I want you to only open up the blocks of time that you have blocked off for meetings and interviews and phone calls. So if you look at your calendar and you say Tuesdays from nine to one or Fridays from two to five, these are the times that I do interviews. These are the times that I do phone calls and meetings. Those are the only times that you will have open up on your booking calendar because you only want people to be able to get on your calendar when you are letting them get on your calendar.


We want to be really protective of your time and this is how you can plan ahead. Next, you want to include breaks. So this is breaks for checking emails, checking social media, checking your DMS.


And when I say emails, I don't want you to have your email notifications on your phone or your browser notifications going off every time someone sends you an email, because those are reactive tasks and we can't help but to see the email come across.


You see the subject line and then you want to go in and read it and you think, oh, I can do this in two minutes and you go ahead and do it and then it throws you off. So you want to make sure you don't have the notifications on or you have your phone turned over so you don't see emails coming through all the time. But if you do tend to get a lot of emails that you feel like you need to be pretty.


Active in responding, you can plan an email, breaks every couple of hours, and that way you keep your stress levels down and you still are able to manage those times and plan those times to where? OK, now it's 11 o'clock. Now I can stop and check the emails. You check all the emails, you do everything in the inbox, and then you can get back to your regular time schedule. The next thing you want to do is make sure to put buffers between those time blocks of like 15 minutes or so.


This is going to help account for attention switching or those times when you just want to wrap something up at the end of a task.


And we're switching our attention or maybe we are almost done and we just need to finish this one thing. It's going to take five more minutes. That buffer time is going to give you time for those short averages and it gives you time to get up.


Take a break, go get something to drink, go to the bathroom, whatever it is without you feeling like you're right on top of each other, right on top of the next time. Block, you got to go, go, go. OK, so make sure you have breaks in between those big time blocks so that you don't get burnt out and feel like you're sitting at the desk all day long. Once you've added those in, look through your calendar and see where you can include some downtime, relaxing rewards or self care or learning time.


You always want to include some learning time because we're always researching and doing things like that. So if you schedule that time out, because I know I always get sidetracked sometimes, too, when I read my email and someone sends me an email and they're like, oh, check out this new video where I teach you how to do this really cool, awesome thing.


And I'm like, totally I'm going to check out this email where you teach me how to do this really cool, awesome thing.


And then I get sidetracked because I go watch this 30 minute video of them teaching me how to do this really cool, awesome thing.


Well, that should have been in my learning block instead of whatever block I was currently in and I got sidetracked or if I was in my email reading block and then I got sidetracked in my time. Right now, if you see something like that, you know that you can schedule it and wait and add it to your learning block.


And also you want to add in your downtime, maybe you put in after dinner. That's when you relax and watch TV or you have your bath or light your candles or whatever it is that you do to relax so you can schedule those as blocks as well. All right. And then if you work with a team or with your family at home, you want to make sure that everyone is aware of your system. Let your family know when you have these.


Do not disturb blocks and let your clients and coworkers know that you are working this way and when they can expect to receive email responses or project updates from you. So that kind of sets the expectations because very rarely is something super urgent, especially if it's coming through email. If I have personal clients, though, if they they know that if something is super urgent, if they need to get hold of me, they can either slacker voxer me or send me a text message if it's like I need you to do this right now, it's an emergency.


If something's coming through email, chances are it can wait a few hours. It's not urgent most of the time. So give yourself a little slack to ease up on the reins, but also communicate that that's what you're doing so that if it does take you three hours to respond to an email, they know that there might be a delay depending on what time of day it is. And the last couple of things I want you to keep in mind is that if the end of your day comes and you haven't finished everything on your calendar or your to do list, then you want to schedule your remaining tasks in the blocks for the next day.


You can definitely put those at the top of your list and say, these are what I'm going to work on first.


Or you can have an overflow block like Wednesday afternoon or Friday mornings. This is when I have an overflow block for things that were small, tasks that are not urgent. Then you can do those on those times. And during those blocks, of course, everyone's different. My slower times of the week tend to fall on Thursdays and Fridays. So I know once it gets towards the end of the week, the emails lighten up, the tasks lighten up and I can focus on other things.


And those those can be my catch up times. But I know that Mondays and Tuesdays, everybody's hitting the ground running, so I better not schedule like any overflow stuff there because it's just not going to happen. Lastly, you want to include a review time. So this is going to depend on how you work best. Some people like to wrap up their day before they even close the computer six p.m. plan for the next day. Some people like to do it in bed right before they're going to bed and their head is racing with all their ideas.


And some people work best in the morning. So figure out when that best time is for you. You can try a few different ways. And the. See which one tended to work best and just what felt right, and that's it.


So now you should have finished blocking out your calendar. If not, go back and listen to a couple of those spots and see what you might be missing. But you should have your full calendar days, including Buffer's, including some time for downtime or some email time and your buckets. Everything should be fit in between your pre work and your post work time. If not, then re-evaluate how much time you're allotting for each bucket and you should right now have a good schedule to work with.


So for this week, this week's action, I want you to take a look at your time blocking schedule that you've created and try it try it out for the next week, see if it's working for you, see if maybe you need to make adjustments. And again, it's not going to work for everyone, but it's a very good place to start, especially if you are someone who needs a little more help focusing and reining it in, because I know that my mind always is going all the time.


And if I have a focused container, it's a lot easier to complete tasks in those focused periods of time. OK, so that is all I have for you this week. Join me next time.


Thanks for listening to Coffee Powered Systems. You can find links to everything mentioned in the episode. Down in the show, notes are on the website at Miranda Merten dot com. If you enjoyed this episode and would love to continue mastering your work flows and processes, subscribe on your favorite podcast player and join me here next time.


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How Set Up a Time Blocking Schedule That Actually Works

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