Depending on your outlook on life, you may see scheduling your days as either the best idea ever, or one of the boring rules you left behind when you finished education.
Whether you love or loathe this kind of structure, my mission in this post is to share with you why it’s an amazing life hack – and it doesn’t have to be as rigid or unforgiving as it sounds.
In fact, as Entrepreneurs we all know “thepower of the pivot”– and this can be applied to your daily schedule. So if something isn’t working for you, of course you can re-schedule as needed. See? Not so rigid after all.
So what’s the point then?
It’s all about having a clear plan and knowing where you’re going with your day. The aim here is setting your course and following it. After all, if you don’t know where you are going, how will you get there?
It’s scheduling, but not as we know it!
Forget your old class timetable from school. Time blocking is about protecting your time rather than ruling it with an iron rod. If any of your daily tasks are creative ones such as writing, then this is especially important for you.
Creative work requires you to be in a flow state. You know what I’m talking about, right? That near-euphoric experience of being so immersed in your work that linear time loses all meaning. In order to achieve flow, we really do have to be distraction-free.
The persistent, nagging ‘bing’ of emails coming in is a flow killer. And this is why so many successful Entrepreneurs rave about the importance of allocating your inbox time. If you can be disciplined enough to only check your inbox (and social media!) at designated times – allowing yourself total focus in your creative blocks of time – the results will amaze you.
Creating and innovating will no longer feel like squeezing blood out of a stone. In fact, your creative juices might not want to stop flowing. Awesome – you can always pivot and adjust your schedule for a bit more creativity if that’s working for you.
Hacking your free time
Once you get started with time blocking, you might well find you want to apply this to your days off too. I do this, and I love it. I am scheduling all 7 days of my week and I’ve found that I have so much more satisfaction on a daily basis.
You see, this isn’t all about productivity – although you will gain this in spades. Time blocking is also about ensuring balance in your life.
I time block for my family, friendships, and alone time.
Why does time blocking work?
It conserves your energy. Blocking together tasks of a similar nature means that your brain has to do less active switching between tasks. You know that feeling when you are reading and somebody just starts asking you questions out of the blue? Nobody likes that, right? The reason is because it uses brainpower to switch from one type of activity to another. That sudden demand on our cognitive resources is draining.
So by grouping your interaction-based tasks (emails, phone calls and meetings) together in one part of the day, less task switching occurs, and more brainpower is preserved.
It is well reported that LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner blocks himself 2 solid hours of thinking time every day. Okay, I think I just heard your jaw hit the floor! I can understand how it would seem counter-productive to take so much time off from the grind; especially if you are in the first couple of years of your own business. At this stage you have your pedal to the metal all day, every day. I imagine that you barely give yourself time to blow your nose, never mind an activity as luxurious as quiet thinking time!
But here’s the deal – not taking thinking time is a false economy. So many business owners are hustling at ground level, never once looking up from their desks. I get it – you’re under immense pressure.
But with this refusal to step away from the ground-level business action, all perspective can easily be lost too. Has anyone ever told you that you should step away from your business to see the whole picture? If they haven’t – then I’m saying it to you now. You’ll be met with more creative ideas to get where you are going with lesseffort, and lesstime.
My challenge for you, if you will accept it, it this…
I hereby challenge you to switch up your diary management style. Aim for less ‘appointment stuffing’, and more time blocking. Schedule in a block of quiet, flow-state work as often as you can. Also schedule in blocks for phone calls, emails and appointments.
The truth is, most businesses won’t grind to a halt if you return a phone call later instead of answering immediately. But if that is the case for your business, then you need to outsource your call handling.
Keep your interaction-based tasks in a block, and schedule your quiet blocks for when you know you can turn your phone off and be focused.
As basic as this sounds, please do not forget to schedule in your rest too. As Entrepreneurs we often burn the candle at both ends, with our health taking a back seat.
Remember the big picture – good health gives us energy, and that energy drives our businesses. We can’t smash our goals if we are flat out on the floor. Be sensible and schedule in that work-life balance we all need in order to thrive.
Here are two bonus tips for you that I have been using for a long time with great success;
1. Schedule worry time.
Become disciplined with the time you spend worrying or overthinking. If something pops in to your mind that you would usually dwell on and potentially worry or feel anxious about, add it to your schedule. This might sound stupid but it works, I promise. I discovered this life hack when I was going through a particularly uncertain period of time. Thoughts of stress and worry would enter my mind and distract me from what was important. I made the decision to spend 3 hours every Friday morning 'worrying'. I created a time block on my schedule called 'worry time; and whenever something entered my mind that would cause me to worry I would write it down in the time block and then let it go, freeing my mind to focus on what was important. I found that when Friday came the 'worry' would have solved itself, or I would be able to think of a solution and treat it as a task.
2. Forget 'To Do' lists
When you realise how powerful scheduling is you can say goodbye to those long To Do lists you used to love and hate. I used to love the feeling of ticking something off my to do list, but I also dreaded facing it when it was overloaded. Rather then mindlessly jotting everything down on a To Do list, input it to your schedule with an estimated amount of time that the task will take. This forces you to priorities and enables you to address your To Do list in a more skilful manner, without having to dread how long it might be. If you do it correctly your To Do list will be spread over a number of days (potentially weeks) and you'll complete the tasks when the time comes!
Here is a screenshot of my schedule, which I keep using Microsoft Outlook.
To ask more about how to keep a great scheudle leave a comment or message me on social media :)