The way we’ve thought about time has changed throughout human history. The Babylonians provided us with a 12-month calendar and seven-day weeks in the 21st century—BC, that is. And we didn’t even begin considering the measurement of minutes until 400 years ago. Today, athletes work tirelessly to shave milliseconds off of their track times.
Our lives and goals completely revolve around time.
Think of the person you most admire and wish you were more like. Whatever the reason you may admire them, it’s also likely that you probably admire the way they use their time. Think about it. If it’s your mom who comes to mind, you might admire the way she raised you or how she mastered making you feel like your childhood was full of life. That’s putting time to good use. If it’s a president, you might admire what they did during their tenure in office. That’s using time to their advantage too. If it is an athlete, maybe you admire how they trained and performed under pressure. That too, is putting time to work at a high level. Across all the examples we consider, it turns out it’s not necessarily their accomplishments we admire most, but rather, it’s their outstanding use of time.
Like we talk about in The ONE Thing, productivity isn’t about having more things to do, it’s about having less things to do. It’s about doing the right things at the right time–bringing more efficiency to our most important work so we get more done in less time.
Managing your time wisely is ultimately about controlling your life more. When you value how you utilize your time, you’ll find balance and happiness. As humans we will always interact with time and incorporating time management techniques can lead us to more productive lives. Time blocking and power hours are two different techniques that can lead to a productive life.
Time blocking is a type of scheduling that prioritizes what you do and when you do it. It’s the act of making an appointment with yourself in order to get your most important work done. When you time block, you take control of your schedule, which can help relieve time related stress. An effective time blocking system prioritizes progress towards an individual task and leads to healthy productivity.
To set up a personal time blocking system you need to:
- Choose a chunk of time to block out
- Time block for your time off
- Time block your ONE Thing
- Time block your planning time
- Additional time blocks for when your ONE Thing is complete
Choose a Chunk of Time
Time blocking only works if you hold yourself accountable. Choosing how much time you want to time block is ultimately up to you, as you want to choose an amount of time that is both realistic will set you up for success. If you have a fairly routine life, starting with a larger time block might be easier than if you already feel like your life is chaotic. If it’s your first time attempting a time block, it’s okay to choose a week or even a day to block time off during.
The most important part about time blocking is simply getting started. Time blocking is a continuous scheduling technique that you can do over and over again to make changes where necessary as needed to your day. As long as you make and keep these appointments with yourself, you’re well on your way to time blocking success!
Time Block your Time Off
This may surprise you, but the first type of time block you need to create for yourself is your vacation time. That’s right, plan your time off so that the rest of your schedule can fall into place around it. We’re assuming if you are committed to working on your ONE Thing during the appointments you’ve made with yourself that you will be working hard. Therefore, you deserve to give yourself some much needed breaks.
If you don’t plan for them, often as the time gets closer, the thought of taking time away to unplug and recharge seems too stressful. But rest assure, this time off is as necessary for productivity as work time is. It needs to be accounted for and protected.
Time Block your ONE Thing
Simply getting tasks done is not the goal of controlling your time. You could be named the most productive person in the world, but if everything you accomplished were tasks you did not want, productivity would not be the result. Instead, work on your ONE Thing during your time block. Determine what needs to get done first in order to knock over that first domino. It’s ok to start small. If you know you’re fully utilizing your time block, you’ll see the progress you are making.
Trust us, if you work on your ONE Thing as the first time block you tackle at hand, you’ll be able to move on to other things for the remainder of your day. However, if you don’t start with your most important item at hand, it’s unlikely you’ll make much progress toward your ONE Thing.
Time Block your Planning Time
It may sound counter-intuitive, but it’s essential when planning your time blocks that you also schedule time with yourself for planning. Block off an hour or two each week when you can review your annual and monthly goals. During this time, you’ll want to review what you want to get done, what you’ve already gotten accomplished, and what needs to happen in the upcoming weeks and months to stay on track.
Additional Time Blocks for When your ONE Thing is Complete
While time blocks are most helpful for working on our ONE Things, they can be extremely useful in other arenas as well. Maybe you have extraneous things that are essential to your life but not to your ONE Thing that need to be completed. Knowing what needs to be done and when will help balance out your time schedule and keep your life in order. You can use time blocks in this scenario is helpful too.
Create a list of things you must get done after your ONE Thing is complete. Next to each item on your list write the amount of time it takes you to accomplish that task. Be honest with yourself, if a five-minute task takes your 20 minutes because of how much you dread to do it, write 20 minutes next to the task. Time blocking is about honesty.
If you want some more information and ideas on what to do after a successful time block, be sure to read our recent post on the topic.
Power hours are an additional tool you can use in combination with your time blocking system. These are best used in two different ways: to focus on a new thing or to get routine tasks done and out of the way.
Like your normal time blocks, power hours are dedicated to setting aside a chunk of time to focus on one particular task or objective. However, the power hour has the caveat that it can exist outside of your most productive hours. For instance, if you’ve time-blocked sales calls during a part of the day where your energy is at its peak, you might schedule a power hour later in the day to push through the low-energy task of recording your results in your database or journal.
Putting aside a chunk of time to focus on one thing can help increase concentration, reduce distractions, and discourage multitasking. Putting aside a chunk of time to get routine things over with helps clear your mind and mental checklist so you can focus all of your energy on new task.
Power hours can be any amount of time, during any part of the day, doing any task of your choice- the point is to have a specific block of time to remove a distraction task or to prioritize a task. The important thing is to make sure that they’re consistent. The more regular they are, the easier it is to get into a rhythm—and the easier it is to build a habit!
Time blocking and power hours are two tools to implement that will guarantee you to be more productive. Remember the person you thought of when asked to think of someone you most admire. Imagine after time blocking, after managing each day and taking control of your life by also incorporating power hours that the person you most admire being yourself. Living a productive life is achievable; you just have to put in the effort to control your time.