From XU Magazine, 
Issue 26

MinuteDock’s Guide to Time Blocking

A different way to approach your work day!

The team at MinuteDock have seen every kind of time management practice you could think of during their tenure as a top timekeeping service provider. Now they share one of their favourites.
This article originated from the Xero blog. The XU Hub is an independent news and media platform - for Xero users, by Xero users. Any content, imagery and associated links below are directly from Xero and not produced by the XU Hub.
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We all know how valuable our time can be as a resource, and it seems like we never have enough of it, at work or at home. Being able to manage time effectively is one of the most important life skills we can develop, and part of this skill is being able to use effective time management techniques and solutions to stop the sands in the hourglass from draining away before we get all the things we need to do finished. Using a time keeping app is certainly the first step towards understanding how we spend our time. Once we do, the right time management worksheet can let us organise and spend our time more efficiently. You might find a time blocking schedule to be just the tool you need to find time to accomplish all the tasks you need to get done in a given day.

The essence of time blocking as a time management strategy is to break down your day into time blocks and assign specifically how you will use each of those blocks. Breaking your day into smaller segments and knowing exactly which tasks you need to accomplish within the time frame of a given block allows you to put greater focus on managing your time and prevents time wastage. You can give yourself clear and achievable targets to focus on while you work as you can assign certain tasks to be completed within a given time block, allowing you to create a sense of urgency while you work and  a feeling of accomplishment as you complete each time block.

While ultimately the exact specifics of how you set up your time blocks and how you assign the time in those blocks is a matter of personal preference, there are some general ‘rules of engagement’ you should keep in consideration.

First, it’s important not to let your time blocks be too big– your time blocking schedule needs to be established in a way in which you can make accurate estimates on what you can get done within each block. A set of blocks which are overly large will increase the number of things you are assigning yourself to do within a given block. You could find yourself halfway through a block realising that you have far too much to get done in your time remaining, causing yourself stress as well as causing your productivity to dive rather than rise.

Alternatively, it would also be a mistake to make your time blocks exceedingly small. This would create a situation where you have a number of time blocks in your workday which seems never-ending, leave you often without the necessary amount of time in a given block to make sure you can actually complete the work assigned to it, and create a mental environment where it seems like your workload is never ending and you are struggling to accomplish anything of significance.

Consider the tasks which comprise a normal workday for you and try to figure out a length of time which you think is suitable to get the entirety of a task accomplished. Finding the right time block length for your workload will let you accomplish meaningful tasks during the day without you feeling burnt out. Rather, you will have the appropriate time to refresh and refocus your mental energy onto the next task. Your blocks should feel something like a race – the finish line should feel both attainable and like a genuine accomplishment.

Using time blocks lets you stay on top of your organisation, preventing you from forgetting tasks or feeling unsure of what to do next. A good time blocking schedule will double not only as a time management/productivity tool but also a general day planner. Being able to see with a quick glance everything you have on your plate for a given day is a benefit which could easily be overlooked.

Having goals and putting just a little bit of time pressure on yourself can be a hugely positive thing for your productivity levels. While you will want to be careful not to stress yourself out, you’ll likely find that the sense of accomplishment from achieving a time sensitive target is incredibly motivating and will improve your productivity as well as your general work mentality.

Breaking down your day into blocks stops the day from dragging along and lets you feel like you are starting and finishing a number of things rather than just ‘working’ for eight hours. That sense of completing a given time block will allow you to mentally reset yourself. Assign a 5-minute coffee break between time blocks to refresh and get ready to reapply yourself for the next block.

Time blocking can be a hugely rewarding thing to do when you commit to doing it properly. It can change the way you approach your work-day, and help you to maintain your productivity over the course of the day rather than slowing down as you lose energy. Whether it might work for you is something you’ll only discover by trying it out!

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