Keys to successful time blocking?

Keys to successful time blocking?

(Joe Buhlig) #1

Those who get my newsletter know that I’ve started an extreme calendar makeover and begun time blocking my entire week. And although the plan is something that gives me enough time to do everything I want to do with buffer and absence, I still struggle to follow through with the plan most days.

I get these last minute ideas and I’m off to the races before I realize I’ve abandoned the schedule. I know I should write these ideas down and come back to them later but they feel like I can do them quickly.

For those of you who time block (or want to time block), what are some of the tricks you use to stick to the schedule and keep commitments to yourself?

When Creative Energy Starts Flowing
(Justin DiRose) #2

I’ve personally found it extremely difficult to timeblock every second of every day. However, what’s been inching me ever closer is scheduling my routines and “big rocks”. As I cement those into my schedule through routine and habit, I’ve been able to more effectively chunk my day out. It’s the whole big change vs. 1% better every day (or week).

I think a big issue to watch out for in chunking the entire day out is Parkinson’s Law. I need to be hard nosed on the time I think it’s going to take to work on a task/project/etc., otherwise I know I’ll find other things to fill my time with if a 30 minute block takes me 10 minutes to complete.

(Wilson Ng) #3

I don’t know if I can micromanage every hour of the day. First, I can look at my calends for appointments. Then I place one Big Rock in the morning and one Big Rock in the afternoon. If I put too many Big Rocks, I’l excuse myself and tell myself “it’s ok. I have another Big Rock to focus on.” Like the Big Rocks and the pebbles scenario, I fill up the empty time blocks around the Big Rocks with smaller tasks. I usually try to group tasks by context (@Mac, @office) or by perspective (my Admin/Maintenance perspective). If I can batch the tasks, I’m OK. I couldn’t micromanage the day because I might have a new customer to tend to or put out whatever fire comes at the office.

(Wilson Ng) #4

This was on the Using OmniFocus web site talking about time blocking. It’s an article from Kourosh Dini.

(Rosemary Orchard) #5

I do some time blocking at work (usually in periods of time when other people are taking over my calendar), and one of the keys to making it work for me has been to schedule “free time” - not as in time to do whatever, but as in “this time is for those ideas that pop up which I think I can do quickly”. That way when I write that idea down on a post it I’m actually putting it into that block in my calendar. Then when I get to that block I evaluate if the idea really is a good one, or if I would be better continuing the previous time block instead (I usually end up with a fairly even mix of both).

(Wilson Ng) #6

Just finished my first go at the audiobook version of Cal Newport’s “Deep Work.” He has a more flexible take on scheduling that includes some buffer time in case we go over the calculated time block. He is also more forgiving about interruptions. He writes out a schedule with what he thinks will realistically happen today. Then he might rewrite the schedule several times in one day if things go off track.

There are days when nothing goes according to plan. I try to work around things and try to get stuff done during quiet times that may pop up throughout the day. It’s a struggle. It I think flexibility is the key if you’re like me and I never know when a customer walks in through the front door.

(Rosemary Orchard) #7

I’ve not read Deep Work yet, but the scheduling you talk about reflects what he says in his books aimed at college students. I always found it a very sensible suggestion as one’s day rarely goes exactly as planned.

(Joe Buhlig) #8

This is a valid point. The problem I continue running into is the sense that I should be working on client work at a certain time of day. I don’t always need to but I feel like I should be. And it’s that feeling that gets the best of me.

This may be why I’m considering more of the management side of developer projects as opposed to coding for clients. It gets the big, long projects “off-my-plate” and allows me to do the shorter piece of those projects.

(Justin DiRose) #9

@joebuhlig have you written down what your day actually looks like before? If you’re having trouble sticking to your ideal time blocks, maybe writing down your actual will help.

(Curtis Spendlove) #10

I’ve gotten in the habit of kinda subconsciously “doing” the pomodoro technique. When a distraction (internal or external) comes up you can do one of two things:

Urgent? “Cancel” the pomodoro (time block) and divert to putting out the fire.

Non-Urgent? Write it down as an interruption and continue the pomodoro.

The nice thing about this is at the end of the day (week, month, year) you have a list of everything that interrupted you.

You can start finding trends and act upon your own personal internal interruption cycle.

(Grace) #11

When I saw Joe’s newsletter today I felt like it was written to me. Since January 1st I am trying to set time blocking to write. I’ve been very productive but writing is my weakness. My brain tends to go anywhere, specially client work, except focus on writing…

Implementing it right now on the iPad Pro… a way to record notes.

Ulysses + iA Writer

Maybe notes on paper would work better but I’ll try it for a few days to see it works.

(Curtis McHale) #12

I just wrote a long answer on Quora about what I do with time blocking, an ideal week, and then breaking it down into a real week and then days.

Quora on Time Blocking

(Wilson Ng) #13

Great job! Thanks for sharing.

(Joe Buhlig) #14

I have. That’s mostly what helped me create my initial “perfect” schedule.


It’s been a few days. How’s it going?

Also, as a follow-up to this topic, have a listen to the latest Whims. I’ve had to abandon this time blocking method. It’s simply too much. So I’m moving to a daily plan, which I’ve tried numerous times before but never with this much clarity. Hopefully I land on a process that works well.

(Wilson Ng) #15

LOL. That’s what I’ve seen. I can get a general idea of what the week looks like ahead. I try to plant at least 1-3 Big Rocks during the week. But Life happens and I can’t follow my original plan. I just go from day-to-day. I have one Deep Focus session in the morning and one Deep Focus session in the afternoon. The session focuses on one group of tasks (admin, Big Rock project, or a context such as @Mac, @Office, or something else). Beyond that, I might have crazy interruptions with walk-in customers or a new situation that must be handled before I can return back to a Deep Focus session.