Posts Tagged ‘managing time’

Blocking Time

Friday, October 28th, 2016

How do you structure your work schedule each day? If you’re like most people, you really don’t structure it. Or you open your email in the morning and let IT tell you what to do.

I’ll tell you, there’s no better way to slice and dice your day into hopeless little pieces.

Instead, start every day by blocking time. Scribble a complete list of everything that’s barking for attention. Not everything is equally important – heck, not everything even needs to be done at all. Cross off anything you can forget about or delegate. Next, mark anything that doesn’t have to be worked on today.

Now you’re ready to lay out your schedule for the day.

Block time first for the most important activities. BUT—that doesn’t mean you have to do those things first. In fact, since those are often the most complicated and time-consuming, piling them up in the morning may just guarantee you’ll never finish everything. Instead, scatter those non-negotiables through the day.

You might not be working on the Dickerson project the moment you sit down in the morning, but you know that 10:30 to 12:00 is for the Dickerson project, period. And work on the budget summary is scheduled for 1:00-1:30, the revenue forecast is 3:00-3:45, and the inventory report is 4:15-4:45. Block those projects first, then fill in the gaps between them with negotiables—the things you’d like to finish today, but don’t absolutely have to.

What happens if you need extra time on that budget summary? It bleeds over into the time scheduled for those less important things. Maybe one of the less important items gets bumped to Tuesday. So what? You finished the thing that needed finishing, and you still start the revenue forecast on time.

Now what if you had stacked your non-negotiables at the beginning of the day, and each one took more time than you thought? Now you’ve got crucial things bumping into crucial things. That’s not going to end well. Something important is going to end up unfinished.

It’s like the old story of the jar, the rocks, the pebbles, and the sand. Put the sand in the jar first and there’s no room for the pebbles or rocks. But put in the big rocks first—the most important things—then you can pour the pebbles and the sand into the spaces in between, and everything fits.

Likewise, when you make your daily schedule, block time for the big, important things first, but allow space for the less important things in between. Do this and you’ll never have to tell your boss you were too busy to do what was most important.


Unplug the Day Shredder

Sunday, May 19th, 2013

Lose an hour in the morning, and you will be all day hunting for it.
Richard Whately, Archbishop of Dublin (1787-1863)

This pearl of wisdom was said 150 years before the invention of the worst hour-loser ever invented—email.

Email is the shredder of your workday, and you MUST keep it under control or it will cut your productivity to ribbons.

If your email program is set up to ding whenever a message comes in, it’s hard to keep working. You just have to stop for a second and see what came in, right? And it might be ages before you get back to the original project, if you ever do. By the end of a given day, instead of a solid workday of finished projects, you have a bowl of shredded wheat.

So how do you tame this beast?

First, wait at least 30 minutes before checking your email each morning, and use those 30 minutes to set your priorities for the day, then stick to them. If you want to really turbocharge your day, add another 30 minutes to get started on a substantive project.

Second, schedule email time just like any other activity. Maybe you check it every hour on the hour. Open it, deal with it, close it again. Set a timer if you have to. Or maybe you schedule a 15-minute block every three hours. It doesn’t matter which you do, as long as YOU are calling the tune, not your email program.

Finally, clear your inbox every day. This requires dedicated time—and it’s worth it!