It’s a topic discussed again and again by overtasked, overstressed business leaders searching for the keys to efficiency and productivity: time blocking.
As the CEO of a busy New York City-based moving company, I can attest that, as the adage goes, “time is of the essence.” From scheduling complex corporate moves with busy companies, lining up teams of workers and ensuring building resources are in place to accommodate a client’s move, the 24-hour day never seems like enough time to get our jobs done.
To help, I have recently been leveraging the art of block time. Also known as “time blocking,” this approach to productivity helps workers make the most of hectic, jam-packed workdays by assigning specific tasks to specific blocks of time.
The method, which has been used by numerous productivity experts and successful CEOs – think Bill Gates and Cal Newport – can keep you on track and prevent common obstacles.
Block Time Defined – And The Benefits
While not a new strategy, time blocking is not used nearly as much as it should be in the corporate world. In layman’s terms, time blocking is precisely what it sounds like it is – you allot portions of time on your calendar, both professional and personal, to various tasks on your to-do list. Then, you work uninterrupted on those tasks during prearranged windows of time throughout the workweek.
For example, perhaps it’s Monday, and you have a PowerPoint presentation that you must develop for a prospective client by Thursday. With a block time strategy, you dedicate specific timeframes on your calendar each day between Monday and Thursday. As a result, you increase your chances of completing your presentation and reduce your chances of procrastination.
There are many other reasons why the strategy works:
• It requires you to estimate how long a task will take. Blocking time on your calendar requires you to approximate a project or event’s length from beginning to end. My employees that utilize time blocking are much more productive, achieve better results and accomplish far more in their hours each day.
• It encourages accountability. If you have a meeting scheduled with a colleague, client or prospect, you typically keep it. Why not take a similar approach with yourself? With block time, the same rationale holds, but instead, you make yourself accountable for meeting commitments.
• It improves time tracking. By blocking time – and sticking to your schedule – you can better assess whether you are effectively utilizing your time, and therefore, make adjustments in areas where you can improve.
Tips To Block It Out
The ultimate goal of time blocking isn’t to complete each and every task planned for your day flawlessly. Rather, the purpose is to encourage you to devise plans that can help you take better charge of the direction of your life.
For example, I told my employees that to reach our 2018 revenue goal, we needed to be more productive and efficient in the eight working hours we were allotted each day. In an effort to meet this goal, I urged team members to block out their time in the office to work on priorities during the first half of the day – when everyone’s brains are fresh and their willpower is stronger.
As a result, our sales reps implemented a strict “do not disturb mode” rule before 1 p.m. to focus solely on follow-up communications with current and past leads. This approach has increased our company’s bookings by 30%.
In addition, our operations department has helped to decrease customer stress levels by incorporating block times on several job aspects, including training our crew leaders on effective customer service, creating designated times to conduct detailed confirmation calls with customers, and coordinating with building managers about upcoming jobs and elevator availability, among other examples.
Block time has also been effective for our company’s executive team. Because many of us work well over 40 hours per week, block time allows us to not only find time to accomplish everything on our to-do lists but also to incorporate personal well-being activities like reading and exercise.
I firmly believe that when we are healthy and balanced in our personal lives, we can also be successful and the best versions of ourselves in our professional lives.
Here are some factors to keep in mind when implementing a block time strategy:
• Don’t use the excuse, “I don’t have enough time.” When you focus on what you do have time for, you can reframe the tasks you need to complete more positively. With time blocking, you can schedule a start and end time for each item on your to-do list throughout any given week. And while a 60-minute block of time may not be enough to complete a detailed committee report, it might be enough time to respond to crucial emails piling up in your inbox.
• Get rid of distractions. Interruptions can hurt your focus and productivity. A few years ago, I read an inspiring book by best-selling author Gary Keller: The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results. In his book, Keller notes that when people get interrupted, they tend to lose their focus and it can take double the amount of time to refocus. The takeaway: Even a small chunk of time focused wholly on accomplishing a specific task can be much more productive than spending several hours switching back and forth between tasks.
• Plan ahead. Before I go to bed each night, I dedicate several minutes to the next day’s schedule. This helps me move toward both my professional and personal goals. I also take time every Sunday to plot out the week ahead, carving out specific times for particular tasks that I need to accomplish, as well as business priorities. By planning ahead, I am better prepared mentally for any possible obstacles, and I can manage my company in a more seamless, effective manner.
Stick To The Plan
The art of blocking time is taking ownership of your time, and as a result, taking ownership of your daily life. To me, this is a vital factor in living with greater intention and focus.
I recommend viewing the method as an art, not a science. It can be an incredibly useful tool to help you organize your professional (and personal) life into specific time slots to help keep you focused. It can also help you better manage your time more efficiently.
After all, the better organized you are in the tasks, activities and commitments that you can control, the greater the flexibility you will have to make last-minute adjustments when something arises that you may not have otherwise anticipated.