Making Time Blocking Work For You
by Amber De La Garza, The Productivity Specialist
I think we can all agree. 24 hours is not enough to accomplish everything we want to each day. That’s why if you think you’ll just find time to get all your tasks done that have been piling up between attending meetings, answering calls, returning emails, and doing showings, think again! You will never have the time if you don’t make the time. Make completing all of the to-do’s on your task list a reality by time blocking them on your calendar.
Time blocking is simply the act of scheduling a set time frame on your calendar with the intention of completing a specific task during that time. Generally, a scheduled block of time should be between 20 to 90 minutes, which is the maximum length of time people can focus on a single task before losing the energy to complete it. There should be absolutely no multi-tasking or distractions of any sort during your time blocks. Create a totally distraction-free zone so you can get focused and stay focused.
Winning Time Blocking Strategies
#1 – Plan Wisely
Specifically and concisely plan how you’re going to use each time block and stick to it. Break up projects into smaller goals as needed. You could break a larger project into three 30-minute time blocks. Or, if you’re able to focus for long periods, perhaps schedule a 90-minute time block to complete the entire project. No matter how long your time block, plan out exactly how you’re going to use it.
Blocking out time for Social Media is far too vague so you could find yourself spending 60 minutes perusing your friends’ walls, reading random media posts, and getting lost in the abyss of photos, videos, and articles that pique your interest. Instead, have a much clearer intention for the 60-minute time block. Something like Schedule 15 Social Media Posts Over Next 30 Days would work. Be so specific that once each time block has ended, you’ll be certain whether or not you accomplished your goal.
Additionally, Parkinson’s Law says that, “Our work will expand to the time allowed.” In practice that means if you give yourself two weeks to complete a project that should take four hours, completing it will take you no less than two weeks. It also means you’re stealing valuable hours from yourself over those two weeks that could be put to better use. Always realistically estimate the time it will take to complete each project and plan out that time accordingly through time blocking.
#2 – Listen To Your Body
If you’re new to time blocking or generally have a difficult time staying focused, don’t schedule lengthy blocks of time. Start small, then steadily train your brain to focus for longer periods of time. Just like a weight-lifter works his way up to more reps and pounds, you must work your way up to longer time blocks.
One popular method of working in short time blocks is the Pomodoro Technique which requires you to work for 20-minute blocks followed by 5-minute breaks. This technique utilizes your time in a consistent and purposeful way. It creates systematic breaks instead of allowing random distractions to destroy your concentration and work flow.
Also, obey your circadian rhythms. Everyone has a unique internal body clock which is why you know many self-proclaimed morning birds and night owls. Whatever time of day your energy is naturally the highest is the time you should complete your highest value activities - those activities that drive your business forward. Schedule your time blocks based on your rhythms so you have optimal energy for your most important work. When you have low energy, you are more likely to fall prey to distractions because everything else tends to seem more interesting than the task at hand. Schedule time blocks to work with your natural energy levels and attention span, not against them.
Common Time Blocking Challenges
#1 Being Too Ambitious
The ability to focus for long periods is a habit that must be built over time. Due to the digital age we live in, you likely switchtask all day long, going from email to phone call to social media to creating a listing to texting to doing a showing. Switchtasking prevents productivity and if you’re not careful, it will consume all your time. Therefore, if you start utilizing time blocking by planning 90-minute blocks, you’ll likely focus for a short time then give in to a distraction repeatedly which wastes time. Instead, start with small, bite-sized blocks of distraction-free, focused time, then work your way up to lengthier blocks.
#2 Stay Committed
If you have a hard time working on what you had planned during your time blocks, you might be placing more value on others’ demands of your time instead of your appointments with yourself. Hold your time blocks just as sacred as you would a meeting with a top client. Not every client meeting goes as scheduled, of course, but you would never just no-show and not reschedule. Place that same kind of value on your scheduled time blocks.
If your meeting just before a scheduled time block runs late or something out of the ordinary happens that demands your attention, you may not be able to work on your project as scheduled. That doesn’t mean the need to work on it no longer exists! Reschedule the time block for a more convenient time. Always keep your commitments to yourself, otherwise time blocking will not be effective.
#3 Your Time Frame Is Too Small
Estimating how long it will take to complete tasks requires a great deal of trial and error and experience, but it is a skill that can be mastered. The closer your estimates, the better off you’ll be. Over time, become aware of how you work and keep track of how long certain tasks take. You’ll eventually be able to determine that one kind of task takes approximately 30 minutes while 90 minutes is not nearly enough time to complete another kind of task. Train yourself to better estimate the time it takes to complete each kind of task you regularly undertake.
Sometimes tasks take much longer to complete than estimated because you were either unrealistic when planning or because you allowed yourself to become distracted. Eliminate every distraction within your power. Turn your phone on silent, maintain your closed-door policy, turn off notifications, and close your email if you’re not working in it. Use each time block to strictly invest in your real estate business.
When time blocking, always remember to plan wisely and schedule according to your body. That means estimate the time it takes to complete tasks sensibly, be specific with your intentions, work with your energy patterns and ability to focus, hold your time blocks sacred, and set yourself up for success by creating a distraction-free zone. No one is productive all day every day. It’s just not possible, but it is possible to be productive during specific time blocks throughout the day. That’s why time blocking works! If you’re only productive during your time blocks each day, even if that’s only three hours total, you’ll still be moving the needle forward in your business and that’s good news for your wallet.
Stop banging your head against the wall trying to push through the same challenges and getting nowhere. Book a Strategy Session with Amber today to get customized out-of-the-box solutions and shortcut your path to success! Use Promo Code: WCR100 to receive $100 off your session!
About the Contributor
Amber De La Garza is The Productivity Specialist! Amber is a sought-after coach, trainer, speaker, writer, host of the Productivity Straight Talk podcast, and creator of S.T.O.P.! The Entrepreneur’s Success Solution. She helps driven real estate professionals execute actionable solutions to maximize profits, reduce stress, and make time for what matters most!