Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, Twitter, Netflix, friends, pets. Need I go on?
Distractions are everywhere. On our phone or laptop, in the kitchen, the friend in the cubicle over, or even from our furry friends wanting to play outside.
One of the best ways to keep focused and not get distracted is time blocking. An essential tool to keeping focused (and organized!), time blocking consists of mapping out your day ahead of time, allotting a certain amount of time to specific tasks. Think of it like a hyper-organized to-do list.
Many of us spend much of our time in reactive mode – responding to emails and answering phone calls. While both of these are of course unavoidable necessities, make them more manageable by allotting specific time for them. That way, you are able to be proactive with the projects you are responsible for handling.
Time blocking is most effective if you do it before starting your work for the day. Take five minutes in the morning to look at the meetings you have scheduled and identify your high-priority tasks. Open up your calendar (or grab a piece of paper and a pen) and organize your day in 30-minute increments. Visualizing how you will spend your time gives you a sense of control. It also allows you to identify meetings that aren't a good use of your time so you can proactively get out of them.
Having everything mapped out in front of you allows you to have laser focus on the task at hand, and not get distracted with other impending to-dos. Because the great news is: you have already mapped out time to do those next!
This roadmap will also help you pinpoint any inefficiencies in your productivity. If you know a task should only take 30 minutes and you’re still working on it over an hour later, then the chances are your time isn’t being maximized and something needs to change. This is a great way for people who tend to get distracted easily to monitor themselves – and their time.
A hidden bonus this allows us is when using the shared calendar feature. When people are looking at your calendar to request time with you, by having these chunks of time already blocked off, you will be able to keep that time to yourself and finishing whatever is at-hand.
As you try out different strategies to maximize your time, it's essential to loop in your manager (and even your close colleagues) so they are aware of your initiative. This ensures people aren't blindsided if you decline a meeting request and it also gives them helpful insight about your goal to be productive.
You might even find that they want to try time blocking with you! This is a great way to do something as a team and it allows you to discuss key learnings with your colleagues.
Try this for a week and see whether it made a difference. And at the end of each day, check whether you were able to stay on schedule with your time blocks. Did something urgent pop up that diverted your attention? That’s fine! Prioritize that task for the following day so you ensure it still gets completed.
We each have a finite amount of time in each of our days. Why not maximize each minute to the best of your ability?