How to Stop Putting Out Fires: Time Blocking 101

Emily Ann Peterson

Jul 5, 2017

Going from Crisis to Calm with Your Calendar

So there you are: It’s the end of your week, the end of your day and for the life of you, you can_NOT_ remember what you actually accomplished and worse IF you actually accomplished anything at all. The day felt like a big one. It felt like you accomplished a lot, but there’s no record of any of it anywhere.

A similar feeling might occur when you crack open your calendar on Monday morning bracing yourself for a clean, fresh start, filled with potential and productivity… only to realize your time is officially no longer yours, every spare second has already been claimed by someone else: the dog, the kids, the clients, the employees, the spouse… Even though you love it all very dearly, you’re beginning to resent it.

In my podcast Bare Naked Bravery, we talk a lot about “power of choice” — We often give away our power of choice before we even realize what we’ve done. Every time, we’re unconsciously victimizing ourselves. A calendar is a symptom, tool, and definitely no exception to this phenomena.

Drum roll please…. bdbdbdbdbdbdbd[drumroll]bdbdbdb…

This is why I am a long-time, super fan of time blocking.

It’s pretty simple really: block out time before someone else does.

I use Fons for my consulting client’s scheduling and payment processing because it cuts down on my administration hours by at least 75%. I use Google calendar for the rest of my life’s adventures. For my time blocking, I’ve created multiple calendars for each type of activity in my life: Admin, Fons Office Hours, Marketing, Networking, Artistic, Product Planning, etc. This way I can clearly see how my week is being invested. If the time blocking is doing it’s job, every week is a very colorful experience.

To get to time blocking nirvana, you can do the same thing with the following steps by grabbing a sheet of paper to outline your ideal week, then compare it to the reality.

  1. Start with your personal values. What really matters to you? At the end of your life, what will you never regret spending time on? Family? Making banana pancakes and sheet forts with your kids on Saturday morning? Brunch with the ladies? Beers with the dudes? Creative studio work? Achieving that business goal? Making that new idea a real thing? Block it out. Even if you don’t know *exactly* when that brunch will be held, even if you have to flip through to a couple weeks from now, block it out now, before someone else does.
  2. Identify your responsibilities. What are the things you have to do? What are the things that empower you to keep your business and life running smoothly? If these things get left out, everything else becomes an emergency (i.e. electricity getting shut off due to forgetfulness). Paying bills? Daily email check-ins? Client Hours? Picking up the kids from school? Sending a weekly email newsletter? Posting on social media? Quarterly appointment with your accountant? Put these in your calendar now. Even if you don’t have something set in stone just yet, that’s okay. You can move things around later! This just ensures that the time is reserved for now.
  3. With the space left, reserve some planning or prep time. This might be taking an extra 15 minutes before your meeting to catch up on all those emails that went back and forth since last time. Maybe this is the long vacation or creative strategy weekend? Maybe this is the extra 20 minutes it will probably take to get your kids out the door? For me, this is usually giving myself an extra 15 minutes in the morning to wake up and drink tea. I always underestimate how long it takes for me to wake up in the morning.
  4. Compare this to your current calendar (if you have one.) How does this ideal time blocking calendar compare to your current one? More time doing things you love? Less time doing things you hate?

Remember: the goal of time blocking is not to turn your life into a regimented calendar boot camp. That sounds like a terrible time (to me, at least). The goal of time blocking is to ensure YOU are the holder-of-the-reigns of your own calendar. You are creating an automated system of holding your boundaries with your calendar. (Click here to read more on doing the important stuff even when it’s difficult.)

Are you an avid fan of time blocking? Are you new to it? Hate it? Love it? Let me know! I’d love to hear all about it!

Emily Ann Peterson is a singer-songwriter, teaching artist, marketing consultant, and creative entrepreneur. Her podcast, Bare Naked Bravery, features conversations with everyday heroes about the quiet successes and loud failures required to do the brave things for which we know and love them.

Peterson’s mission is inspire a global resonance and magnanimous community through the marriage of art and whole-person development.

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