Using Time Blocking To Schedule (& printables!)
See how you can use time blocking to schedule an effective and productive day! This post includes ideas for structuring your calendar (whether your work from home or outside the home), free weekly and daily planner printables, and the best tools to use for organizing time blocks.
As a work from home mom, I would absolutely not be able to organize my day without time blocking.
I'm naturally a pretty scatterbrained person. It's a flaw that I've really had to work at combating. That's why time blocking has become one of my best secret weapons in making sure my time is spent as efficiently as possible. Without a solid plan for my day, I am really bad about wandering from one task to another without focusing whole-heartedly on any particular area. Ever heard the saying “jack of all trades, master of none?” That's pretty descriptive of my day without a segmented plan. I do lots of little things without really mastering any of them.
Whether you work from home or not, if this sounds like your typical day, read on: you just might find the secret to time management success!
What is time blocking?
The idea behind this practice is pretty simple and, surprisingly, kind of flexible. Simply put, you divide your day into measurable chunks; each chunk is dedicated to a particular kind of work. You can really dedicate as much (or as little) time to each task as you need. I prefer to divide my day into 1-2 hour chunks and really dedicate my thoughts and efforts to one particular task at a time.
Here's a look at a typical work day for me:
6:30-8am: wake up, get ready, feed kids breakfast and get ready for school
8-9am: gym/workout time
9-10am: take Jackson to preschool, go home and shower
10am-noon: work time
12-1pm: lunch, pick up Jackson
1-2pm: Jackson's playtime
2-3pm: pick up Emmie
3-4pm: rest time for the kids, work time (rest time if I can swing it) for me
4-5pm: Journey to Clean tasks, cook dinner, spend time with kids
5-7pm: family time, kids get ready for bed
7-9pm: work time, time with Noah after we're both done
9-10pm: get ready for bed
Basically every day looks like this…and it's completely on purpose. This way, for example, I know that I am expected to work from 10-12 each morning. I don't get distracted by chores or other things I need to do around the house because I know there's a time in the afternoon for that. If my mind starts to wander, I work really hard to remember that this is the time of the day that is dedicated to work; my mind needs to stay focused on that during this block.
I also think this is a really effective method for making sure you're spending intentional time with your kids. I know that 1-2 every afternoon is Jackson's time; that's our time to play games, build his train tracks/legos, and really have special moments together. As busy as the afternoons can get with homework and chores, I also try to carve out a little time in the afternoons to spend with Emmie too. And Noah and I are pretty strict about 5-7 being family time. We eat dinner together, play, and get the kids ready for bed (mostly technology-free; I'm not going to say we're 100% without it, but we try to focus on family during that time).
How can you figure out your best time blocking schedule?
This is best done by looking at your priorities. Sit down and write out 5-10 things you want to get accomplished each day, ranking them by importance. The items at the top of your list might need more time (usually no more than a 2-3 hour chunk); the items towards the bottom might need less time.
Obviously, if you work outside the home, larger chunks of your time are going to be dedicated to your work day. With time blocking, I'm talking about deciding what to do with the time that you have a say over. And, if you're lucky enough to choose your own schedule, don't feel like you have to dedicate more than 2-3 hours at a time to a task. You'll notice above that I work 5-ish hours a day; however, no more than 2 hours at a time are consecutive. That's just how I've had to plan out my day in this season of life. It also lets me step away from a task for awhile to let me process what I've done and clear my mind from it. I've found that I'm so much more productive with bigger projects if I limit the amount of consecutive time I work on them – it's a great way to prevent burnout.
What tools do I need to time block my day?
Really? Nothing is required! But there are a few things that might help you in planning your day.
I've got three different time blocking printables that are totally free for you today! You can choose from one of the three time blocking methods…
Block by Time of the Day Time Blocking Printable (download here)
Block by 2-Hour Segments Time Blocking Printable (download here)
Choose Your Own Time Blocks Time Blocking Printable (download here)
You might want to go with one of the first two time blocking printables if you're new to time blocking; these have definite segments that will let you visualize your day easily. Once you figure out what segments work for you, you can move to the third one, letting you decide how long each segment is.
(These time blocking printables are straight out of my mega collection of planning printables, The Year of Intent! You can find more printables just like this by clicking here.)
Besides a good schedule, I also recommend a to-do list. I use the Todoist app – it's a free, incredibly effective list tool that has a really each to use interface. I color-code my list to show what items need to be done in each time block.
You can see my actual list from the day I'm writing this post above. My work tasks are in blue, my home/cleaning tasks are in green, and anything to do with my online shop is in red. So, in my schedule, blue and red items would be done during my work blocks; green tasks would be done during my home block in the afternoons.
What happens if you remember an item that has to be done during the wrong time block?
That's what my to-do list is for! If I remember that something needs to be done from another block, I simply note it in Todoist and come back to it later. I also use my notes app (just the regular one on my phone) to jot down any ideas I have about other segments of my schedule. I have lots of different notes; one for each of the kids, products I see and want to try, ideas I get for work, even gift ideas. Learn to write it down and let it go until its block; this way of thinking is essential for time blocking.
One final note about time blocking schedules…
Alright, rule followers, let me put this note in as a fellow rule follower: it's not going to always go as planned. As a matter of fact, it frequently doesn't go as planned.
Your kid's school calls to let you know you forgot a lunchbox.
You realize you forgot about that doctor's appointment.
You get stuck in traffic.
There are a million different things that can go wrong in any given day, completely throwing your schedule off.
And I'm hear to tell you that it's ok! It happens to me at least every few days. Just roll with the punches and get back on track as much as you can. That's one thing I love about Todoist: if you don't finish your list in any given day, you can simply move those tasks to the next day. No harm, no foul.
No go forth and block that day! Once you start using this method, you'll never look back.
See more of my organization posts here!
I’ll give it a try. I’m so terrible with my time management and my days are always chaotic. Thank you!
You are so welcome, Tonya! Let me know if you have any questions.