I've been resistant to timeblocking in the past. Mostly because I see myself as a creative (and an Aquarian) and we creative's don't want to be blocked into anything. But I've discovered that creativity is better with constraints
Having worked from home for almost a year now, I've experimented with some different, more flexible, ways of working to achieve the 'freedom' lifestyle I hear so often about. Work the hours you want, create flexiblity in your day, If you finish early - head to the beach and enjoy your day.
On the surface it seems like a great way to work. And YET, something was wrong.
The problem in a modern workplace is that there are actually endless things to do. If I'm really productive and finish all the things I planned to do for that day - there are still endless other things that I can work on. So I never really finished early, and actually ended up working more hours and not less.
Enter the reason why I decided to get back to timeblocking my days. There are a few reasons for it.
- We overestimate what we can do each day/week. When we write a to do list and then start to tick things off we are often over-ambitious. So by forcing yourself to put your tasks into a set times slot in the calendar you can actually see if you have the time and space to do all those things this week.
- It gives me a start and end time to my days. Don't get me wrong, I love the flexibilty of working from home. Yes, technically it means that I can start work at whatever time as long as I get all my work done. But I've found I work best in routine. It also helps my co-workers to know the regular times I'm online. That doesn't always mean that I'm working the same hours each day. There are some days where I see that it's going to be a really sunny day and I decide I'm going to get started early and finish early. I just timeblock my tasks into those times.
- It stops resentment. As above. I used to have an intention to finish early and go out and enjoy the sun, but I'd still find myself sitting at my desk at 6 or 7pm because I wasn't 'done.' And I would sit watching the sunset with resentment. But now, because I plan my day in timeblocks - I have a plan to get everything done and if I stick to it - I can go and enjoy the end of the day.
- It helps with balance. When you know the start and stop times of your 'work' you have a better work/life balance. This is especially good when you're working from home - because it has the potential to meld into a really unhealthy balance.
- It helps to see what types of things I spend my time on. I have multiple roles in my job. If you work for yourself you're most likely doing all different types of tasks. So, timeblocking helps to see what proportion of your days and weeks are spent on what types of tasks.
- You can easily see your workload. If you work for someone it's very easy to see your workload and say, sorry I can't fit anything else in - I'm booked up. It's harder to say that with 100 things on your task list, because none of that is tangible. I love having a full calendar, showing it to my boss and saying this is everything I've got on this week, if I have to do the other thing you want me to do - what can we take off or postpone to next week.
- It's stops procrastination. I'm sure I'm not the only person who has tasks sitting on their list for weeks (and months). My new mantra is - if it's not in the schedule, it's not getting done. I know if I put it in, it's going to get done, because there is a time and place to get it done.
In essence I've created SPACE for things to get done.
I've been timeblocking for a week now and I wrote some observations in a twitter thread..
How I Timeblock In Notion
All of my tasks are in Notion, so of course I wanted to see if there was a way to accomplish this using Notion. I tried quite a few ways to make it happen within my tasks database that essentially failed. They were just too complex.
But, I did eventually find a way to make it happen on my weekly agenda page - that I could still see my database on one side and my timeblocking section next to it.
On the right hand side of the page I have several filtered lists from my master tasks database. These are broken down into:
- Pillar Tasks (big tasks that will move projects forward and need solid blocks of focus)
- Secondary Tasks (smaller tasks that can be batched together)
- To Delegate (anything I need to delegate to my team)
- Waiting On (Any tasks that I am waiting on before I can move them forward)
Then on the left hand side of the page, I have a template button that adds a day of timeblocking in 30 minute intervals. It looks like this:
How I Setup My Week
- At the beginning of the week I just click the template button and add each day to the schedule.
- I then go to my google calendar and add in any schedule meetings
- I open my pillar task list and add in all the pillar tasks I need to block out time for.
- Under the timeblock I create a new checkbox
- Then I go to the task on the right and hit Copy Link To Item
- Then I paste it and click 'mention page.'
- This inserts it as link to that task, so I can easily get to it.
- Next I open the secondary task list and batch add tasks to time slots.
As I'm working through my days I check off the tasks in the time block. This does not check them off in the database - which is essentailly why I wanted a way to make this happen as a database because it's kinda double handing. But, I actually have come to like it...
At the end of the day when I'm wrapping up, I go to my master list and tick off everything that I completed that day. While I'm doing that, I also ask myself, are there any folllow up actions that need to happen?
A lot of the time my job requires me to create something and send to someone else for review. So if I create something, tick that off my list and then never follow up - the process can break. So asking myself that question - is there any follow up tasks helps to keep the chain running.
It's been such a good feeling at the end of the week, looking at all my timeblocked days and seeing the crosses through the checkboxes - it really makes me feel like I've accomplished some good stuff.
I have loved the timeblocking experiment so far and intend to continue with it.
I hope this has been useful for you if your considering using timeblocking to help you get more done each day. I'm curious if you've tried timeblocking or have a way that you get it done in Notion. Would love to hear your thought over on Twitter.
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