What is Time Blocking, and Why You Should Use It.

I have been enjoying my Christmas holidays and now as I am preparing to get back into work, I am reflecting on the year that was and Looking toward the year ahead and how I am going to prepare for the following years. One habit that I have been implementing and trailing is one I learned in the book The One Thing, by Garry Keller with Jay Papasan, which I have covered previously (can be found here). This principle came up in a recent conversation with a friend of mine, so I thought it would be good to remind everyone of its importance.

The principle is one of blocking out time, what I mean by this, is already planning well in advance when you want to do something. It could be a block of time where you want to focus on something, or a holiday, or spend time with someone. This isn’t the main part, however, protecting that block is the main part here. Saying no to things that will interfere or disrupt the hour, day, week or month that you have blocked out.

“Most people think there’s never enough time to be successful, but there is when you block it. Time blocking is a very results-oriented wat of viewing and using time. It’s a way of making sure that what has to be done gets done,” – Gary Keller.

Let’s say that you want to start learning the guitar, and you want to teach yourself. So, a success would be to learn a few songs. If this is your main focus for a few months, so three songs over 3 months sound fair. With time blocking you would set out a half an hour of practice per day. All up that is 45hours. Which really isn’t a lot, but it means that you have to really make those hours count. What happens though quite often is that people fail to protect their blocked-out time. Other things start to eat into their 30 minutes a day of practice. Which is one 48th of their total time for the day.   which is not even 3% of the day. Protecting shorter time frames like this is easy and is more of building the habit and discipline of practicing. The larger blocks can be more difficult to protect.

So, about those larger blocks, surely because they are usually singular and span a couple of days to a couple of weeks, that they are easier to protect. You would be correct if they only concerned you and they were totally under your control, however, most of the time the bigger blocks affect more than just you. Partners, kids, family, and friends can make a huge impact on the outcome of your block of time. This has been my friend’s problem. They had the Christmas holidays blocked out to work on their house for a portion of it after the main Christmas celebrations with family and friends, then spend the remainder doing nothing and having a bit of a winddown before being launched into a busy year of work ahead. They failed to block their time and committed to things they, not necessarily didn’t want to do but didn’t plan on doing. Their original hopes of a bit of relaxation didn’t eventuate.

“Take time off. Block out long weekends and long vacations, then take them. You’ll be more rested, more relaxed, and more productive afterward. Everything needs rest to function better, and you’re no different.” – Gary Keller.

A bit of care, planning and taking on the responsibility of protecting your time, is paramount if you want to use it productively. Time is one of those things that you will never be able to get back, my Dad always told me, “Time waits for no-one.”

Not usually about resolutions, but I might have to revisit this concept and start applying it more for this year to make it a habit. Test it out if you didn’t get what you want out of these Christmas holidays. You can apply it like the following:

  1. Block your time off first (vacations, long weekends, etc).
  2. Block out your time for productive parts of your day (hobbies, practicing something new, business activities, etc).
  3. Block out time for planning the next week or month.
  4. Now protect that time. Don’t commit to anything that may jeopardize your block, unless it is an emergency then it is not as important as the focus for that block of time.

I hope you all have a productive year, and let me know if you find this useful at all, I’m happy to answer any questions on how I go about blocking out my time or things I say for when I am pressured to eat into my blocked out time. (Tip: start saying “No.”)

Thanks for reading and subscribing, I’ll see you on the mats.

~Carlos

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