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Try Time Blocking to Increase Your Productivity

Did you know that February is National Time Management Month? One way I like to get control of my time use is by time blocking on my calendar. What is time blocking? It’s a method of allocating or pre-assigning time for specific activities throughout your day. It helps me keep my day and life more balanced. I accomplish more because I have structure to my day, I can focus on a specific task with a high value, and I’m able to manage interruptions. I’m the one in charge of my day. Here’s how to do this:

1. Review your daily and weekly activities.

  • Can you determine how much time you spend on specific tasks? It might be helpful to track your time for a few days so you can see how much time you do spend on those activities. For example, do you check your e-mail every couple of hours and find that you spend at least 15 minutes each time answering them?
  • Do you have like tasks that are spread through out the week, e.g., teaching every day or taking in new quilts to longarm? Can these tasks be handled on one or two days, so your energy focuses on one activity?
  • Do you have tasks that need attention that don’t seem to get any? For example, dedicated marketing time is key for any business. Artists want to spend their time creating and often have trouble reconciling the need to spend so much time marketing. This task is often relegated to the leftover time when it needs to move to the front burner.
  • Do you have uninterrupted time for creative work? Even though we run creative-based businesses, the time should still be dedicated to the task.

2. Consider your short- and long-term goals.

  • Do you have a big project that needs to be completed? Start with a list of the tasks involved to complete it and estimate how much time is involved for each.

3. Consider your own personal work habits. When are you most effective? I’m a morning person, and I know I am more productive in the morning. For me this translates into activities that require brain-power earlier in the day.

4. Armed with answers to those questions, get out your calendar and begin to block off time for your activities. What most of us do is set appointments with others and that’s what is on our calendar. We then fill our time with items on our goals or to-do list. This system lets you set an appointment with yourself for your work. Once you’ve shifted to an “appointment” mindset, it’s often easier to accomplish tasks on your list. With your goals in mind, put the important tasks first so you’ll accomplish them. If I don’t block time for the key tasks, I can easily spend lots of time on simple tasks, like folding fabric and putting it away or reading the latest quilt magazine or checking Facebook. These items don’t move my business forward in a significant way. Here are some things you might like to time-block:

  • quilt intake time on one or two afternoons or evenings a week, rather than at odd times.
  • time dedicated to longarm work
  • creative time to design patterns
  • marketing time
  • bookkeeping, if you don’t have outside help
  • order fulfillment, if you don’t have outside help
  • learning time
  • time to work on blog posts and your communications with clients
  • writing time if you are working on a book
  • time to complete samples
  • time to read and respond to emails (I know you will have times when you need to check for something particular. When that happens, just handle that one item and save the rest for the blocked time.)
  • time to develop new classes
  • breaks in your day (This can be crucial if you are standing or sitting at a machine most of your day.)

To give you an idea of how I time block my week, I have our member calls and coaching calls on Tuesdays rather than spaced throughout the week. I allot one block of several hours during the week on one day to work on my blog and ezine articles. Because I’m working on a new program, I block time during each day to work on that. It’s a goal with many smaller tasks that need to be completed. I also block out time twice a day for e-mail, so I’m not checking constantly. I have an hour each day blocked out for reading or learning something new I can apply to the business. I block out Thursday afternoons for errands. Because I know that’s the day for errands, I try to schedule doctor appointments during that time, and I’ve already scheduled my hair appointments through October. I also block out time for family and self-care, so they don’t get lost.

I’m not rigid with the time blocking, and, of course, I have other appointments to put in. This week I have my local guild meeting and a professional quilt guild meeting.

In the end the reason I think this works is because when you pre-assign the time for a specific activity, you are more focused on getting it done. In a sense, you created a deadline for yourself. And by batching like tasks together in the same block (like the quilt intake sessions), you work more efficiently.

Let me know how time blocking works for you.

The International Association of Professional Quilters offers resources and networking opportunities for you to create a success from your quilting business. This article was excerpted from The Professional Quilter, the IAPQ membership journal. Learn about all the benefits of IAPQ membership and join here.

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2 Responses to “Try Time Blocking to Increase Your Productivity”

  1. Eileen Keane said:

    What kind of calendar do you use for your time blocking? I’ve got a Day Planner and I feel like I have to fill up the pages every day. if I don’t, I feel like a slacker.

  2. Morna said:

    Eileen, It doesn’t really matter what calendar you use, and I’ve tried a huge variety! To get started you can print out a blank weekly calendar. I did mine with the calendar from my e-mail program. Then get out your markers and block off time for specific activities. I know people who block off areas they call marketing, administration, production and home, and they use different color highlighters to do this. Mine shows blocked off sections for client calls, writing the e-zine and blog posts, my exercise time, lunch, new product development, etc. I refer to this master blocked calendar when setting appointments for the week, whether an appointment with someone else or one with myself to do work. As for feeling like a slacker, if you block off the time for production, then it’s like you have a 3-hour production appointment. The time is filled with a broad category, and you are doing something. I’ve been in that mindset when I always had to be doing something. Think maybe I should do a post on that! Hope this helps.

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