Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Using a Block Schedule to Manage Your Time

One of the most frequently asked questions I receive has to do with finding time to do things.  Where do I find the time to blog on top of running two businesses and do it well?  Where do I find the time to read all the business books I always recommend on The Smart Planner?

First, finding time is a myth.  No one finds an extra hour just laying in their desk drawer. The trick is in making the most of the time you already have.  I consider blogging and studying business-related material an integral part of my business structure, so I purposefully set up my schedule and make these tasks a part of my weekly workflow, not something that is in addition to it.

One of the best ways to do this is to restructure your workflow schedule so that you can work on tasks without being constantly interrupted.  Tomorrow I'll talk more about how you can cut down on distractions and interruptions and be more productive, but today I wanted to share the foundation of how I set up my work weeks.  The "secret", if it can be called that, is a block schedule.

This visual example is from Ron Dawson of Cinematic Studios and he has given me permission to share it with you here.  My weekly calendar doesn't look exactly like this (not to mention our task lists are very different), but it is similar in that time is blocked into chunks that focus on certain tasks.  Here is Ron's example:

block schedule time management

You can read more about what each block in Ron's schedule represents and how he makes it work for him on his blog.

By setting my own workflow in a block schedule, I have dedicated time every week to work in my business - on design and planning projects for wedding clients, or writing blog posts, for example, as well as time to work on my business, either on marketing tasks, reading business books, etc. 

I am a big fan of this method, but I am curious to hear your opinions on it.  Do you think a block schedule would work for your business?  Why or why not?


ashley said...

I see a lot of clients/potential clients at various and often random times each day and throughout the week. I work really hard to accomodate their work schedules, etc., so I wonder if this would be an effecive tool for me since my time scheduled to handle certain tasks may need to be utilized to meet with a client. I need something like this, but wonder how it could be modified to account for these meetings without having "set" meeting times each week....?

Adizat said...

oh Liene, Great post as usual! This is something that I am definitely hoping to improve on in 2009. Happy holidays to you. And thank you for having this blog.

Kristy@RiceInk said...

I am very curious about this time managment method, thank you for the post. My question is how would this work while managing 3-4 employess and their tasks daily?

Liene at The Smart Planner said...

Kristy, are you managing or micro-managing your employees and their tasks? Something to think about, because I don't see how this would get in the way of managing employees.

You could set up times in the block schedule for check-ins, meetings, etc. A block schedule would prevent any over-the-shoulder hovering/management style, which would make both you and your employees more productive.

Again, I don't know what your style is, but just some thoughts.

Simone said...

I work on my office related work in the evenings (i'm a night personal naturally). the blocked schedule requires a certain amount of discipline and if you can do it, you should.

as for managing employees', it should be more of a suggestion than compulsory because everyone does function this way. if there is an employee struggling to meet set goals due to time management issues, then this would be a helpful suggestion.

Valerie said...

I think the block schedule would definitely work. The trick is figuring out how to designate your time. It may be a long process but it would be worth it to figure out the most efficient system. I can get so distracted by non-essential things. Designating a time for those things would mean less distractions. Plus the tasks I would really rather never do may have more of a chance with a set schedule!

Marisa at A Grand Affair said...

I think a block schedule will help me out tremendously. Sometimes, I feel like I'm overwhelmed because I'm focused on only one thing or I lose focus working on multiple items at the same time. One of my goals for 2009 was to setting up a weekly schedule of items to be accomplished. This will help relive the pressure and stay focused for 2009. Time management for me is very important due to me having a full-time job in the morning.

Heather Trimboli, ABC said...

I have been using a similar system for quite a while and love it. To begin, I tracked my activities for two weeks to see exactly how much time I was spending on various tasks. Then I divided them into categories - marketing, sales, accounting, etc. I have two-hour blocks on my calendar every day, with each day being a different category. The remaining time each day is spent as needed, dealing with client accounts. This process has really helped me become more focused in my business management and allows me to focus more on my clients.

saundra, event engineer said...

I've used this system to make sure that I'm thinking about specific tasks that I need to keep up with, such as; marketing/sales, promotions and yes, blogging. It's a great tool. So you don't freak out, make sure you don't block a lot before a large event, knowing FULL well that you will need extra time to focus on the completion of the event.

Also, block your time according to how you work. Example, if you are most creative late at night, then blog then. If you have a hard time getting going in the mornings, block easy tasks.

Dianna Shitanishi said...

As a small business owner and professional planner, I use a similar system not only for business, but also to block out personal time as well.

I've found that by not constantly checking my e-mail and having constant interruptions, I am much more productive and focused.

When business is good, many people forget to take the time to market and network, but it is something that you continually must do.

Keep on blocking!

Miss Renee said...

I am excited to try this block schedule which I am working on right now. Managing 2 business, 2 kids and my personal life can get hectic. I am hoping this give me a little more peace and organization in my life. I am excited to get focused for 2009.

isha said...

Don't know how I missed this?! I am going to give it a try and report back next month. Thanks!

Megan Clouse said...

Since I'm a relative newcomer to your blog, I'm especially excited that you're reposting some key points.

This is a topic that has been at the forefront of my thought because I tend to get distracted, so I really appreciate your input on successful scheduling.

Lastly, I now block out time to read when I have a day with minimal other tasks. At first I felt like I was goofing off, but then realized it's an important key to my growth.

Amy Rae Photography said...

I just blogged today about setting up a schedule and sticking to it! This is totally my style and I think I will have to work at implementing it into my work style!