Block scheduling is a huge time-saver that could literally knock hours off your working week. It helps you get “in the zone” and structure your week so you’re working on all the urgent and important stuff without neglecting the nitty gritty.
In short, it helps you complete a huge amount of work in one go that you might otherwise spread over the course of several days, weeks or even months!
Let’s look at what it is and how it works so you can start implementing it and seeing the benefits for yourself.
What is block scheduling?
In a nutshell, block scheduling is when you batch all similar tasks together in one block of time so that you can work on them all at once. So instead of checking your emails throughout the day, you set aside a certain amount of time and blast through them in one go.
It’s similar to a student’s class schedule, with the week broken up into blocks. It shows you exactly where you need to be and what you’ll be working on at any given time.
Most of us will already loosely work in this way without even realising it. We devote a certain amount of time in the morning to getting ready, then we work for a few hours, then we have a lunch break, then more work, then time for preparing and eating dinner, and then a rest and relaxation block in the evening. It’s our normal daily routine, and helps everything flow smoothly because we usually know what we’re supposed to be doing, depending on the time of day.
With a bit more structure, we can utilise block scheduling to save us huge amounts of time during our day and ensure we’re working on ALL our priorities so that no one thing takes over. (*cough* social media *cough*)
Examples of block scheduling vs. non-block scheduling
- Running all your errands in one day vs. going out each day
- Meal prepping a few days in advance vs. preparing each meal immediately beforehand
- Making all your phone calls in one go vs. spreading them out throughout the day
- Reading an entire chapter in one sitting vs. stopping to check each social media notification
It’s exactly why factory lines are so efficient — one person does one task before handing the work to someone else to do the next. That way there’s no time wasted switching between tasks.
But don’t worry, you won’t be doing the same thing for 8 straight hours, so you’re not going to lose your mind to boredom… or your job to a robot. (Disclaimer: I can’t actually promise you won’t lose your job to a robot. The times they are a-changing.)
How does block scheduling save time?
Block scheduling saves time in three different ways:
1. It significantly reduces set-up time
For a lot of tasks, there’s a certain amount of set-up involved. For instance, I don’t just sit down and record a video — I first have to ensure the camera battery is charged and there’s enough space on the SD card, set up the tripod and lighting, tidy up the background, grab any items or props I might need, etc. At the end, I have to put everything away again. Let’s say this all takes me 15 minutes. That means that for every 4 videos I record, I’m spending about an hour on the set-up alone.
Now let’s say I’ve scheduled a block of time to record all 4 videos at once. By only having to set up and take down once, I’ve just saved myself 45 minutes.
2. It saves a lot of “thinking” time
If you’re not sure what you’re supposed to be working on next, it’s too easy to switch to a distraction or fill the time with “fluff”. Block scheduling means you’ll know exactly what you should be working on, so there’s no time for dawdling or second guessing.
3. It eliminates the “starting stall”
Each time you start a new task, or go back to an old one, you have to stall for a few moments to re-calibrate, re-adjust, get your bearings, remind yourself of where you left off, find your place, etc. (A good example is when you’re interrupted while reading something and then have to re-read the last few sentences to figure out where you were and what was happening.) Sometimes it only takes a few seconds, but when you consider how many tasks you actually start in a day, it adds up to serious time-wasting.
Constantly switching between tasks not only depletes mental energy but wastes precious seconds, or even minutes, while you settle in. Block scheduling, on the other hand, eliminates “stop and start” spurts. No more, “Now where was I?”
For example, it can often take me a few minutes to get into a groove with a video. I can spend some time re-positioning myself, clearing my throat, repeating things because I’m not “in the rhythm” just yet. But if I were to take the block scheduling approach and record another immediately afterwards, I’d have hit my stride and would be able to knock the second video out a little quicker than the first. By the time I hit the fourth, it would be flowing very easily and naturally.
Are there any other benefits to block scheduling?
Well, as I said at the outset, block scheduling ensures that you’re making time in your week to work on all your tasks. When you block out, for example, the hours of 10-12 on Tuesdays for paperwork, you know that once 10 o’clock rolls around, you need to stop whatever else you’re doing (within reason) and focus on paperwork. If, on the other hand, you just have a random “deal with paperwork” note on your to-do list, good luck getting around to that.
It tells you not only when you need to start something, but also when you should stop doing something else. It’s very easy to get carried away with the “easy” tasks and only focus on the things we enjoy doing, but the consequence is that the harder tasks never see the light of day. By block scheduling, you’re covering all your bases.
And look, I know “structure” isn’t a sexy word, but there’s a lot to be said for having a routine. When you know exactly what you should be doing and when, you can get into a good “flow” and, therefore, get more focused work done. There’s a lot to be said for slowly chipping away at something, but sometimes you need to just dive in and give it a solid hour of your time so instead of just tiny chips, you’re making huge chunks.
OK, I’m convinced. How can I implement block scheduling?
It requires a bit of forward planning so, at a minimum, you should know what you’re doing for the following day. (Ideally, you’d be able to work with a week or more.)
- Look at all your tasks and note the ones that are the same or have some common theme, eg. needing to leave the house, speaking on the phone, happening in the same location, admin-type tasks, food prep, writing, etc.
- Put as many of them together as possible, so that you can get them all done in one fell swoop. It won’t always be possible (the kids will need dropping off and collecting at different times, damn them) but, as much as you can, divide your day into blocks and label each one with a certain task heading. For example, 9-9.30am is for emails, when you check and respond to as many as you can. 9.30-11 is when you do client work. 11-12 is for admin, and 12-1 is for meetings. And so on.
The blocks should never really be longer than 3 hours and, for those, you should still allow for a rest break in there somewhere.
Download my free weekly schedule so you can get started with block scheduling now:
You could have the same block scheduling system for each weekday and then a different set-up for the weekend (or none at all), or you could vary it slightly day by day. For example, your afternoon block for Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays could involve consultations, but on Tuesdays and Thursdays it might be for R&D. How you set it up will depend entirely on what you need to do in any given week, so it will look different for everyone.
Try it out for a week and see how much time you can save. You’ll probably find you’ll have to tweak things a little as you realise that some tasks don’t take as long as you thought (hurray) or you may finding other things are running over (boo). But over the course of a few weeks you’ll be able to implement an effective weekly block scheduling system that will ensure you’re working at maximum efficiency.
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