Plan your days: time blocking
Do you find yourself wondering where the time goes each day? Why did the school day drag on when you were a student and now that you’re an adult, it seems to fly by in no time?
The answer could be that you’re underestimating the time that you waste on the little things, like wondering what to do next (10 minutes), spending a couple of minutes on Instagram (45 minutes) and starting three different jobs but finishing none of them (2 hours).
If any of these sound like you, the solution could be what’s known as time blocking. It’s often used in the corporate world but there’s no reason why it can’t be incorporated into your home life as well, particularly for stay-at-home mothers and those mums who do a little (or a lot) of paid work as well.
The basis of time blocking is this: you schedule your tasks into blocks of time such as 30 minute blocks. If that sounds a little too structured for you, I urge you to still go through the process because you’ll no doubt find exactly where all your time goes. There’s no rule to say that you must stick to a rigid daily plan, which is very difficult with kids and impossible with babies and toddlers, but you can use it as a framework to help you take back control of your hours before they fly by.
So give these three steps a go and see where your time disappears to::
STEP ONE - BRAINSTORM TASKS
Write a list of everything you need to do every day – like ‘pack lunchboxes’ – and everything you want to do every day – like ‘go for a run’. Include everything that takes up time in your day, even those tasks like ‘eat dinner’ that you do without thinking.
List them in any order you like, so long as you get them onto the list. Keep in mind that you will be creating a schedule for a typical day so some tasks that you may not do every day, like grocery shopping, can still go on the list but may be entered as something more generic such as ‘Errands’
Ideas of things to include are:
Have a shower / get dressed
Preparing and cooking breakfast / snacks / lunch / dinner for the family
Eating breakfast / snacks / lunch / dinner
Getting kids to and from day care, preschool or school
Getting kids to and from extra-curricular activities
Making phone calls
Walking the dog
Laundry: washing, drying, folding, putting away
Chores for you and the rest of the family
Spending fun time with your family such as for 30 minutes after dinner
Reading at night
Preparing for the next day
Things you enjoy but need to monitor time spent on such as social media, reading or watching TV
STEP TWO - TIME BLOCK YOUR TASKS
Next, slot these tasks into half-hour time slots. It might help to begin by entering the times you'd like to “wake up” and “go to sleep” first. Now stop for a moment and look at your page. You probably have about 16 hours every day. That’s 32 half hour time slots to fill in!
Next, add the essential tasks, such as “8:30 am - Drive the kids to school”. Then, add the tasks that are best suited to certain times. For instance, if you’re a morning exerciser, find an hour in the morning to slot that in. If you can can’t make phone calls while the kids are around, slot that time in for when the kids are at school or napping. And if you can multi-task some jobs, like cooking while you test the kids on their spelling words, pop those in together.
Finally, add the rest. Make sure you add a little breathing room to allow for when things run overtime. It’s better to overestimate the time tasks take rather than underestimate it.
STEP THREE - PUT YOUR PLAN INTO ACTION
Print your list out and keep it somewhere handy. You may like to stick it onto your fridge to reference as you go about your day to keep you on track.
Or, you may like to sit down with it each night to plan your day ahead. Use the APPOINTMENTS section of your planner to enter the tasks that you want to achieve tomorrow.
As every day will probably be different for you, this is a great way to use your time block schedule to adapt to each day.
If you need to, look into some apps to help you keep on track or just rely on your trusty alarm clock on your phone to time yourself on certain tasks. Once the timer goes off, stop what you’re doing and move on to the next task.
You’ll hopefully find that now you can afford to spend a little bit of guilt-free time on things such as social media or playing a board game with the kids because you know you've allowed enough time for everything you need to get done.
If you can’t, then it’s time to delegate some tasks to others or drop some responsibilities altogether. Regardless, you should benefit from the focus an exercise like this can create for your days.
And remember - you can always go to the Printable Library any time to download it again.
Happy time blocking!