You own your time – it doesn’t own you.
Now – I’ve been in a space where time owned me. My alarm would go off and I would wake up completely unprepared for the day. Some days I wouldn’t even get to sleep until my alarm due to a cranky baby waking up extra early.
It would take me forever to get everyone dressed and breakfast was a chaotic affair not helped by the fact that the dishes from dinner were still on the counter. No matter when we needed to leave the house we always seemed to be late.
I would spend the day trying to get ahead on the dishes, laundry and general chaos but somehow between the cranky kids, social media distractions and a toddler who could take apart a room in 10 seconds flat, I never felt like I made any progress.
Dinner was all too often take-out as there never seemed to be time to plan ahead. And after the kids were finally in bed I was just too exhausted to even think about dealing with the chaos leftover from the day.
Then I discovered time blocking and took back ownership of my time.
What is time blocking?
Frankly, you’re going to encounter different variations of time blocking as everyone seems to do it differently.
However, the basic premise is creating blocks in your day to give it structure and allow you more focus throughout the day. This is especially beneficial to stay at home or work from home mums as we lack the structure of a traditional job outside the house would bring.
I developed my time blocking system when I encountered the idea of batching jobs for my blog. With batching you group similar tasks together to make it more efficient. Often you pair this system with a timer to keep you on task.
What does a time blocked day look like?
Here’s a glance at what my day looks like
I’ve found that with small kids I wasn’t able to time block my day by the hour. Instead, it worked if I mapped out my schedule by batching together similar activities. What I’ve ended up with is a plug and play system which adapts to whatever my life has on any particular week.
How I made my groups
My schedule is influenced by the fact that I have small kids who still nap or have quiet time. I also have a school-aged daughter who needs to be dropped off and picked up from school as she’s not yet old enough to walk home by herself. Given those parameters, this is the schedule that works for our family.
I now book all of our appointments, playdates etc during our Get Stuff Done block. This is also when my son goes to preschool three days a week and I run errands with the baby. On the days we don’t have preschool we’ll either have a playdate or I’ll use the time to catch up on things around the house.
My Nap block has also ended up being my “me” block. Once everyone is settled and I’ve done a quick pick-up around the house I have time to sit and enjoy a cup of tea. This is also when I pull out my computer and work on my client accounts, answer emails etc.
The Post-School block means that we all have to leave the house to pick my daughter up from school. Since we walk to school we often stop off at the park or library on the way home. I’m fortunate to not have too many after school activities happening right now but on those days we’re driving around the city and having snacks in the car.
Family Time is when we eat dinner together and then my husband and I deal with the craziness that is bedtime. I will try to get my evening routine done in the block as well though I know that some nights it will have to wait until later.
The Evening block is when I spend time with my husband or work on client accounts. If I’m really tired I’ll go to bed early as well.
How to make time blocking work for you?
Creating a time blocked schedule for your life is going to involve four steps:
Before you start blocking out your time you need to know what you need to do in your blocks.
Start brainstorming everything you need to do on a daily, weekly an monthly basis. Look at your current schedule and see what points are fixed such as school pick up, activities and such. Also, take into account your family’s rhythms. If you still have a toddler who naps then it doesn’t make sense to run your errands in the afternoon during nap time.
Now it’s time to create your blocks.
I found my block schedule worked best when I created longer less specific blocks of time. If I tried to cut up my day too much or attempted to dial into exactly what I needed to do each and every day the system fell apart. And I know the smaller more specific block system failed for two reasons. The first was because with small children it was far too easy for a short block to be derailed by a cranky toddler. And secondly, by making my blocks too specific I needed to keep creating a new block schedule each week which didn’t work either.
Instead, I looked at my list and grouped my activities together in similar categories. I also broke my day up into larger chunks of time which allowed for more flexibility.
Draw out your schedule whichever way works best for you. You could use a planner, a piece of paper or a Google sheet.
Now you need to follow your schedule.
I love timers.
I have ongoing timers set on my phone for all the major transition points in my time block schedule. If we need to leave the house at a certain time, I have a timer that goes off 15 minutes before we need to leave and another set to go off for when we actually need to leave the house.
Take a moment at the end of the day to reflect on how the day went. And make sure you give yourself time at the end of the week to sit down and revise your blocks if needed. Chances are it’s not going to be perfect the first time.
A system which should work for you
The point of this system is to give you control over your time and reduce the chaos and stress in your life.
Your life will not look like my life and your blocks may not look like mine at all. The point is that they will fit into your life and will work for you.