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Time Blocking 101 – How well do you know where your time goes in a day?

Introduction:

If your relationship with time is restrictive & frustrating, maybe it's time to take a real look at where your time is going & how you can take some time back for you!

As someone who manages time and energy closely because of ME/CFS and from being an introvert, how I use time became a huge focus in my day-to-day life. 

Living for years with an ultra-limited amount of energy, I had to get very good at being productive in the time that I had, whilst making sure that I didn't over-do it and step into a boom / bust cycle. 

It’s still very much a case of trial and error, adapting and reworking my schedules, and hitting pause on projects to regain health and energy. But now I get to do this with much more ease and a lot less interruption to my progress.

In this blog I’ll explore how time blocking has helped me remain on task and effective with my work, whilst still giving me the flexibility I need to manage my health and my multi-passionate and very busy mind!

*Affiliate Disclosure: Some links in this post may contain affiliate links. If you purchase something via this link then I may receive a small commission. This doesn't affect the price you pay for the product.

If you have any questions, reach out for a chat [email protected] or check out my other blogs

Time Blocking for Productivity. Time Blocking for Productivity. An open paper calendar on a desk with glasses and a mug of coffee

A Brief History of My Experience of Managing Time

Back when I was extremely unwell and bedridden for weeks at a time with viruses and extreme fatigue, it was more about observing the times when I did have some level of improvement throughout the day. Gaining an understanding of what was happening helped me identify patterns in these moments so that I could build upon what helped and what didn’t help so much.

As I began to gradually improve towards the end of 2016, after 5 years of acute illness, I used a form of time auditing to work out how I could get more done in the time that I had enough energy without triggering Post Exertion Malaise (PEM) and burning myself out.

As someone who was always on her feet and busy with a tonne of energy it was like learning how to live day-to-day again with only around 30-50% of a ‘normal’ person's energy stores.

Time Auditing and Pacing helped me learn how to manage my time and energy much more effectively and meant that I could return to studying (I began training as a counsellor in September 2016 following 9 months of my worst ever ME/CFS crash).

As I slowly began to build on my energy and other aspects of my health began to improve just a little, I was able to not only study one day a week, but I could return part time to my tutoring role – I was so happy!

However, I had to approach things completely differently. Prior to my illnesses I was full time, buzzing around the county, training all day, assessing all evening and full of life. That’s how my colleagues knew me, so it was a new version of me who returned.

Things were put into place for me, but I knew that I had to learn to manage my time as best as I could so that I could do the work that I loved as well as be present with my family and have some sort of life.

Predictably it didn’t quite happen, and the days I wasn’t working I was on bedrest and unable to do much of anything.

But I was functioning and after 5 years of barely being able to – it was a gift!

As I set up my counselling practice and worked solely from home I noticed that I could get easily distracted and spend far too much time focusing on tasks that weren’t actually getting me to where I wanted to be in my business.

I took over the admin and payroll side of my partner's construction company, supported university students as an online specialist mentor and then began to set up my coaching business – I knew that I needed to get a grip on how I spent my time before I headed back to burnout!

I was still consciously managing my energy and trying to rest when I needed to, but I knew I’d been a bit lax on this and if I didn’t sort it I’d probably have another huge crash. I had been getting unwell more frequently, losing concentration and feeling stuck in my work – all signs that I wasn’t coping as well as I thought…

How Do I Spend My Time?

Let’s focus on how I began to bring time blocking into productivity, and how it can also help you get a true understanding of how you use your time both personally & professionally! 

Managing multi businesses and all of the admin, creation and work that each involves meant I was pushing my energy limits too often which resulted in frequent low energy days and increased illnesses. 

I knew that I had to take more control of where my energy was being spent and also have a good back up plan (Plan ME) for the times when my energy dipped very low so that I could keep each area of my work ticking over and moving forward. 

I came across another entrepreneur who manages chronic illness and multiple side hustles and she spoke about using time blocking and how much it helped. 

As I read more it made perfect sense to me – it was pretty much what I had been doing for several years (along with Pacing) to manage my commitments, but it was explained brilliantly. 

I spent a week recording exactly where my time went. Honestly, if you’ve ever had to record calorie intake when you’re in complete denial that you’re overeating; you’ll understand how embarrassed I felt when I realised how much time I wasted every single day – despite being very aware of time / energy…

I used a planner and filled it in for 5 days and was mortified at how little time was spent actually doing work. There was a lot of ‘doing’ across the 5 days, just not the things that really needed to get looked at at that time.

Working With Your Energy

No this isn't woo or aimed only at women… Honestly, this one aspect totally changed how much I was able to achieve when working towards a project.

Our bodies and minds have its own natural rhythm. Some people are early birds and others night owls. Learning to plan in a way that compliments these fluctuations and periods of higher or lower energy can make the difference in achieving success or hitting burn out.

I've always been much more awake, focused and productive early in the morning. I've woken early since I was a child, learning to love the quietness of the early mornings.

As the afternoon hits I know I am much less productive – things take so much longer and it's when mistakes tend to happen. In my therapy work I do not book any afternoon calls because I know I will not be able to be as present with my clients.

For others it's the complete opposite – they're a slow burner and can focus much better late morning / afternoons.

Whichever is your preference, using this to inform how you set your day out can make a huge difference, helping you work more efficiently and using the ebb and flow of energy to your advantage.

Auditing Your Time

Time auditing is another way to learn how to work with your energy and plan more effectively with time blocking.

I could never work out where all of my time ‘disappeared' Or, why tasks that should take 30 minutes took hours…

Procrastination has always been my nemesis – whether it's from doubting my ability or being neurodivergent with regular ‘brain fog' from ME/CFS. Getting distracted easily or spending too much time perfecting what I was working on added to the time tasks took.

The worst time wasters for me were:

  • Canva creation – oh the fun on here is deadly for time!
  • Scrolling on Insta / Facebook looking for inspiration or joining more groups / bread-crumbing
  • Having another AMAZING idea and spending too much time planning it out
  • Researching other coaches then being totally sucked into their amazing offers that I felt I couldn't do without…Spending so long justifying why I should do it instead of just sitting and writing my captions out as planned…
  • Responding to every message / email as they landed in my inbox – when working on other things.
  • Trying to decide which project management tool I wanted to use, setting it up, getting irritated if I didn’t like it and repeat
  • Choosing a brand then changing my mind about the colours and spending more time re-editing the website and all areas of my business time and time again…

I could go on, but you get the picture… My neurodiverse brain makes me a box jumper, so it can be very hard to stay focused at the best of times and I knew I needed to do something about it or I’d never get anywhere…

The time audit was a real eye opener and I cannot recommend this enough if it’s something you need to think about as well. 

Once I’d finished the time audit I looked at all of my current projects, prioritised, put things on the back burner, and estimated the time each task (that needed to be worked on) would take me.

Have you ever audited your time? Download the free workbook below:

Time Auditing for Time Management. Workbook to discover where your time is spent. An image of a clock on a white shelf. A yellow background at the top 1/2 of the image & white at the bottom. The words "Time Auditing. Discover where your time is actually spent" in black text below the clock.

Grab your FREE Time Auditing workbook!

Discover where your time is actually spent!

Use this simple time management tool to increase productivity & overcome procrastination.

Download Now

What is Time Blocking?

Time blocking is a great productivity hack where you block out time (whether it’s 15, 30, 60+ minutes), to specific tasks in your weekly & daily calendar.

It's an effective method of managing your time when you work in batches or you have a schedule that means you only have short amount of time to focus on your project / business goals. It’s also a brilliant tool if you’re a procrastinator or a perfectionist where time can disappear on tasks that you tend to spend too much time on (e.g., the fun stuff!).

How Time Blocking Helps

Time blocking can help streamline your working practices, save you time and energy and help you become as efficient as possible in the time that you have to work on your projects.

Using time blocking helps you to visually plan for your week or day ahead. It doesn't have to be too rigid or inflexible, but when you use it as a guide, you can quickly see what you're doing and when. You completely remove the need to be constantly deciding what you should be working on and therefore decrease the risk of decision fatigue

You may prefer to just give your hour blocks a general theme.

For example:

9am-12pm – Admin tasks

12pm-12.30pm – Break

12.30pm-3pm – Client work

Time Blocking can be an effective way to guide your attention so that you're not just sat at your desk wondering “What could I do today? ”. If you remove the decision making you'll save a tonne of time!

If you are looking for more structure, your time blocking calendar can be based on 30 minute sessions & can be more fixed in terms of what you're going to be focused on.

For example:

8am-8.30am – Email checking, responding & deleting

8.30am-9am – Check overnight stats, respond to queries, check morning schedule

9am-9.30am – Social media networking, commenting, lives, responding to DMs

9.30am-10am – Resource prep / reading notes for todays client calls

Or,

Monday:

(AM) Admin

(PM) Record content for the week

Tuesday:

Batch Content Day – Socials / Blog / Emails

Wednesday:

Client Day

*The above examples may just look like a normal planner entry, but when you do time blocking in your planner it looks great & becomes very clear because you can colour code it which makes it easy to see at a glance. I have uploaded an example basic format for illustrative purposes. 

A book with time management on the front cover. The text "Discover Time Blocking For Your Business" at the bottom

Energy Management With Time Blocking

The other thing that time blocking can help with is planning a schedule that recognises your energy levels. As someone who closely manages energy output due to having ME/CFS, this part of time blocking is key for me to optimise my productivity without impacting my overall energy and health.

The traffic light system is great for this –

  • Red Energy Tasks – Tasks that require a higher level energy / are more difficult where you needed a break afterwards or you're less able to focus on anything else after working on it.
  • Orange Energy Tasks – less than red energy, but still requires quite a bit of focus and can leave you feeling a little drained afterwards. A break between tasks is needed to refocus.
  • Green Energy Tasks – Lower energy tasks that don't leave you needing to take a break to recharge.

When you have a clear understanding of the impact that each task has, you can create a plan that caters to your energy levels and ability to focus.

Time blocking, especially when you colour code according to the energy needed gives you a clear, visual plan to refer to. You can begin to plan your week and days in a way that provides the breaks you need to ensure you don't burn yourself out working solely on red energy activities.

Let me know what you noticed with your time audit – comment below ⬇️

Lynsey

Meet The Author

Lynsey Wall, Coach & Mentor at Coach Writes. About me - A headshot of Lynsey smiling. Wearing a black t-shirt, blue framed glasses. Office walls behind her.

Hey there! I'm Lynsey, a fellow entrepreneur, therapist, and accountability business coach. With over 5 years’ experience of running businesses, and over a decade as a tutor and trainer, I've learned the value of effective time management in creating a thriving business and a fulfilling life.

I'm passionate about sharing practical tips and insights to help fellow entrepreneurs find their rhythm and achieve their goals while maintaining a sense of balance. Join me on this journey of mastering time together & staying as authentic to yourself as you can.

Time efficiency is key to maintaining and growing my businesses. I have lived with chronic illness – ME/CFS since 2011 and since then I retrained as a counsellor, achieved a distinction for an MA in Counselling and Psychotherapy Practice; all while running 3 businesses! I want that for you as well & it is possible with the right support and pathway to success.

To find out more, visit The Authentic Growth Community

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