Are you working from home and struggling with your productivity? Maybe you’re a parent who now has to share space with kids trying to keep up with school lessons. You might be a working professional who now has to listen to your spouse on loud conference calls in the next room. Maybe you’ve just never worked from home before and now face an onslaught of distractions like pets, your TV, laundry (okay, maybe not that last one)… As someone who primarily works from home, I have implemented so many different techniques to boost my productivity. Since I have a short attention span that necessitates these techniques, the irony is that I’m constantly searching for new ways to maintain my focus as each one’s effectiveness lessens. Most recently, I’ve used productivity music and the Pomodoro technique. Both of them are very helpful, but I think I’ve finally found something I can use in conjunction with the others, to give me SUPER PRODUCTIVITY! (Trademark?) It’s called time blocking and it will change the way you work.
How Does it Work for Work?
Time blocking is, essentially, hyper-scheduling your day. You specifically block out hours of your day for each task you want to accomplish. Barring any kind of emergency, when you’re working on a task designated by your time block, say that creative project you keep putting off, you ONLY work on that project and nothing else. When your block of time is over, you move on to the next task. Some people use apps and calendars specifically made for the purpose. I just make a list in my phone that I can check off as I go. Some people organize their entire week ahead of time, but I have found that going day-to-day works for me. I either make my list the night before or in the morning before I even get out of bed.
Is it Too Limiting?
Creative people may find time blocking too rigid. For me, I make sure to include specific and planned downtime. I am less tempted to jump on Facebook when I’m frustrated with work because I know I’ve got blocked out time for social media. Most of the time, I also leave my evenings and weekends open.
I’ve found that using time blocking motivates me to move more quickly from one task to another. In the past I’ve always struggled to manage distractions. I do have a bit of a fear that, after a few more weeks of this, my brain will rebel and I’ll get NOTHING done. Like anything else, I can pick this technique back up when I’m over that. It’s also nice because it’s very easy to still make use of other focusing techniques while still using time blocking. I also don’t worry about keeping to a strict time table. If I’m finishing up an email but have reached the end of my planned time block, I just go ahead and finish the email.
Have You Got the Time?
Strangely, using time blocking has shown me that I actually have more time in my day than I may have thought. It’s just SO easy to let things distract me. I’ve especially struggled during this time of quarantine. The increased anxiety has made it really easy for me to self-medicate with social media and watching TV. Time blocking gives me designated time for both of those activities without letting my use of them get excessive. If you’re like me and adjusting to a “new normal” with both life and work, time blocking might give you a bit more structure. It is true that we need to be gentle with ourselves during this time, in both a mental and physical sense. But if you give it a try, I can guarantee that time blocking will change the way you work from now on.