Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Time Blocking | Ditch the Schedule

We're almost midway through the month of April and my resolution to Be Free. Today I'm trying to find freedom from my schedule by embracing a new way of getting stuff done - Time Blocking.

What is it?
Time Blocking is a productivity tool that helps you cross tasks off the to-do list and finally, get things done. By dedicating specific hours to specific tasks, you create structure and allow yourself to focus on completing tasks in a set amount of time.
It’s supposed to be a constructive tool to improve your time management skills. So I wanted to free myself from my long task lists and traditional planner, and instead give Time Blocking a try.

How do I spend my time?
Using a free printable from Hey Donna I tracked where my hours go in a typical week. Between my two jobs, I have little other time left in a week.

From Hey Donna

  • Orange is time I spend sleeping
  • Blue is time I spend getting ready, either for work, the week ahead or just showering.
  • Green is time I try to dedicate to spending on the blog. 
  • Purple is time I spend eating or cooking.
  • Red is time I spend socialising or at least hanging out with another person even if we're being unsociable. 
As a hobby-blogger (aka, not a professional full-time blogger), I still have to fit your standard full-time job into my week before I can try my hand at running my blog. Blogging is pretty time-consuming. For me, it involves research, planning, drafting, taking and editing photos, sourcing opportunities, running social media platforms, promotion and on occasion attending events. But as you can see from my typical week, it doesn’t get a lot of time. What I really need is to find a way to free up time in my schedule for the things I enjoy.

How do I create more time?
I’m not planning on giving up my full-time job anytime soon, so for me, improving my time management skills is about how I utilise my evenings and weekends.  Time Blocking should allow me to maximise my free hours where I do a variance of things from watching movies, scrapbooking, taking photos, socialising and writing blog posts. By dedicating ‘blocks’ of time (get it?) to tasks, jobs and hobbies, you are supposed to increase productivity, stop procrastination, and complete what you need done. It’s all about balancing my social life, working life, and blogging life.

Trying Time Blocking:
So I gave Time Blocking a shot.
Planning out my week ahead (starting 4th April), I knew it wouldn’t be your typical week. I was working a shift mid-week as opposed to during the weekend, and spending my weekend back at home with the family in County Monaghan.
I marked out how I was planning on spending my time on Sunday evening.
Here’s how it looked:
From Hey Donna
I took out all purple (time spent cooking or eating) because it isn't easy to plan that in advance of a whole week. I knew I wouldn’t be able to stick to the schedule fully and that, realistically, my weekend would be spent just chilling with the family.

But in practice,

I found allocating set hours to various tasks constrictive. I’m a multi-tasker by nature, and dedicating myself to one sole activity for set hours was a challenge. And at that, a challenge I did not rise to. Sure, I blogged occasionally during the hours recorded as ‘green’ on the sheet, but both during weekdays and on Saturday it was sporadic and  I found my productivity hampered by faulty internet. Time Blocking doesn’t allow you to account for the unpredictable.
And the few hours I dedicated to relaxing, showering, or organising life weren’t so productive either. I found myself finishing those daily tasks quickly, and used my free time to binge watch TV shows and eat chocolate. Not the most worthwhile use of a couple of hours. This failing however, can be accredited to my poor planning rather than a failure of the Time Blocking system.

In general, Time Blocking doesn’t allow for spontaneity, or last minute plans. I felt confined to my calendar. I can see the benefit of Time Blocking, but it didn’t just ditch the schedule, it created another more rigid one for me to try and stick to.

So much for being free from my schedule.

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