Do you have a never-ending to-do list that you’re struggling to get done? Are constant distractions and interruptions being thrown at you every single day? Are you going to bed frustrated and exhausted most nights?
I get it. I’ve been there.
You need a way to handle your distractions, accomplish that to-do list, and finally feel like you’re getting somewhere…like your getting stuff done!
I have an incredibly simple solution for you. A strategy that has completely changed the way I work, both personally and professionally.
It’s an easy way to take control of your time, work intentionally, and manage the interruptions and distractions that everyday life throws at you.
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In one of favorite time management books, The 12 Week Year, Brain P. Moran and Michael Lennington state,
The results you achieve are a direct result of the actions you take.
In other words, you’ve got to be intentional with how you work, making every task and minute of your day count.
But oh, the distractions throughout the day…how can you complete your to-do list with all of those interruptions?
Does this sound familiar? You’re trying to clean off your desk when you get an email that needs to be answered, and then you hear that all too familiar sound of a notification from Facebook or Instagram so you pop over there to answer that and then, oh yeah, forty minutes later you realize that you didn’t finish cleaning off your desk? All day, every day….right?
Or what about when you’re cleaning the living room, grab something to put away in your bedroom only to find that an hour later, you never made it back to the living room?
Perhaps you’re working in your craft room or office and the phone rings for the 20th time that day, and next thing you know, the dogs are whining at the front door, again.
It’s what I like to call interruption overload!
You too? Can I get an amen?!
Distractions and interruptions are the killer of our time, focus, and productivity.
How we work
Let’s start with some important facts about the way we typically work.
- Interruptions and distractions – research shows that it takes 25-30 minutes to regain your focus and get back into your “zone” when you’ve been interrupted. Considering all the times you’re disrupted throughout the day, that adds up to a whole mess of wasted time!
- Are you a multitasker? What appears to be making you more productive, actually kills what you can truly accomplish. No one can multitask for any length of time and expect to give 100% of their attention to every task they are working on. In fact, research shows that multitasking can reduce your productivity by up to 40%!
- Most people can only focus on any given task for 90 minutes at a time. Anything over that and we you’ll have difficulty concentrating and your mind begins to wander.
Having this knowledge is huge, and instead of fighting it, you can learn to work with it.
It simply requires a shift in mentality by learning to be more intentional with your time.
To be intentional is to act purposefully, with a goal in mind and a plan for accomplishing it. Ann Epstein
What is time-blocking
Simply put, time-blocking is a way to schedule your day so that you maximize your focus, limit your distractions, and make better use of your laser-focused time.
Here’s how it works
- Break everything on your to-list into tasks.
- Designate how much time each task will be given. (If you aren’t sure how much time you need, pull out a stopwatch and time yourself for every new task you have.)
- Keeping your goals in mind, number each task in order of most important to least important.
- Make sure you put 20-30 minutes in your schedule once or twice each day to handle those interruptions. I like to call this an “intermission block.” That way, when something comes up in your day, simply set it aside to be dealt with during your intermission block. If the phone rings when you’re in a time-block, as long as it’s not an emergency, let it go to voicemail (gasp!) and check it during your designated intermission block. Same goes for text messages, e-mails, and social media notifications. When you’re in the middle of a time-block, don’t even look at them!
- Set a timer and work one single task until the timer goes off.
- Take a break. This step is crucial in order to clear your mind. Use this time to take a quick walk, grab a snack, move some laundry around, simply change the scenery a little to be able to recharge and refocus for the next task on your list.
Set yourself up for success
In order to schedule your day this way, you’ll need to set yourself up for success by limiting your distractions before you even get started.
- Get that phone away from you. Turn it off, silence it, put it in another room…whatever you need to do so that you can’t hear the notifications coming in. (If you need to have it on for your family to reach you, simply give them their own ringtone so that you will recognize when they are trying to contact you and ignore the rest.)
- Use a different browser on your computer. If you’re working on the computer, use a different browser that doesn’t have all your passwords saved so that you aren’t getting notified every time you get a new e-mail or social media post.
- Work someplace where you know you’ll feel more productive. For me, that’s at my desk or local coffee shop. I can certainly work on my front porch or in my recliner, but I feel more focused and more productive in certain places. Find your most productive place and work there.
- Have everything set up and ready before you get started. Do you have desk work to do? Make sure you have your day planner, something to drink and perhaps a snack available so you don’t have to get up in the middle of your time-block. Are you cleaning a specific room? Have all your cleaning supplies right there so that you aren’t walking into another room in the middle of your time block where you can get easily distracted from what you’re currently doing.
How to use time-blocking in your day
- Paying your bills or writing out your budget
- Any type of desk or computer work
- Writing papers
- Filling out those insane applications for colleges, scholarships, and FAFSA (Guess who needs to do this!).
- Reduce clutter. Set aside 60 minutes every day or a couple times/week until that monstrous task has been completed.
- Have a huge stack of magazines to go through? How about those important papers that need to be scanned? Medical bills that need to be filed? And oh….my…..goodness… your inbox that needs to be cleared out.
- Social Media – No more getting sucked into hours on social media without even realizing it! Set the timer and once it goes off, it’s time to get out of that app!
- Blogging – Every task as a blogger can be planned out and intentionally scheduled in this way.
Do you see where this is going? Everything you do can be time-blocked!
In fact, this semester I got my son who is a sophomore in college to start scheduling his days this way. He now sets aside specific times every week for his classes, studying, work, and training. His grades have dramatically increased and for the first time in his life, he is learning to manage his time instead of letting his time manage him. He’s loving it so much that he taught one of his buddies how to work this way too!
Time Blocking is also a great way to get quicker at your tasks.
For instance, one of the jobs that I do for Footprints on Inspiration is to schedule all my social media at once. This can take up a ton of my time. So every week, I shave five minutes off my allotted time so that I can get faster and give myself more time for the tasks that’ll directly impact my goals (such as creating content and products that’ll really resonate with my readers).
You can do the same for any of the tasks on your to-do list.
Cleaning, laundry, desk work, writing…just about anything that you time-block can be cut down so that you’re working more efficiently.
What about those “one-day dreams”
How about those big goals and dreams you have? You know the ones that you want to start, but every time you turn around, something else comes up, so you’ll “just get to it next month.”
Those can be accomplished too!
Maybe you don’t have 3-6 hours a week to dedicate to those dreams. That’s o.k. Simply start by setting aside one or two hours each week to work on that goal.
It doesn’t all have to be done in one straight hour. Set your timer for 20-30 minutes. Shut your bedroom door, go to your local coffee shop, rec center, library, favorite park, or shut yourself in your closet if you have to and work on one simple task that is going to get you closer to your goals.
It’s crucial that you stop putting off those big dreams every year because I’m telling you, the years are going to fly by and before you know it, you’ll be ten years down the road and no closer to living the life you want, always “meaning to get to it.”
Start this week and schedule that time-block, working one small step at a time towards the life you’ve always dreamed of.
You simply need to start. Believe me when I tell you, one year from now, you’ll be so glad you did!
You’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish in your day and how much more time you’ll have by sticking to this strategic scheduling method.
Interruptions will no longer rule your day.
Instead, you’ll learn to work more intentionally, start knocking through your to-do list, and begin accomplishing those big goals and dreams for the first time in your life!
Want some extra help setting goals and strategically going after them? Download our FREE Goal Crushing Action Plan that walks you step by step to living the life you were created to live. Simply subscribe to our newsletter to get your instant download.
So, my friend, I challenge you to spend this week time-blocking your tasks.
You’ll find yourself getting to the end of the day feeling less tired and more exhilarated for having actually blown through that to-do list of yours, even with the pesky interruptions that come up every day!
Do you have a great time management tip you’d like to share? I’d love to hear it! Post it in the comments section below.
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Until next time my friend…..
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Learning how to put our complete trust in God isn’t easy. We say we trust God, but what we really mean is that we trust Him for what we want, when we want it. At Footprints of Inspiration we uncover who you are and why you were created; how to walk in healing through forgiveness; and how to go before the Lord with confidence. Through this journey, you’ll discover that it truly is possible to experience peace, even in the hardest times in your life.
Tammy Rotzoll is the founder and owner of Footprints of Inspiration and podcast host at A Faithful God Podcast (which can be found on your favorite podcast player). She lives in Virginia with her husband and together they’re learning how to navigate their fun, new adventure as empty nesters.
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