Blocking Your Time: Waste Management for Your Everyday

 

timeblocking_46cc9db58134bEver have one of those days? You look at the clock. It's 5:00 p.m., and you feel like you have nothing to show for the eight hours you just worked. You think back and realize all you did was react to everything that came at you: emails, voicemails, drop ins, even that really long conversation you ended up having with a client who called you out of the blue. That conversation that really should have been held in a more professional setting, in your office, rather than in your car, in the drive-thru (thank goodness clients can't see-or smell French fries-through cell phones). Well, being more proactive by blocking your priorities into time slots is a good way to gain some control over you work life every day.

 

In terms of everyday tasks that can lead us off course, emails, voicemails, and phone calls are probably the worst offenders for small business owners. If you allow it, you will easily find yourself reacting to new tasks or fixing new problems any time you allow yourself to be continuously distracted by these always-open lines of communication. Instead, make the decision to handle these items, as much as possible, during defined blocks of time each day. This will give you more control over your work hours and put you back in charge of your productivity-especially in terms of your business's top priorities.

 

Here's an example of time blocking:

 

8:30 - 9:00

Check emails and voicemails

9:00 - 9:30

Return emails and calls

9:30 - 10:00

Follow up on new business leads

10:00 - 11:00

Staff meeting

11:30 - Noon

Check voicemail and return calls

Noon - 12:30

Take lunch break

12:30 - 1:00

Plan strategies and brainstorm ideas for new business

1:00 - 1:30

Check voicemail and return calls

1:30 - 2:00

Take coffee break

2:00 - 4:00

Meet with client(s)

4:00 - 4:30

Check emails and voicemails

4:30 - 5:00

Return emails and calls

 

If you work from home, the direct distractions might be even greater, so your time blocking may look something like this:

 

8:00 - 8:30

Drop kids off at school

8:30 - 9:00

Check emails and voicemails

9:00 - 9:30

Return emails and calls

9:30 - 11:30

Attend off-site meeting with client(s)

11:30 - Noon

Check voicemail and return calls

Noon - 12:30

Take lunch break

12:30 - 1:00

Do household chores

1:00 - 1:30

Check voicemail and return calls

1:30 - 2:30

Plan strategies and brainstorm ideas for new business

2:30 - 3:00

Pick up kids and drop off at afternoon activity

3:00 - 3:30

Check emails and voicemails

3:30 - 4:00

Return emails and calls

4:00 - 5:00

Follow up on new business leads

5:00 - 9:00

Pick up kids (family time)

9:00 - 9:30

Handle accounts payable/receivable

 

Personalize your time blocking in terms of the hours you and any staff or partners work or even by the hours in the day you feel most productive. In other words, if you're a little lethargic in the afternoon, you might not want to schedule yourself for clients or cold calls then. Or, if you do your most focused work after your 2:00 p.m. cappuccino, use that time to do your planning. Once you get the hang of time blocking, you can bring it over to your personal or family life too. You should also have a plan in place for free time, like when a client cancels or there are no calls to return. Decide in advance on which activities free time will be best spent.

 

Now you just have to stick to it and commit to the time blocking plan. While, for most businesses, retrieving email and voicemail and responding to clients is top priority, do your best not to check your computer, BlackBerry or voicemails during times blocked out for other critical tasks. We all know that an innocent peek in either box can lead to the day being completely rearranged and the tasks at hand falling by the wayside. If you skip over new business planning and strategizing, your business cannot grow. If you commit, time blocking will allow time for both growth and sustainability, and it will keep you in control of your business's everyday.

 

Email Got Your Undivided Attention?:

 

The first step is admitting you have a problem, right? Well, if every cute little *pop* in your email box regularly takes you off into the land of fun links or into a responding frenzy, consider these tips (or, take a few long, deep breaths, and then consider):

  • Skip that first-thing-in-the-a.m. email check. Wait until you've knocked out a few top priority items and then take on your inbox.
  • Turn off your email when you need to focus on other tasks on your computer.
  • Set your email software to check for new mail once per hour (or some time interval less than every single minute).

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