Time Blocking

I spend a lot of time in my car. Today was pretty easy, I only had to travel to Bristol, less than 20 miles from my home. Other days I’ll cover hundreds of miles traveling all over Connecticut and Massachusetts, the 48th and 49th largest states in America, respectively. I used to listen to a lot of sports talk radio and Howard Stern. Now I’m listening to a lot of Podcasts, many on self improvement.

For a host of reasons, including a penchant for worrying, I feel a strong need to improve myself.  Or, more accurately, I feel a strong need to listen to ways to improve myself.  I probably spend more time listening to podcasts about improving and thinking about improving than actually working towards improving.

ttp://www.kfeeney.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/img_5959.jpg”> One of my favorite podcasters, James Altucher interviews Sara Blakely, creator of Spanx, which turned out not to be something I had no interest in. It’s actually a great motivational story.

[/caption]Two things I need help with  are a lack of energy and a lack of focus and motivation. By listening to podcasts, I’ve discovered the term “Decision fatigue”. I recall hearing a statistic somewhere that up to 20% of our glucose can be consumed by the brain. Decision fatigue means that the more decisions we make, the more glucose, or energy we burn.  The more energy we burn, the less energy we have, and the more tired we become.  Sounds plausible.

It’s been a while since my last post.  I’ve had the topic of this post in mind for some time but I’ve been putting off writing it.  I’m writing about Time Blocking.  I first became aware of Time blocking from the show “Shameless”  when the character “Lip” was in college.  He had his schedule mapped out in color blocks on a whiteboard in his dorm room.  I think I also say Casey Neistat using it but I could be wrong.  Anyway, I think I’ve been putting it off because it looks hard and I probably won’t be able to stick with it.  I felt the same way about working on my diet and nutrition and it was the better part of a year before I actually sat down and wrote the post “Death and Nutrition.”  Making changes in habits is hard.  The thing I’m learning from writing this blog is that if you can find a way to hold yourself accountable, and just do it, you will make changes.  I still don’t eat perfectly, but I’m doing a lot better than I was prior the 30 day challenge I started in that post.  I’m also meditating regularly even though I failed at The 30 day Meditation Challenge.

So what is “Time Blocking”?  Basically you block off time on your calendar to work on certain tasks or projects.  So, in addition to putting your regular appointments in the calendar, you also map out how you’re going to allocate the rest of the time in your day.  Instead of just putting off tasks you don’t really want to do, and checking Instagram, you say, “Ok, now its time to do my expense report”.  You also allocate time for things like Instagram, or coffee breaks, or phone calls.  The idea is to be realistic, and better manage your time, and not just make up some world where you work 24 hours a day.   It’s also important to track how you actually did, and get a more realistic understanding for how long tasks like an expense report are going to take and plan accordingly.

It’s been a long time since I’ve had an office to go to for work.  Working at home sounds great.  And,in many ways, it is.  There are times throughout the year when I do have to go to company meetings.  Company meetings involve sitting in conference rooms for hours on end,  which is challenging when you’re not used to that kind of work day.  However, I do find that even though the meetings are really long, and some meetings are more engaging than others, the fact that your whole day is planned out for you, and you don’t have to think about what you’re supposed to be working on, is kind of a relief.

Usually I start my day with about 20 or more “to do’s” and what seems like only enough time to complete maybe 5.  So which task do I start with?  Will I have time to get to that really important follow email?  I hope I don’t forget.  Maybe I’ll take a quick look at Instagram and then take on the next task.  That’s when things get dangerous.  So, I’ve been thinking about trying out time blocking as a way to keep myself on track, maximize my productivity during the day, and eliminate some of that “decision fatigue”.  Maybe I’ll find that reducing decision fatigue is a way I can get more energy.  I’ve just got to see how many likes my last Instagram post had first.

Step One is organizing my sales calls into a Two week routing.   This is something I learned back my days as a Pharmaceutical Sales Rep.  The idea is you focus on a limited number of potential customers and make sure you are seeing them with enough frequency to make sure you get your point across.  Right now I’m just looking to cut down on how often I’m thinking about where I’m going on any given day.  Deviations from this schedule are inevitable and it almost seems like a waste of time to even make a routing plan, but I think it will help.  Having a more concrete plan will help me to map out the rest of my day into blocks of time where I complete other tasks like entering in call notes, phone calls, prospecting activities, and other administrative tasks.

I’m also going to try to come up with more structured plan for exercise, which right now consists of mountain biking.  Riding my bike from my house before or after work, or finding trails to ride near where I’m working on any given day can be a more effective use of time than driving to and from a gym.  It’s also a lot more fun.   Anyway, this is something else I’ll need to factor into my Time Blocking.

Just like anyone else, I’ve got regular chores to complete.  I like assigning them a certain day.  Monday for me is grocery day.  Tuesdays I clean up and take out the garbage.  So, I made a spreadsheet to be a template how I’d like a 2 week schedule block to look like.  I also included a couple key admin tasks that need to be completed for the week.

m/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/routing-and-task-template.jpg”> I decided not to use the real names of my accounts. I have a “real” version of this that I’m printing out and putting on my refrigerator.

[/caption]There’s probably a bunch of other stuff I need to plan out, and a bunch of stuff that will come up and throw the schedule off.  However, I’m going to give this a try.  I feel like my brain is always going to rationalize putting stuff off and getting caught up over analyzing things and this may be a way to trick myself into being more productive.  In the end, being mindful and being engaged in productive tasks will provide me greater long term satifaction and inner peace than the quick fix of a new instagram follower, cup of coffee, or other distraction I often find myself rationalizing time for.

Here’s what I’ve got for the time blocking for the rest of the week:

My company beefed up their security recently and I need to figure out a way to merge my appointments on their outlook calendar with all my personal stuff, without my personal stuff being on my work calendar.  This may devolve into an old school hard copy calendar.  I hope I can figure out a better solution.  I also need to block off time to do the actually time blocking.  I’m starting with the remainder of the week and ultimately I’d like to get to the point where I’m planning at least 2 weeks in advance with Time Blocking.   That’s probably a good Monday morning task but maybe it’s something I can get done on the weekend.  I’ll try to get to it this weekend.  We’ll see how that goes.  Above all, I want this to be realistic so I can be consistent with it. I also need to figure out a more formal writing schedule.  I’m not sure if I want to add it to my morning routine.  It usually takes me a while to get the mental sharpness to write relatively well.

So,  time to set a goal.  By next Monday, June 18, I wil complete a “time blocked calendar”  for the week of June 18-22.  I’ll publish another post by the 22nd as a follow up.  Maybe another 30 day challenge is in order.  Stay tuned.

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