Do you often start your day with a solid plan for what you are going to tick off your never-ending to do list, only to get bombarded and disrupted by various issues?
It’s a tale as old as corporate life. Sometimes issues are serious enough that they just cannot be ignored, regardless of whether you have the time or patience for them on a given day. Other queries that come in can absolutely wait – but for various reasons, you flit from issue to issue without giving any one item its due attention.
Perhaps you are dragging your feet on a task you wish never landed on your desk, or maybe you are struggling to be disciplined with your focus, and are failing to ignore the various Teams messages and e-mails coming in.
This is where time blocking comes in. The cousin of the Pomodoro Method, it is a form of scheduling intended to boost productivity by deliberately splitting your day into specific blocks of time.
Each time block is dedicated to completing a specific task or tasks, responding to emails, making yourself available to team queries and discussions, and involves grouping together all the different loose ends that make up your workday.
The time block method runs diametrically opposite to the defensive approach we tend to take. Most people’s eight-hour day (or should we say 12) is an obstacle race where they are constantly fielding tasks, e-mails and requests that crop up. The time block method instead takes a deliberate, structured and regimented approach to the day. There are dedicated slots to seeing to your own tasks, to catching up on emails, slots where your office door is open to requests, conversations and catch-ups, and some go as far as to block off time to contemplate and think.
One of the biggest benefits of time blocking, over and above a more efficient use of time, is the positive impact on focus.
It is well known that the practice of task switching, that is jumping from one task to another before completing the item, is killing productivity. The amount of brain bandwidth needed to switch from the intricacies of one task to another leaves us tired, unproductive and far less efficient.
It is normally associated with high cognitive ability, however the costs are clear: a slower and more error-prone performance.
So why do we do this? One of the main reasons is a lack of discipline. It’s hard to ignore a query that comes in and put it on the mental backburner until you’ve completed the task in front of you.
Productivity expert Cal Newport sheds some thought provoking light on this:
“Using your inbox to drive your daily schedule might be fine for the entry-level or those content with a career of cubicle-dwelling mediocrity, but the best knowledge workers view their time like the best investors view their capital, as a resource to wield for maximum returns.”
Another invaluable benefit of time blocking in this uncertain world is the sense of control it provides. Dedicating specific blocks of time to your various tasks will help you to feel more in control of your day, reducing stress and anxiety.
Winging it may be the preferred style for certain character types, but the higher up the ladder you progress and the more that is demanded of you in a given day will invariably necessitate a deliberate and thought-out strategy as to how to stay on top of things, without burning out.
This concept allows employees to start their Mondays focusing on doing the minimum required.
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