You know how “the experts” are always telling you to think about the thing that seems completely obvious to you, that other people aren’t doing, and then go out and teach that thing?
Clients sign up to work with me in order to create dream projects, take their careers to new levels, and re-vamp their lives and careers in pretty major ways, and then they ask me to teach them how to do time-blocking.
Every time, it takes me by surprise. As creatives, as musicians and artists, as freelancers, as multi-passionate people,
Time-blocking: “A popular productivity technique that involves dividing your day into specific blocks of time, during which you work on specific tasks or projects.”
For us creatives, this technique can be especially useful in helping to stay focused, manage our time more effectively, and actually achieve those goals we set out for ourselves.
The thing I love most about time-blocking is how it drastically lowers the heat on my to-do list. I’m sure you can all relate to the feeling of having your entire week’s to-do list on your mind at all times. You’re sitting in a rehearsal remembering that you need to pay that bill or go renew your driver’s license, or register your kid for camp. And it seems insurmountable. Your brain is screaming at you:
“But I’m in this rehearsal until 4, and then I’m racing over to teach, and then I have to go home and make dinner and then…and then….and when am I EVER going to get all this done! It’s too much!”
Don’t worry, Time-blocking is here to help. By dedicating specific blocks of time to working on specific tasks or projects throughout the week, you’ve given each task a slot. It can be as specific as “Wednesdays from 10-11 I go through my kids’ schedules and handle whatever needs handling” or as broad as “Fridays from 9-12 I work on admin stuff.”
But that way, the conversation goes more like this:
(In rehearsal, thinking about all of those to-do items) “Yep–they’re in the calendar. I’ll do my driver’s license on Wednesday morning, register the kids for camp on Thursday before teaching, and pay those bills when I get home from teaching this evening. It’s all written down. No problem. Now, about this 7/16 measure….”
Another great benefit of time-blocking–especially for creatives–is improved time management. By planning your day in advance, you can prioritize your tasks and make sure that you’re working on the most important items at the right time. This helps you to avoid wasting time on those less important tasks and ensures that you’re making steady progress towards your goals. And, by setting specific deadlines for your mini-milestones, you can stay more accountable and motivated.
Time-blocking can also help to reduce stress and increase work-life balance. By dedicating specific blocks of time to work and specific blocks of time to personal activities, we can make sure that we’re not sacrificing our health and well-being for the sake of our work. By making time for the activities we enjoy, like exercising (wait, we enjoy that?), gardening, and spending time with friends, we can reduce stress and improve our overall sense of well-being.
Every Sunday, I sit down in my sunroom with my gel pens and my planner (I use an Aug-July Ink& Volt planner).
I start by creating a list of the tasks that need to be completed that week, or goal-posts I want to hit that week on longer projects. I also decide on my Top 3 Goals and Tasks that need to happen that week.
I block out the times that I have coaching clients, my Creatives Leadership Academy Training, and my Office Hours in one color. My teaching times go in with a different color (I don’t differentiate between local cello lessons, faculty meetings, Bridge Online Cello Studio lessons, or Chamber Music coaching–at this point, I know where I need to be when) and I write in my morning routine with my different Zones for Gardening, Housework, and Personal tasks. Any inflexible, but irregular things (like a dentist appointment, or board meeting) get written in Black
With the remaining blank space, I decide how I want to divvy it up based on any deadlines I have, workflows I have set up, or whatever is going on. At times there were large portions blocked off for practicing. Right now, I have 30 minutes blocked off each morning for social media posting, and I have the times between coaching clients and teaching blocked off in my “work” color. Within those blocks, I write in the specific tasks from my master to-do list. Everything gets a spot. Wednesdays are my writing day, so the whole day between the end of my regular 9 am meeting, and when I start teaching at 3:45 is dedicated to writing my newsletter, blog posts, social media captions and content, and my book.
I am flexible with my schedule to a point. Sometimes, unexpected things come up and I need to adjust things. If a friend messages me and asks if I want to grab lunch? If I am working on one of my Top 3 for the week and I’m on a deadline, then no. But if it’s non-urgent work that I’m just “getting done?” I’m going out for lunch. I try to strike the balance between enjoying the freedom my career allows me, and well, getting shit done.
If I don’t get to something–either because something took longer than expected, or I took some time to socialize, or because I was waiting for something out of my control, I just find a new spot for it.
Speaking of social things, I write those down in pink. It stands out, and it’s easy for me to look at that week in my book and make sure there is a bit of pink sprinkled throughout. If not? I’ll see where I can steal a bit of time, and make plans to meet a friend for breakfast, have a zoom catch-up, or go for a walk.
I aim to be really consistent with my schedule and I try to stick to it as closely as possible, even on days when I don’t feel like working. On one hand, as a creative/freelancer/owner of my own company, I have the flexibility to do whatever I want, but I also know that, at least for me, consistency goes a long way in reaching my goals, and keeping the stress to a minimum.
I hope this helps. Time-blocking is a huge game-changer when it comes to staying focused and keeping on top of the myriad things we have going on as creatives. Remember, it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution, so be open to experimenting and adjusting to see what works best for you. It works with both digital and paper planners/calendars, and there is a method for everyone.
Have a great week!
P.S. If you enjoyed this blog post and want more insider info on how to thrive as a creative, be sure you get on the list to receive my Friday “Weekend List.” Each one is loaded up with additional tips, tricks, and things to think about, including a new curated list of articles, books, podcasts, and things that I think you’d enjoy.