Why I use Block Scheduling
As a small-business owner juggling a rotating group of multiple clients (and as a busy mom), I’m often asked how I keep track of everything. In this digital world, the answer might be surprising: old-fashioned highlighters and an actual, physical planner. Welcome to the block schedule, my friends.
My time is important to me; that’s why I’m a VA. But when I started this work, I noticed time seemed to slip away before I realized what was happening. The boundaries between my personal life and my work life were fading, and I would find myself sitting up at night working on social media posts and drafting emails... In other words, I was getting pulled into the same work patterns that I wanted to avoid.
How Block Scheduling Works
Enter: the block schedule. With it, I decide when I’m doing the work, rather than the other way around. I now think of my time in specific units, and I highlight those units on my schedule. I bought a (pretty huge) weekly planner that divides each day by the hour. (I recommend a spiral bound planner.) Each of my clients gets a specific color. At the beginning of the month, I look at how many hours I plan to devote to each client over the course of each week. If I’m working for them for two hours per week, I might block off one or two longer sessions, rather than scheduling a half hour for them each day. I’ve realized that those shorter, more erratic blocks of work are where a lot of time gets wasted.
Longer blocks allow me to really settle in and be productive. This method allows me to easily set expectations for clients and show them my work. If I can communicate with them about exactly when I’ll be working on their tasks, I can build trust that comes with reliability.
A crucial part of my block schedule is the time I set aside at the beginning and end of each day. Those times are marked out in yellow specifically for me to do my business planning. I’ve learned how important it is to be strategic and to look ahead. I need to set aside time to lift up my gaze from my everyday work and plan for what’s next. Do I have time to add more clients? Do I need to think about adjusting things in the upcoming months to account for, oh I don’t know, pandemic homeschooling my kids?
I also take the last day of the month to, you guessed it, make a block schedule for the upcoming month. Clients and demands change from month to month, and so does my schedule.
Practice Makes Perfect
If you’re skeptical, I get it. Maybe this seems a little over-the-top to you, or maybe it seems like just another time-consuming thing to add to your already overwhelming list of to-dos. But, I’m telling you, this will give you more time, not less. This planning is especially critical for me because I work on an hourly basis and because I need to conserve my time so I can enjoy being a mom. But even if you don’t have those obligations, I bet you’ll find that a little color-coded structure will set you free too.
Until next time, productivity buddies!