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Getting the Big Things Done

Of all the productivity tips I’ve learned and shared over the years, time-blocking has had the biggest impact – on me and on others with whom I’ve shared it.

Perhaps you’ve heard the expression, “If you don’t plan your day, your day will plan you.” Time-blocking is a great way to plan your day (or week) in advance to get the big things done.

I’ve also heard it referred to as timeboxing or creating a “model day.”  Like most of you, my introduction to the concept was from Stephen Covey.  He uses a great analogy about filling a jar with big rocks and little rocks.  If you add all the little rocks first, you’ll find that there’s no room for the big rocks. Here’s an older video with Covey describing the concept.

Like many things, the key to success is not the concept but the execution.  Here are five practical tips to get the most out of time-blocking.

  1. Think big initiatives – the important but not urgent things such as business development or marketing initiatives. Time-block for work that you know needs to get done but you just never seem to get to. Pro tip:  time-blocking is great for chronic procrastinators
  2. Plan ahead. Set your blocks when thinking strategically about your day or week.  I’ve found that time-blocking the night before makes a huge difference on how I start the day.  You can also work a week at a time and “theme” your days or set ongoing blocks for ongoing initiatives like building your skills or business development
  3. Pick the right time for you. Do you do your best work in the morning or afternoon? Match your energy/productivity to the task at hand.  Alternatively, set your blocks first thing in the day so you get it done.
  4. Do not move your blocks―no matter what. This tip is the hardest one to stick to.  Something urgent will always come up, and you will want to move the block.  Develop the habit of listening to your strategic self and consider those times as important as client meetings.
  5. Eliminate distractions. Shut down everything except the tools that are required for the task.  For example, in order to write this post, I closed every app on my computer, set my phone to silent and set it face down.

If you’re new to time-blocking (or need to start again), go ahead and do it now.  Pick one initiative you will work on, go to your calendar and schedule 30-60 minutes to get it done.  You’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish.

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