There's something magical about booking an appointment to work on a project. The date is confirmed, you protect the time - work gets done. Nice.
But what happens when it’s just you - the deadline is looming, and procrastination could rear its head?
Simple: block time.
I stumbled across this simple time management hack years ago, and it’s never failed me. I book a meeting with myself.
Similar to boundaries - blocking your time is a way of setting an appointment to get one task completed. A good example is to prepare and send materials my client needs before I arrive for a keynote.
Let me ask you a question: how do you respond to appointments on your calendar? My guess is that you think about it, prepare for it - even pride yourself on being on time. That's why blocking your time can work as well. Sure, I allow myself to move blocked time if needed, but I can't delete it unless the reason for the blocked time disappears.
Have a Good Reason
There are three reasons I block time:
1. I might procrastinate otherwise. Let's face it - we all procrastinate. When I get off the phone with a client or fire off an email promising some future work will be done, I know I might procrastinate.
No biggie - I just block 30 minutes, label the task, maybe add a few notes in the calendar entry and get back to work.
2. Someone is depending on this. Often I’m feeding content to someone else on my team, and I don't want to hold them up. A good example is writing my blog. It needs to get to a team member by Wednesday to get posted on Saturday.
3. It's strategic. There are just a few things every week that are truly strategic - they move the business forward. Those I block time for. Good examples are financial decisions, dealing with my team or suppliers, or marketing decisions.
Give Yourself Instructions
Blocked time is not for noodling about and shuffling paper - it's for getting one task completed. The best way to kick start your blocked time is with clear, specific instructions. I put these right in my calendar entry.
The entry could look like: "Complete reply to RFP," or "Post job for a writer," or "Edit blog post and get to Muriel."
One last thought. When I block time, it's a great reason to say ‘No’ to unwanted interruptions. It sounds like this "Yes, we can talk now, but you need to know I only have 5 minutes before my next appointment. Will that work for you, or should we schedule an appointment?"
Nine times out of ten, we're done in five minutes. Bonus!