More people than ever are free to manage their time the best way they see fit. They’ve ditched the 9 to 5 in favor of freelance or entrepreneurship, untethered themselves from the school calendar in favor of homeschooling, or simply found themselves enjoying flexibility with a work-from-home arrangement.
As they say, with great freedom comes great responsibility. While this freedom is wonderful, it also poses unique challenges. When you can do whatever you want, everything you could possibly do seems to race to the forefront of your mind, leading to overwhelm and stress. One simple strategy I’ve found to tame the overwhelm and ensure I’m getting around to all that I should is the block schedule.
A block schedule is an easy way to organize the flow of a routine day. By breaking up your day into a handful of time blocks, you create a simple guide to follow each day. Furthermore, when you run out of time working on something, you can rest assured you’ll return to the task at hand tomorrow during the same block. A typical day might be divided into five to seven blocks, and days off or weekends likely have different or no blocks.
To determine the best strategy for dividing your day, think through your current routines, how your mental and physical energy tends to ebb and flow throughout the day, and your key priorities in life.
The first and last blocks of the day are likely the easiest to define, as you probably already follow some sort of routine to begin and end your day. Let’s call them the early morning and late-night blocks. Routine tasks like waking up, getting ready, exercising, and making breakfast may be part of your early morning block. Tidying, reading, and setting out tomorrow’s clothes may be part of the late-night block. While these seem obvious, defining blocks of time will help you stay on track as well as free you from the nagging worry that you should be doing something else.
The blocks that make up the bulk of the day will, of course, vary widely from person to person. Set up blocks that allow you to focus on what’s most important and do so at the most opportune time of day. For example, I need to dedicate a portion of my day to writing. I know that my creative energy and mental clarity tend to be strongest in the morning. So I’ve defined a block of time early in the day for deep work. Having this time dedicated to work that would otherwise be easy to set aside in favor of more seemingly urgent tasks is immensely helpful to me.
On the other hand, I also need to take care of less mentally taxing tasks such as feeding my family and taking care of my home. I know that my energy tends to dip in the afternoon, so that’s when I’ve blocked off time for things like laundry, cleaning, and preparing dinner.
As you think about your day, you’ll likely be able to identify common tasks and activities that are best handled as a group or during a particular portion of the day. You might create a block for running errands, homeschool basket time, clearing out your inbox, or going for a walk.
Just like when the bell rings in school, you move on to the next class, when your time block is up, you move on to the next one. This simple shift in the way you look at your day will allow you to accomplish more while also ensuring you don’t skip on things that are less urgent but most important to you.