Block Scheduling is a method of filling your calendar not just with appointments and meetings, but with time slots to work on particular tasks and projects. The idea is that you set your weekly task list ahead of time and then actually put it on the calendar to make sure that each task gets the priority time that it needs. If you are someone who is easily or often distracted by emails, or unscheduled phone calls, then block scheduling can really help you to stay on task as you work through your day.
Here’s How to Get Started
You can do block scheduling on whatever calendar system you already use, however, if you have employees it is important that they have access to view and in some cases edit this calendar. Make sure that you give time for employees, clients, and prospects to schedule time with you first. If you block your entire calendar for tasks and don’t leave time for questions from employees, meetings with prospects, or help for your clients, you may not be able to reach your other goals of growing your company. Make sure your employees understand what times of day are best for them to schedule meetings with you, and be sure to also communicate to them how you would like to handle urgent issues from existing clients. Block scheduling is an excellent tool to use for productivity, but if you are too rigid in it you may risk damaging your level of customer service.
Sunday evening or Monday morning are great times to fill in the tasks for the week. By this time the people who need to meet with you will have had opportunities to schedule those meetings and in most industries, it wouldn’t be unusual to have to wait until the following week for an appointment. Start by scheduling in the top priority tasks, get them completed early in the week in case you run into a snag or a problem later in the week. Then simply go down your task list scheduling in time to complete each task. When you first get started it may be difficult to estimate exactly how much time you will need for each task. Estimate longer amounts of time than you think and you can always adjust down later. This will keep you from being rushed at the end of the week or running out of time to complete everything. As you go through your first few weeks of block scheduling make sure you take note of how long common tasks take you so that you can start to improve your accuracy.
It’s important to remember to work in some breaks in your schedule. Right now you probably naturally take a short break in between tasks without thinking about it. These short 5-15 minute breaks are important, especially if you are switching between completely different tasks. If you aren’t naturally taking breaks throughout your day now, you might find that this method helps you to better focus on the task at hand. IT is common when rapidly switching from one task to the next to still be thinking about the previous task when you have started another. Taking a few minutes to clear your mind will help you hit the ground running in your next time block.
Why is Block Scheduling so Important?
Like we touched on earlier, in today’s fast-paced world where email, text messages, facebook, and phone calls all clamor for our attention, it can be very difficult to stay focused on the task at hand. You need a method or a tool to escape those distractions, or at least set them aside for a while so that you can really get things accomplished. If you use it and stick to it, block scheduling can be that tool. Some common questions that come up with block scheduling are “How will I know if I have important emails coming in?” or “What if a client has an emergency?”.
For emails the answer is simple, work in 2-4 time blocks through the day to check, respond to, and prioritize emails. Stick to those time blocks, unless you are the President there is nothing that is truly so important it has to be answered immediately. If your clients are used to getting you right away this might take some adjusting for them, but if you explain that you are trying to take better control over your schedule they will understand, and may even what to know more about what you are doing so that they can try it themselves.
Urgent phone calls and client emergencies can be slightly more difficult to manage if you don’t have any staff to help you, however, if you do have staff, their help in screening issues for true urgency can be vital. Pick one or two of your trusted employees who already work closely with your clients. Communicate with them about what your expectations are for being interrupted with emergencies and urgent client matters. Again, most of these “emergencies” aren’t truly as urgent as a client might think, however, having a courteous and caring member of your staff listen to their problem and be able to assure them that it will be handled as a priority, will go a long way to making your client feel calmer and that their problem is understood. **Note** If you happen work in a fast-paced environment where urgent issues come up often and do need to be dealt with very quickly, then you may need to schedule some time in each day to specifically deal with emerging issues.
When these two common barriers are dealt with and planned for, block scheduling can be at it’s most effective. This method is intended to lower your stress and help you get more done, so if you feel that it is causing you more stress or making you rush through tasks that need more time, you need to adjust your time blocks. On the other hand, if you are finding that you have too much time on your hands you may need to ramp up your productivity accordingly.