Your mind is racing. You want to get some memory-keeping done for your Disney album but you also have a million things that you need to do and seemingly no hours left in the day to actually get it all done. You conveniently pass the blame to your full-time job for taking up too much of your day or the fact that you're in the midst of exam week. "I'm way too busy for any of this," you say, completely giving up.
Sounds strikingly familiar? GUILTY. AS. CHARGED.
When people come across my Instagram or my blogposts, one of the first questions that pop into their head is: how do you make time for any of this [memory-keeping]?
Well, let me share with you one of my secrets: block scheduling.
This one technique allowed me to make time for memory-keeping - and practically anything and everything - despite having a regular 9-5 with a day-to-day commute of 4.5 hours (yikes!) and running this creative blog + biz.
What the heck is block scheduling?
Block scheduling is a combination of batching and prioritizing. The concept is to create scheduled appointments between yourself and a specific task/project throughout your week. Writing, studying a different language, learning graphic design, working on your travel albums - it doesn't matter what project as long as it's something specific.
- Mondays 9am - 9:45am brainstorm blogpost ideas during commute
- Wednesdays 1:00pm - 2:00pm edit photos for your memory-keeping album
- Sunday 9:00am - 10:30am work on 1-2 layouts for your Japan travelogue
The point is to be hyper-focused on ONE specific task for a set amount of time (~90 minutes or less) and do that same task at a recurring + scheduled time.
Why does this make sense?
Chase Jarvis said it best:
The theory boils down to the fact that we can’t increase the hours in the day, but we can increase the energy with which we make the most of those hours. Taking short, scheduled breaks throughout the day rejuvenates and restores us physically and mentally, helping us plow through those assignments and to-do lists in a third of the time.
We want to amp up the energy that we're giving to each task without necessarily increasing the effort and time that we spend on it. Rather than trudging along a project sluggishly and ineffectively, block scheduling will help you laser focus on what needs to be done because you know that once the clock strikes at a certain time, you'll have to work on something else. For every switch, you'll have the chance to reset your brain and this allows you to approach the new task refreshed and with a get-things-done attitude. We all have 24 hours in a day and this technique will help you make the most of it.
[clickToTweet tweet="What you do with your 24 hours defines the gap between where you are now and where you want to be. |" quote="What you do with your 24 hours defines the gap between where you are now and where you want to be."]
Genius, huh? I know you want to start implementing this, like, yesterday but if you're not quite sure how to get started, I hear you, friend. I'll break down for you the block scheduling process that I personally do so that you can get started on implementing this for your day-to-day life!
And as an extra layer of TLC, I designed this free worksheet that will help you map out your very own block schedule:
Step 1: List down all your non-negotiable tasks and obligations.
We all have tasks / obligations that we HAVE to do no matter what. This can be: your day job, university classes, driving your kid to school and picking her up afterward or an hour of Netflix (just kidding). It's important to be aware of these non-negotiables to prevent yourself from over-scheduling your days.
So grab the worksheet and your favorite highlighter to take note of those non-negotiable time blocks. Here's what it looks like for me:
Major takeaway from this step: you'll see how much time you really have on a day-to-day basis after this step. This is reality, friends, not just some made-up idea of how much of your day is booked by default.
Step 2: List down all the passion projects that you want to work on.
Okay, this is the part where you get to daydream about all the passion projects that you want to work on. But... I will give you some tough love right now: you may have to play favorites with your passion projects and choose to work on only a few of it for now.
We are all multi-passionate individuals and we love doing so.many.things. but the reality is that you can only give your 110% to a handful of projects at a time in order to see effective results.
Side note: my friend and mentor, Arriane, has an AMAZING free training series on how to focus your goals when you want too many things at once and I highly recommend that you check that out.
Getting back on track: list down the passion projects that you want to work on and identify super SPECIFIC tasks from each. Some examples of specific tasks:
- Brainstorm 3-5 blogpost ideas
- Curate photos for your travel album
- Edit photos for your travel album (see how I separated that into two tasks?)
- Practice hiragana and katakana
- TV show time (yes, you can schedule in that Netflix time)
This curated list will be your Passion Project Roster. The key here is to be specific about it. Don't just write 'writing' when you're working on blogposts, a fiction novel, and guest posting. Instead, break the mammoth task of writing into three smaller passion projects - writing blogposts, writing your fiction novel and writing your guest posts. Give each of those projects their own block.
These days, my Passion Project Roster includes:
- [BROAD] Memory-keeping
- [SPECIFIC] Curate photos for my albums
- [SPECIFIC] Edit + print photos
- [SPECIFIC] Working on memory-keeping layouts
- Updating old content
- Designing Pinterest images
- Social media promos
- Your Travel Story e-course
- Monthly additional content / bonus content
- Community engagement
- Marketing and promotion
- Personal / Entertainment
- Nintendo 3DS time (I'm addicted to Fire Emblem, I can't even)
As you can see, it seems like a lot but I have it organized under the three major segments (four, if you include the entertainment one) of my current life. This will change once my focus switches to something else and that is OKAY.
If you haven't downloaded the free workbook yet, get it below! There's a specific worksheet that complements this step:
Step 3: Identify how long each specific task will take and assign a time values to each task.
As I mentioned above, ideally, each task will be assigned to a time block that is AT MOST 90 minutes. Why 90 minutes? Because we're humans and our bodies and minds have a natural rhythm of rest and activity. I love how this article from Fast Company talked about this concept in detail.
I want you to go back to you Passion Project Roster and give each task a time value. In general, 90 minutes is a good baseline for any project. However, you'll find that some projects take significantly less than 90 minutes and that's okay. Evaluate and adjust, always. If you've got a mammoth task, break it apart into two 90-minute blocks and schedule something light in between such as reading a book or watching an episode of F.R.I.E.N.D.S.
Don't worry about getting things wrong here because this will evolve as you get better at scheduling things and at evaluating the actual amount of time it takes you to do tasks.
Step 4: Schedule each time block into your calendar.
In order for this to be effective, you'll have to work with your current lifestyle schedule. Maybe you have a full-time job which means your 90-minute blocks are mostly in the mornings before work and in the evenings after work (that's me!) or maybe you're a new mama which means your blocks should be scheduled around your newborn's sleep cycle. Whatever your circumstance, block scheduling is definitely possible.
Get the same calendar that you used in Step 1 and schedule your tasks to any unblocked time frame. The reason why I had you block off your non-negotiables in Step 1 is so that (1) you have an idea of how much "free" time you have and (2) you can schedule your passion projects to work around your current lifestyle and obligations.
After this exercise, you should have something like this:
Or if you add in entertainment / leisure activities:
Take a good look at your schedule and adjust if you need to. Make sure that the schedule makes sense to you and that you have ample breaks sprinkled strategically.
Once you've finalized your block schedule, print it out and stick it in places that are visible to you at all times - office desk, desk at home, etc. It's a good practice to also copy over the schedule to your digital calendar and create 10-minute reminders so that you're aware when it's time to switch to a different task or project.
Step 5: Test out your block schedule, evaluate, and adjust.
It's okay to not get it perfectly the first time. Actually, it's normal to over-schedule yourself initially and then you can work backward and remove some tasks or adjust the length of your time blocks. Always ask yourself:
- Did I schedule a lot of left-brain / right-brain work in one day?
- Am I more productive during the weekends than the weekdays?
- Am I getting enough rest with this schedule?
- Am I actually getting things done effectively?
Be brutally honest with yourself and pivot, if need be. Your schedule is based on you, a human, and it should grow and evolve as you change, day by day.
Yay, you've made your own block schedule! Now, go and implement it. Just one thing: block scheduling is not meant to be restrictive. If you are called to do something else completely and you're brimming with purpose, run with it.
Remember, intention-filled planning allows you to make time for your passion projects. This is how I make time for memory-keeping among all the other things I have going on at any given time (day job, blogging, creative business, etc.). This is how YOU can finally do the things that you love doing without feeling like you're being pulled in 12312 different directions.
Let's keep each other accountable (and because I'm a nerd about these kinds of things) - share your block schedules! What are you making time for?
P.S. Make this process easier by downloading the FREE workbook that I designed specifically for this post. You're welcome
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