Let’s get one thing straight.
I waste time, you waste time…everyone wastes time.
Distractions like email, searching for documents (or PDF’s, images, emails, files), making lists, wasteful meetings, deciding what to work on next, or getting lost in YouTube videos can burn through hours faster than you can say “Where did the day go?”
That’s what this post is about—one simple technique to help you overcome procrastination and put you firmly back in charge of your time.
And, if you do what I am going to suggest, you will make money with this technique.
But, before I get to that…
Why we waste time:
Admit it, you sometimes leave important work to the last minute while low-value distractions mysteriously gobble up precious minutes.
One problem is lists—lists are a horrible way to prioritize.
By their very nature, a To-Do list of random tasks gives similar priorities to everything on your list:
- confirming your flight booking looks to have the same priority as following up with a prospect.
- picking up supplies at the stationery store competes with updating your website, and
- ordering a book a friend recommended is competing with meeting with your marketing consultant.
To-Do lists have a habit of growing and growing. And it’s all too tempting to tick off the easy tasks … which may not be the important tasks that will grow your business! Or it’s all too easy to put off your list or be distracted by emails, phone calls and interruptions.
Maybe you’ve taken a time management course or read some books by the gurus. You might have even had some success.
For a while…
But, like any training, it only works if you first admit you have a problem.
And the problem is you’re an idiot.
Why we’re all idiots
I’m including myself in this statement. And I’m speaking from experience. For example, I’m an idiot when I:
- think I need 8 hours to get my work done.
- tell myself I’ll finish a project over the weekend (and then leave it until Sunday night when I’d really rather be relaxing).
- think making lists makes me more organized.
And I’m really an idiot when I keep wasting time – repeating the same patterns over and over and thinking things will get better. That’s the definition of insanity right?
For far too long I was convinced more time would get me better results. Sound familiar?
Longer hours, working faster – even multi-tasking – were signs of success.
Call it dumb-male thinking or a sign of our go-go, high achievement work ethos – either way, it’s a recipe for burnout and failure.
The good news is there’s one simple technique that changes all of that:
- less procrastination.
- more focus on high priority work.
- better results every week.
And (this might be the best part) you feel in control of your time.
It’s called Blocking.
How to block your time
Reader warning: even though this technique might sound ridiculously simple, done correctly, the results can be profound. I know, because it changed everything for me and my work. Trust me: this works.
STEP 1: Flight Plan
Step one is to start your week having identified high-value, make-you-money, no-debating work you need to complete by Friday. That’s your Flight Plan.
Your Flight Plan is a short list of high-priority, high ROI work (and definitely not a long list of miscellaneous tasks competing for your time.)
- That one phone call that landed you the new contract was time well spent.
- Training your staff to ask for the up-sell was time well spent.
- Doing a quick ROI assessment of your marketing spends and dropping the dead wood was a great use of time.
I could go on with more examples (all from my business) but you get the point.
STEP 2: Block Time
Next, turn that work into appointments on your calendar. Just like booking a meeting – book time for yourself to get those high-ROI tasks from your flight plan done.
That’s blocked time.
The concept is simple: when you have an appointment on your calendar you prepare for it and you’re very unlikely to miss that appointment. Therefore, the task gets done.
That’s why blocking works.
It’s booked. You’ve set the time aside. You might move the appointment, but you can’t delete it and as a result, the work gets done.
Blocking time makes you more productive
I’m more productive when I block time. I work fewer hours, experience less stress and yet I don’t feel rushed.
It’s like an invisible assistance is quietly directing me to the next most important work. And keeping me away from low-value work and distractions.
At the end of the day I feel like I’ve been firmly parked in Quadrant II work (important, but not urgent) and rarely distracted.
It might feel strange at first to make an appointment with yourself. But ask yourself: what would you rather have: the stress that comes from leaving something to the last minute or the feeling that comes from marching ahead through tough work with a day-before-vacation attitude?
How to get started
Like any new technique, you need to build habits from simple routines.
Firstly, my routine is to build my Flight Plan on Sunday night or Monday morning. This is a 10-minute exercise that solidifies all the random tasks and deadlines into a short list of high-priority objectives for the week.
Next, I block time to get the work done: simple tasks might take 30 minutes, completing a proposal might take 90 minutes.
I try to put my hardest work in the morning or right after a lunch break. Based on research into circadian rhythms, those are the most productive times of day.
Finally, I work through my blocked time.
I treat each block like an appointment: I start on time, then I focus on only that work and do my best to stay focused on that task until the work is complete or the time is complete. It’s an appointment to get work done.
What about you? Tell me in the comments if you can use blocking to be more productive?
To learn more about Flight Plans and Blocking time, read these short posts: