Emily Morgan is a keen Toggl user. She is also the founder of Delegate Solutions, a strategic support firm which helps busy entrepreneurs delegate and automate their tasks. We figured she’s the right person to ask for tips on how to be efficient with time blocking.

As a business owner, your time is money.  Developing strategies to become more intentional with how that time is spent creates the space for success. 

Parkinson’s Law simply states:  “Work expands to fill the time available for its completion.”  This is a critical realisation; it’s not that you need more time – you simply need to be more strategic with the time you have. Since time is our most valuable resource we have to protect it, structure it and be intentional with it.

In our work with clients we focus on how to best leverage their time.  Last year alone, we cleared nearly 10,000 hours worth of tasks off the plates of busy entrepreneurs and their teams.  That’s 10,000 extra hours they were able to put towards key initiatives and projects to drive their business forward. 

Because of this experience helping our clients make the most of their time, we recommend time blocking as a foundational step towards maximising your time each week.

And you can start using this technique today – all you need is a little bit of planning, and great discipline!

 

Here are your next best steps as you think about time blocking:

1.     Identify your priorities and groups.  Look at your goals for the year or the week, and set aside your largest blocks of time for specifically working towards that goal.  Until this goal is met, everything else is merely a distraction.

2.     Categorize your activities and create buckets of time to accomplish the rest of your list. Group common tasks together.  A good example to start with would be this:  (1) client work, (2) marketing, (3) business development, (4) team management, (5) goal-setting and new initiative planning, (6) time with my assistant, (7) personal tasks.  

3.     Schedule these as recurring appointments on your calendar so that the structure remains the same week over week. For example, every Tuesday morning I work on financials, every Tuesday afternoon I work on sales activities.  By creating a bucket of time to focus my related to-dos, I know that I can table the task for now and tackle it during my blocks each week with total focus.

It is crucial that you are organized going into your time blocks or they will not be effective.  The key here is to honor your calendar as you start working with the process. 

Once you have set up your blocks, try these three techniques to make the best use of them:

1.     Batch the tasks that need to be completed within each individual block to give yourself some structure.  For example, if you are working in a “Client work” time block, strategically move from one client’s work to the next client to maintain focus rather than jump around from client to client.

2.     Use a task management tool that can categorize by context to match the time blocks on your calendar.  We love a free online tool called Asana to keep projects and tasks organized and accountable.  You can create tags to match your time blocks within existing projects.  If you’re a David Allen Fan, check out Nozbe which follows Allen’s GTD (Getting Things Done) productivity methodology.  With either tool, as you go into a specific block, just click on the context tag to access your list of active tasks and prioritize from there.

3.     Track your time.  When you start on a new block, start your timer.  Our team loves Toggl for the simple but robust time tracking.  It helps hold you accountable and respect the blocks of time  – but also reports on how your time was spent across the week.  This can be really useful information to have as you look for ways to improve your time management, or if you’re trying to identify areas that should be delegated.

That’s the basics. Tweak as needed and re-shuffle based on what meetings and follow-up might be required for that particular week.  You have to develop a balance that works for you, so that you’ll embrace the system and use it, and not end up feeling confined by it. Also remember – it’s ok to allow yourself some flexibility as you move throughout your day! You can’t pan for everything.

 

A variation of this post was originally published on the Huffington Post blog.