Finding ways to squeeze a few extra minutes out of every hour is every busy person’s favorite magic trick. We don’t have the ability to waive our magic wand with an “Abracadabra”, but we can take advantage of time management strategies to help us maximize our time. The first magic trick up our sleeve is time blocking: a popular approach to time management addressed by many of the gurus in the time management field.

Time blocking does just that, block out specific time periods for project work, meetings and specific tasks. The reason for this is that interruptions are major time wasters. On average, every interruption is costing anywhere from 5 to 25 minutes of lost time as you must regroup and refocus back to the task at hand.

For this reason, time blocking advocates recommend that you set aside specific blocks of time for specific tasks. During the time block, ONLY work on that task, not allowing the distraction of email pop-ups, telephone calls or drop-in meetings. It’s also important to stick to the time allotted; start and stop on the clock. Admittedly, this is no small task and is very difficult to do, especially for those operating in a primarily responsive mode or worse, crisis mode. Of course, this requires balance as client needs and requests should be addressed quickly. This doesn’t preclude the use of time blocking, however. To start, try time blocking just a portion of the day to start. Below are a few tips to utilize time blocking as part of your time management strategy.

  • Create a list of the important activities in your work week. Most importantly, include those you’re not getting to but know you should. Next, block out specific times over the next two days to work on one or two of these projects and commit to working on just a specific task without interruptions. Reduce your own hesitation by scheduling these blocks at a time that isn’t a known “busy” period for your business. Refer to this list each time you schedule yourself so you put these important items in the calendar.
  • Turn off the alerts on your email service. Allow yourself two, three if you must, time periods per day for emails and phone follow up. During that time, read and process emails and phone calls and nothing else. Read emails and respond, archive or delete. Don’t waste time reading and leaving them for later to respond. If you don’t have time to respond, don’t look at your emails!
  • Commit to following your time plan; make it your personal policy that if it’s on the calendar, that’s what will happen with the exception of true emergencies.

The time blocking approach to time management can be a very difficult transition, particularly if you are dealing with customers face to face for much of your day. If your job description includes ONLY customer service activities, it may be that your entire day is blocked for customer service, but are there particular times of day when certain clients are easier to reach? Might there be value in blocking time for certain customer categories, geographies, order types or shipping time frames? Recognize, however, that time blocked for customer oriented activities such as follow up, answering questions, creating proposals and making proactive telephone calls are all “blockable” activities, which might just reduce crisis related activities!