2u Creative — Amy Morelli — Illustration — Branding — Graphic Design

Time Blocking — Success & Balance 90 minutes at a time

Business Tips, Time BlockingAmy MorelliComment

image purchased at istockphoto.com

People are always asking me, how do you find the time to do as much as you do. And my answer is simple. TIME-BLOCKING. As a busy entrepreneur with 3 divisions to my business (2ucreativejuices.com) — and now this great blog, I have to use strategy to get the most out of each and everyday, otherwise I would be chained to my desk, without much outside interaction, and would probably be on the verge of mental breakdown!

This past summer I read an article by Leonhard Widrich, The Origin of the 8 Hour Work Day and Why We Should Rethink It. This article changed the way I do business, and thank goodness for that! I found with my busy schedule I was always just “managing” to get everything done, and I found myself at the end of most days both mentally and physically exhausted - to the point that my own things (housecleaning, laundry, grocery shopping, etc) would just fall by the way side. Then I would spend my weekends  like Cinderella. Getting caught up on housework, well I’m happy to say after implementing Time Blocking - no longer are my weekends spent scrubbing and cleaning! I’ve found I can get a 60-hour a week workload done in about 45 hours, using time blocking. Not to mention, my life in general feels more balanced and under my control. No more feeling overwhelmed due to my crazy schedule!

Below are some excerpts from this article as well as my own thoughts on the subject. Be sure to go read Leonhard’s article, it’s got a lot of great scientific information as well other great article references to help your work day. Such as: The science of how temperature and lighting impacts our productivity" as well as "The 4 elements of physical energy and how to master them

Something interesting he tackles in this article is why do we have an 8 hour workday, and where did that idea come from. The answer is quite interesting. 

The typical work day is around 8 hours. But how did we come up with that? The answer is hidden in the tidings of the Industrial revolution. In the late 18th century, when companies started to maximize the output of their factories, getting to running them 24/7 was key. Now of course, to make things more efficient, people had to work more. In fact, 10-16 hour days were the norm. These incredibly long work days weren't sustainable and soon a brave man called Robert Owen started a campaign to have people work no more than 8 hours per day.  His slogan was "Eight hours labour, eight hours recreation, eight hours rest." 

One of the first businesses to implement this was the Ford Motor Company, in 1914, which not only cut the standard work day to eight hours, but also doubled their worker's pay in the process.  To the shock of many industries, this resulted in  productivity of these same workers, but with fewer hours, actually increasing significantly and Ford's profit margins doubled within two years.  This encouraged other companies to adopt the shorter, eight hour work day as a standard for their employees.

So there we have it. The reason we work 8 hours a day, isn't scientific or much thought out. It's purely a century old norm for running factories most efficiently.

Luckily we’ve come a long way in scientific research since the early 1900s and we’ve learned that our brain doesn’t function at it’s peak using this 8 hour day philosophy. Instead it uses an ultradian rhythm.

Widrich explains our brain has an ultradian rhythm, a cycle that's present in both our sleeping and waking lives. The basic understanding is that our human minds can focus on any given task for 90-120 minutes. Afterwards, a 20-30 minute break is required for us to get the renewal to achieve high performance for our next task again.

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above image source The Origin of the 8 Hour Work Day and Why We Should Rethink It


And although most companies still want their employees working the “8 hour day” more and more of them are realizing you get better quality of work out of your employees when you allow them to find a system that works best for them. Companies such as Google and 3M allow employees to make their own schedules and Google even allows napping during the day to get more productivity from their employees.  

What does time blocking look like? 

It’s really not that difficult once you get in the routine. For me, what works best is the night before I tentatively schedule out my day in 90 minuted increments. Now my business is very deadline driven so I usually know what I have coming up. But not always, sometimes there are emergencies, fires, etc. So I always make sure I have a block in my day to deal with anything unexpected. The idea is to consult my task lists and calendars, as well as my weekly and quarterly planning notes. My goal is to make sure progress is being made on the right things at the right  pace for the relevant deadlines.

I usually work from 8:30am to 7pm everyday (that’s the life of a business owner for the most part). My office is also next to my home, so I have the added advantage of being able to add housework to my 20 minute downswings. Using your inbox to drive your daily schedule might be fine for the entry-level, but the best knowledge workers view their time like the best investors view their capital, as a resource to wield for maximum returns. If you’re serious about working deeply and producing high-end value, then Time-blocking is the answer to your prayers. Especially in a creative job, all we have is our time – and we need to make sure we manage it properly. Time is money, even more so when you are an entrepreneur.

I’ll leave you with some tips from Widrich so you can make the most out of time blocking.

Split your day into 90 min windows: Here is something I've started to do. Instead of looking at a 8, 6 or 10 hour work day, split it down and say you've got 4, 5 or however many 90 minute windows. That way you will be able to have 4 tasks that you can get done every day much more easily.

Plan your rest so you actually rest: "The fittest person is not the one who runs the fastest, but the one who has optimized their rest time." Says Tony Schwartz. A lot of the time, we are so busy planning our work day, that we forget about "how" to rest. Plan beforehand what you will do your rest. Here are some ideas: Nap, read, meditate, get a snack.

Zero notifications: One of the best ideas I've ever had was to follow Joel's advice on Zero Notifications. Having absolutely no counter on my phone or computer changing from 0 to 1 and always breaking my focus has been a huge help. If you haven't tried this yet, try to turn off every digital element that could become an alert.