Bernie Anderson
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the blog

Current musings, whatever they may be. 

Time Block the Time Sucks

Productivity is an elusive, shape-shifting beast. It takes on a variety of appearances because productivity looks different for each of us.

I mean real productivity. Those moments you when you look back on the past several hours with a weary pride, knowing that you’ve focused and put out your best work. You know you’ve not wasted time. You know you’ve created value.

That’s a relatively easy feeling to get if your job is painting houses or making cabinets. At least, “easy” in the sense that there’s a clear start and an obvious finish. You know when you’ve done a great job because you can see it. This room was puke green and now it’s slate gray matte with glossy white trim.

Thought work is more problematic. For some of us reading, thinking, and processing is a part of our job. It’s easy to get sidelined by reading, thinking, and processing the wrong things - assuming all along you’re working. It's confusing.

I find myself in that place more frequently than I care to admit.

So here’s what I do about it.

A digital calendar is my most important productivity tool.

Here’s what goes in my calendar:

1. Appointments

This is obvious. If you and I have an appointment - there’s an associated date, time and place. Date, time, and place belong in a tool that tracks dates, times, and places. It goes in a calendar. No-brainer.

2. Things I don’t want to remember but can’t forget.

Heartworm medicine for the dogs. Change the air filters for the HVAC. Birthdays. I don’t want to keep these things in my mental RAM. If there’s a date associated with anything like that - it goes in the calendar, never to be thought of until it's time.

3. Things are important and necessary but can be time sucks.

Here's a good example. I sign up for a fair amount of newsletters. I want to read them because they important for my work. But if I read them every time they hit my inbox, it would lead to distraction, a major loss of productivity, and a mild loss of sanity. So e-newsletters I want to review are thrown into a folder and saved for Saturday morning, using a tool called SaneBox (use this link and you get two weeks free. It’s worth the small price of admission). Saturday morning has a block of time (on the calendar) set aside for reading and processing these. Whatever I don’t finish in that time block gets pitched and I’m done.

I am a heavy calendar user and time blocker. It won’t work for some. It might work for others. If you’re struggling with distraction and focus, give it a try for a week, and let me know how it goes. I’d love to hear your story.

Bonus Tip

Don’t time block every minute of the day. Leave blank space for miscellaneous interruptions and regular life to happen. The blocks are about focus times and freedom - not electronic bondage.