Schedule Blocking: My Secret to Being More Productive with Less Effort
This post is actually a double feature: Schedule Blocking + the Boulder, Pebble, Sand Method!
These two options in combination can be the exact arsenal you need to be the most productive you. I first learned about schedule blocking last year when I attended the free Freedom Summit hosted by Rebel Boss.
Schedule Blocking: the gist of this is that you block out your days/weeks into broken down categories, and do specific tasks on certain days. This can mean that Thursday’s are your “admin” days, and you don’t do any client work on those days, or that Wednesday is your designated “appointment” day, where all of your scheduled meetings are set for.
This allows you to focus on the task at hand, without having to stop in the middle of a task to have a client call, disrupting the flow of productivity.
Now, I will be the first to say that this doesn’t always work. Sometimes tasks of some urgency come up, and you have to shuffle things around. Life also happens, you may need to take a random weekday off for whatever reason, and have to shift things around to accommodate. This is just a “template” of sorts to follow, with room to be flexible when needed.
Boulder, Pebble, Sand Method: This is something you should do weekly, ideally on Sunday to plan out your upcoming week. You take 15-20 minutes and “brain dump” everything you possibly need to get done throughout the week. Feel free to include personal tasks such as workouts, hair appointments, errands, etc. Don’t think about any particular order of importance, just get it all down.
Next, mark these tasks based on what they are; a boulder, pebble, or sand task —
Boulder: MUST DO appointments, things that are scheduled like calls, hair appointments, etc. or things with strict deadlines.
Pebbles: Things that need to get done and take a bit more time, concentration, and/or skill.
Sand: The little things, admin tasks, emails, scheduling Instagram posts, etc.
The idea is that you place your boulder tasks where they MUST be done. Then fill in the spaces with your pebble tasks, based on importance/deadlines and how you have your schedule blocking laid out. Then, you fill in the leftover spaces with your sand tasks.
This is a great method, because many of us start the day/week by seeing how much we have to get done, then get overwhelmed with the list, and tackle meaningless tasks like emails and other admin stuff because it doesn’t take much thought to do.
Here is an example of Schedule Blocking:
You can lay it out in your calendar software, and color code it to represent different categories. Then, make sure things are set to free/busy based on how you want it to appear to potential scheduling conflicts. You can see on mine, I do client calls T/W/R, from 9:00-4:00, but I schedule client work over the top of that, because I don’t have client calls on a regular basis. My scheduler allows for people to schedule calls within that time window on those days only.
I start and end my week with admin work and stuff for LJ Media House because I often find myself pretty scatterbrained before and after the weekend, and likely not in a creative flow.
Here is a real-life example of my brain dump + Boulder, Pebble, Sand process:
Sometimes I do it on paper and just make little annotations next to the task, often adding a time estimate to them so I know I am not overbooking my days. Other times, I use my Penultimate App on my ipad so I can color code it as I go!