More Than Time Blocking

Time blocking up front is actually easy. Just go to your calendar and do it. The real challenge is to honor the system by protecting the time you’ve set aside and utilizing it with absolute focus in the face of the inevitable barrage of false priorities and interruptions that appear each day. (The Millionaire Real Estate Agent, Gary Keller, Jay Papasan, Dave Jenks)

I vaguely remember when I first started time blocking my calendar. I was transitioning from solely designing to overseeing other projects. More projects meant more meetings. At times, it was challenging to make progress on my work.

In theory, scheduling work blocks on my calendar provided the space I needed in my day. In practice, it was not that simple.

Interruptions, double-booking, questions - you name it. There were all sorts of reasons why it became a challenge to honor the time blocks I put in place. I had fooled myself into thinking that time blocking was a turnkey solution to improving productivity.

While I continued time blocking my calendar, I shifted my focus to creating a more robust system for task management and started questioning where I could be most valuable. As I continued on the path from designer to director, this shift proved to be invaluable.

I have been on a productivity optimization quest for years, and in my mind, it is a lifelong pursuit. Here are a few of the lessons I have learned along the way.

Question every meeting. Why were you invited? What is the team expecting from you? If you are unsure, ask. Will you provide anything to the discussion that will not otherwise get covered? Note: If you are attending because you do not trust your team to handle it on their own, closing that gap is a priority.

Stop repeating yourself. What topics require repetitive training among the team? Some examples: presentation prep, the structure of deliverables, how to recap a meeting. Take the time to document the fundamentals. Onboard the team, but more importantly, closely train a few employees. In time, they will train other employees, who will train more employees down the line.

Find your value. What unique value do you bring in your role? The answer to this question is where you should spend your time. From time to time, you may need to jump in and help with other tasks. That said, your focus should be on letting go. You do not need to be in the weeds on every single project. Yes. You will always have good insight, but that does not mean the team will fail without it. Give your team the tools to succeed and let them do their thing. The best managers go unseen.