We all have 24 hours in a day, but some people seem to get more out of managing their time than others.
One trick that has worked for me is time blocking. Without it, my calendar would typically fill up and leave me little time for the work I needed to get done.
I began by working with my administrative assistant on setting up times each week when I expected to have regular meetings when I planned for uninterrupted work at my desk and scheduled for pop-up meetings. Because of parking problems where I worked, I tried to keep off-site meetings to one or two days per week.
As an example, Monday’s were held for onsite meetings. We scheduled all my status meetings with direct reports for that day. I didn’t expect to get much “desk time” on Mondays.
Tuesday mornings were set aside for work time at my desk. I tend to be more focused and ready to tackle more significant projects during the morning hours. My calendar was open for other meetings on Tuesday afternoons.
I tried hard to keep Wednesdays open for desk work and projects.
Thursdays were designated for off-site meetings. Some days, I would be only in the office for a couple of hours. If the day was not filled with meetings, it gave me more time for ad hoc projects or conversations.
I borrowed a phrase from the old Mickey Mouse Clubhouse TV show in calling Fridays “Anything Can Happen Day.” It was a day set aside for meetings or projects that didn’t get scheduled or completed earlier in the week. I also blocked off an hour at the end of the day for reviewing the last week, look forward to the week ahead, and update my to-do list.
Of course, things might come up that would destroy my set blocks, and while I had to react to emergencies and other surprises, my assistant tried to protect my time. I did too. If my boss or a board member wanted to meet with me on a Wednesday, I would adjust.
But the core schedule was only the first step of my productivity plan. Even during those blocks, when I expected to work on projects in the office, I would schedule that time. Part of my weekly review sessions was to assess which tasks needed to get done, estimate how much time I would need, and then block that time on my schedule. If I set aside 90 minutes for a project, I might allow 30 minutes before starting something new so that I could return phone calls, have a quick meeting with a staff member or do a little “management by walking around.” That break also refreshed me and allowed me to clear my mind.
Unless there is an emergency, I treat my work time as I would a meeting. It’s a promise to keep. If you look at my online calendar, “work time” is marked as “busy,” just as it would if I am in a meeting.
While this schedule may sound too rigid and doesn’t allow for spontaneity, it keeps me productive and will enable me to keep up with my commitments.