Block Scheduling 101: What It Is, Why It Works And How To Get Started
Stop micromanaging your day! This life-changing method will help you get MORE done so you can kiss your lengthy to-do lists goodbye! Learn all about block scheduling and how you can use it too!
Trying to stay on top of an ever-evolving to-do list can be daunting. Even for the best of us.
But what if I told you that you could get more done in a day without adding any stress or anxiety?
Each of us has the same amount of time. 24 hours. No more. No less. So how can you possibly squeeze more into that time?
This post will help you see that when you divide your 24 hours into manageable blocks, amazing things can happen.
And that’s great news for busy moms!
Alright, let’s dive in.
Sometimes, I’m a bit of an organization freak. I love lists. I love planning. And I love writing things down.
But I went through a period where I overdid it.
I would get motivated and plan my heart out only to find myself with complex schedules, overwhelming to-do lists, and a constant feeling of anxiety over not doing things exactly like I planned. (I know, I know. I’m crazy.)
And then I’d give up and really get nothing done for awhile. Rinse and repeat.
Then one day I came across this quote by Tony Robbins:
“Complexity is the enemy of execution”.
That was mind blowing to me at the time.
I am a planner to a fault. And, like I said, I can overdo it. Sometimes I would even waste more time planning than actually getting things done.
But not anymore!
Switching to block scheduling has been a game-changer. I haven’t lowered my expectations and I don’t achieve less. Quite the opposite actually!
Block scheduling works with natural daily rhythms.
A few years ago, especially with babies napping and kids starting school, my days naturally started to fall into blocks. I noticed that I started working harder to get certain things done before a child would wake up, need to be fed, or get picked up from school.
And because I knew I only had a certain amount of time to work with, things naturally got prioritized. If that was my only time to exercise, for example, I made sure I did it first in the block so I had enough time. I also started getting better at knowing how long things took so I wouldn’t over-schedule a block.
And if something didn’t get done in that block, oh well! Nothing could be done about it now, so it was time to move on.
I now intentionally plan my days in blocks and I LOVE it. It has taken so much time and anxiety out of planning my day. I am more realistic in my expectations, get more done and even have more down time.
And since block scheduling is becoming increasingly popular, I know I’m not the only one who likes this simplified and flexible method.
“HOW DID IT GET SO LATE SO SOON?” – DR. SEUSS
I don’t like being a slave to my clock. And I don’t like the feeling of rushing all day long. Which is why I don’t like planners with everything dictated for me. I need a little flexibility.
Traditional planners divide the day into hours. But here’s the problem with that: when you are held to specific times for everything, you can constantly feel like you’re trying to keep up.
That’s stressful, especially when you fall a little bit behind. And long term, that isn’t sustainable.
But planning is good! And we have to do it in order to accomplish things. Luckily there are ways to plan that help you achieve more and stress less. *Cue block scheduling.*
So what exactly is block scheduling?
Let’s dive a little deeper.
WHAT IT IS:
Also known as time-blocking, block scheduling is a system that merges your to-do list with your calendar. It’s a way of breaking your day up into sections, or time blocks, rather than living by the hour.
It helps you to be more productive while also allowing you to remain flexible and work in the unexpected. That breathing room takes the anxiety out of keeping to the clock and always feeling like you’re trying to catch up.
Basically, your day is divided into 2-4 hour blocks. And you set a timer so you know exactly when it is time to move on. (I use my phone.)
When that timer goes off, you’re done with that block. Leave it and physically move on to the next block.
Tip: You can also have a timer go off 15-20 min. before the end of that block to keep yourself aware.
WHAT IT ISN’T:
Block scheduling is NOT strict or rigid.
But you just said to set a timer – with a 15 min reminder toward the end.
Yes, you need to be strict about moving between blocks. But what you do within those blocks can vary greatly.
Remember, these blocks are 2-4 hours in length, which provides all the flexibility you need.
Maybe a chore or task takes 10 min. one day but 60 min. the next. That’s ok!
Also, block scheduling is NOT a way to cram more into your day. Instead, it helps us FIND more time! It’s a way of limiting distractions and procrastination so you can have more time to actually do what you WANT to do.
Do you have a project your dying to finish for your house? PUT IT IN A BLOCK.
Are you totally behind on cleaning and just need a day to catch up? PUT IT IN A BLOCK.
Are you finding it hard to find time to exercise? PUT IT IN A BLOCK.
Instead of scrambling and trying to find the time to do something you’ve been wanting or needing to do…put it in a block! I promise…if you actually schedule time for it, it will happen!
This works for tasks, desired routines and even DOWN TIME. (Don’t forget to add that to your schedule somewhere!)
DOES BLOCK SCHEDULING REALLY WORK?
Let’s go back a little. (Or a lot – I won’t tell).
Think back to high school.
You sat down for math class, for example, and did nothing but math for that time period. You weren’t learning about science or history. Here, you were learning about math.
Then the bell would ring. You’d turn off your math brain, physically move to your next location and go all in on your next subject.
How successful would you have been if you were solving math problems, listening to an English lecture and watching the football game all at the same time? You get my point.
It’s the same idea!
In each block you plan, you do NOTHING except what is in that block. And when the bell rings (yes, you should set a timer!) you physically move to meet your next block and leave the previous block behind.
Whatever didn’t get done in that block won’t get done right then. That’s ok. That block is over.
This takes the guilt and stress out of your to-do list! AND it eliminates the non-productive snowball effect that getting behind can have.
When you give a block your all, eliminating distractions when you can, and something doesn’t get done, there’s no need to feel bad about it. It just didn’t happen.
You either make up for it next time or decide if you need to rearrange some priorities within that block.
A WORD OF CAUTION
When you’re planning, pay attention to how much you schedule within a block. Be nice to yourself and be realistic.
Don’t set yourself up for failure by planning several big tasks in one block. If something truly is important and needs to get done, do it first. If you still don’t have time for it, maybe it needs its own block.
But that’s the great thing about this system. You can customize it to fit YOUR needs. We’ll talk more about that in a second.
IS BLOCK SCHEDULING FOR ME?
- Do you ever have a hard time finding time to do the things you need and want to do?
- Do you ever wish there were more hours in a day?
- Do you ever feel amazed at how hard it is to get things done?
- Do you ever feel frazzled or in a constant state of catch up?
- Do you ever feel overwhelmed by your to-do list?
- Do you work in the home? Out of the home? Do you not work?
- Do you have young kids? Older kids? No kids?
- Do you have the same schedule every day? Does it change from day to day?
Even if I STILL didn’t cover your situation, this system CAN work for you! Seriously! It’s basically a miracle worker.
It is simple. It is customizable. And most of all, it is sustainable.
BUT I HATE PLANNING. IT’S TOO MUCH WORK…
Nice try. It can work for you too.
If this is you, start with ONE block. ONE.
Pick a 2-4 hour period in your day you can consistently block off. Then pick a few tasks you’d like to get done at that time of day and stick to it for at least a week.
After that week, see how you feel. Maybe you’ll realize you like having that productive block in your day. And maybe you’ll even want to add more blocks. It’s up to you!
BUT MY SCHEDULE IS DIFFERENT EVERY DAY…
That’s ok too! Try to keep the blocks as close to the same as you can each day. The tasks within those blocks may vary from day to day, but try your best to keep the times mostly consistent.
If there’s just no way to make that work, then like high school, you could also try an A/B schedule. You basically have 2 block schedules and rotate the days they’re used.
SO HOW DO I CREATE A BLOCK SCHEDULE?
Ok, let’s get to the good part already! Let’s figure out how to make a block schedule you can implement right away.
- Divide your day into blocks of 2-4 hours. All 24 hours. Try to avoid anything less than 2 hours (except the sleep block!) and don’t be too exact with times.
- Give the blocks a name. Be more generic than specific. Remember, we don’t want anything to be confining or strict.
- Write down everything you’d like to get done in that block. In order if you can. But be careful here. It can be easy to see a couple hours and think you can do a million things. Be realistic and think it through.
- You can set AMOUNTS of time for certain tasks within a block. How long. Not what time. For example, I like to set my timer and speed clean for 30 min. as a part of my morning block. Be careful here too. If you get too specific, you’re micromanaging again. I only do this for 1-2 tasks a day.
- Figure out which blocks need no distractions. I have some blocks where I don’t take calls or check social media. Mini tasks and minor distractions can kill your productivity. So when you really need to be focused, plan for no distractions during that time. You’ll have flexibility in other blocks to peruse Facebook or Instagram.
- Set timers. Set a timer on your phone for when each block should end. This timer will hold you accountable and keep you on track. You can also set a 15-20 min. warning timer to help you know when it’s time to start wrapping up within a block.
- Don’t forget a block for sleep! Your last block each day should be your sleep block. Don’t pretend you’re superhuman or pride yourself on being a night-owl. We all need sleep. It’s important people.
That’s it! It’s not so bad, right?
Now you have a basic road map for your day. It’s your routine. You can write it out each day or just write down your to-do list for specific blocks.
If you’re not totally convinced, give it a try for a week or two and see how you feel. You just might find that this is the thing that finally helps you feel more in control, be more productive and find more time!
CREATE YOUR OWN BLOCK SCHEDULE
Now it’s time to create a schedule that works for you. Grab a piece of paper and divide it up like the image above (you can also find a template in the Parenting Library).
There are two ways to use this setup:
PLAN OUT YOUR “TYPICAL DAY”
Use your page to create a layout of the basic daily routine you’d like to aim for.
Don’t include specifics (doctor’s appointments, meetings, play dates…). This version is just your roadmap for your “typical day”.
Once you have your “typical day” planned out, you can use a new page as a daily planner. And this is the one that will include specifics and variations.
For daily planning, you can make several copies and keep them in a binder, a planner, or even get them bound for cheap (around $3) at a place like Staples.
Or, once you have an idea of how you want to use block scheduling, you can even just write it out in a blank notebook.
Can I see an example?
I love seeing examples of how people plan their day. It helps me as I figure out what works for me.
So in case that helps you too, here is my “typical day”. It’s not always perfect, but it’s what I aim for.
Note: I am a SAHM with 4 young children. My schedule may look NOTHING like yours. But don’t think this only works for moms with young children. This can work for ANYONE!
Early Block (5:00-7:00)
School Block (7:00-9:00)
- Kids up and ready for school
- Drive older 2 to school
Morning Block (9:00-11:30)
- Younger 2 in Independent Playtime
- 30 min. speed clean
- Rotate a load of laundry
- Get ready
- Play/outing with younger 2
Lunch Block (11:30-1:00)
- Clean up
- Drop off preschooler
- Baby down for a nap
Afternoon Block (1:00-4:00)
Family Block (4:00-7:00)
- After school routine/homework
- Free time/extracurricular activities
- Kids’ bedtime routine
Evening Block (7:00-10:00)
Sleep Block (10:00-5:00)
When I need to add things in, like outings or appointments, I try my best to schedule them in my morning or lunch block. It’s easier to make up those tasks later or the next day.
Are you ready to give block scheduling a try?
For even more ways to simplify your life as a parent, be sure to grab The Peaceful Parent Starter Guide. It will show you how to begin creating simple systems in your life so you can stress less and fall in love with parenting all over again.
OTHER HELPFUL POSTS:
- How To Get Things Done (Even When The Kids Are Home)
- How To Write To-Do Lists That Actually Get Done
- Conquering Mom Life With This Morning Routine
- How To Beat Mom Burnout By Creating Simple And Effective Routines
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Share this article:
Not gonna lie, I’m definitely going to give this a go! I can’t stick to a schedule and it is frustrating! Thank you!
Yay! I hope it’s helpful! (It’s been a lifesaver for me 😊)
I’m perusing your site for ideas for a Summer Survival parent engagement event I’m planning, but I happened on this post about block scheduling, and I’m so sucked in! I’ve tried giant wall calendars, desk calendars, planners, calendars on my phone, and more. NOTHING has helped me keep track of all the tasks I have to accomplish in a day. I’m very excited to try block scheduling. And thank you for the example! I AM one of those. 😀
Hi Keli! I’m so glad! I’m the same way – I’ve tried so many things, but I keep coming back to block scheduling every time!