Justin Wright

Weekly Recap - Block It

published6 months ago
4 min read

Happy Monday!

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First off, on this Memorial Day I want to take a few moments to recognize the ultimate sacrifice given by those veterans who are no longer with us.

This week we're discussing time blocking and how to take control over your schedule/productivity.

As a brief disclaimer: many links for items, books, etc. are done through affiliate links, which means I may get paid a small pittance of money for anything you purchase using these links.

Block It

We spend time on that which is important to us. Whenever you hear, "I don't have time for that" it is a conscious choice made by that individual. People who can't seem to find the time to exercise, or read, or eat well, or sleep, etc. simply don't prioritize these activities.

How then do we create the time we need to do the things that matter to us? The solution is simple yet challenging: we must build our calendar around the activities we find most important. Those who push back on this approach claim to want freedom and flexibility in their schedule; the reality is that those who block their time effectively end up with more freedom than those who wing it.

The benefits of time blocking are two-fold. Parkinson's Law states that an activity will take as much time to complete as we give it. By blocking our calendar out effectively, we will be more productive due to self-imposed time constraints. The secondary benefit of this productivity is newfound time for activities we enjoy.

Much like the strategies from Indistractable that we discussed before, blocking out your calendar gives you full control over how you use your time. Creating space for everything you want to do (including relaxing on the couch and watching TV), means that your day progresses on your terms. There are fewer bad surprises, and you leave yourself room for more good surprises.

So now that you understand the importance of time blocking, how do you implement it? The simplest step is to go into your calendar app of choice and physically write in time for everything you want to do the following day. Treat it like scheduling meetings for work; 30 minutes here, 45 minutes there. Rinse and repeat until your day is full. It may seem like overkill, but going all in first allows you to pull back later. The added benefit of this is automated scheduling apps like Calendly will show that your pre-assigned time slots are unavailable.

In order to make sure you actually stick to your schedule, you need to be able to perform focused work with smart breaks. If you're easily distracted during your blocks, time will slip away from you and you will fall off track. One of the strategies deemed most effective for this is the Pomodoro technique: break work up into chunks of 25 minutes of intense focus followed by a 5 minute short break. After four of these intervals, take a longer (~15 minute) break.

Image borrowed from "Sketchplanations"

There are a number of apps that can handle these time intervals for you, and having the timer running in the background is a great way to stay focused. Pairing this with a "Do not disturb" mode on your phone can help you stick to your predetermined work schedule that you blocked out on your calendar.

Actively assigning time on your schedule to important activities is a great way to ensure you actually do these activities regularly. Taking things a step further and fully planning out your day makes it more likely that you'll complete necessary tasks. Combine this with effective time management and your productivity will skyrocket. While it can be tempting to half-ass the described approach, I encourage you to go all in first. You can always pull back and adjust once you get the hang of these systems!

Hit List

The most interesting things I've encountered this week:

What I'm reading: Exhalation: Stories by Ted Chiang

This book kept popping up on a number of "recommended reading" lists and I finally dove in. Any time I recommend a work of fiction, it has had a profound impact on me. This book is a collection of short stories, and as soon as I finished the first one I was hooked. Some books just hit you; this is one of them.

A profound blog post: "The Beauty of Enough" by Sahil Bloom

This blog post hit my inbox in Sahil's newsletter (which you should subscribe to if you haven't already). In this article, Sahil explores the balance between striving for more and appreciating what you have. He references the parable of the fisherman and really digs into the importance of finding this balance.

My favorite Pomodoro app: Be Focused Pro on iOS (there isn't an Android version, but this app is close)

I find this timer app to be simple, effective, and great at keeping me focused on the task at hand. It isn't cluttered with ads or other nonsense, and the layout is conducive to performing focused work.

Quote of the week:

"The most valuable thing one can do for the psyche, occasionally, is to let it rest, wander, live in the changing light of a room." - poet May Sarton

Tip of the week:

Try time blocking every day of the current week

Schedule your next day the night before, and use the Pomodoro technique to ensure you are performing focused work during work intervals. Go all in and try fully committing to the approach. If you hate it, pull back, but I think you'll find that you enjoy your days a bit more.

NOTE: If you're really struggling, get feedback on something small and insignificant like whether or not that cheesy button-down in your closet looks good on you. (Hint, you should donate or burn it)

That will do it for this week!

If you haven't downloaded your free copy yet, I've distilled all my tips and tricks for learning and retaining information here: Trainedwright Learning Guide.pdf

Lastly, as always, if you found any value in this week's newsletter, please share it with just one person who might like it!

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