I have tried so many things in the past 5 years that I have been a work-from-home mom and pretty much all my life. My problem is I’m a procrastinator at heart, I hate routine but I also need routine, I am spontaneous and I struggle with following rules. A schedule translates to me into–rules. So one of the first things that helped someone like me to overcome my fear of schedules was to look at them more like boundaries than rules. I can do boundaries! Block scheduling has changed my life. I feel more productive and organized but I still feel freedom.
I’ve tried scheduling every minute of my day because I homeschooled all three of my boys, worked from home, and was very involved in my community so I NEEDED to be organized. To my dismay, this system never stuck even in the midst of the need.
So if you’re like me and you struggle with rigid schedules I suggest you try this system. I recently decided to start block scheduling. Basically, block scheduling means you create several smaller to-do lists each day under each block… and then you tackle each of those smaller to-do lists during different “blocks” of time throughout the day.
Before I continue I want to mention that this article is a part of the 21 days to Discover the Heart of Your Home . No matter where you find yourself at, I’m inviting you to join me in this journey as I share some key tips and ideas that have worked in our home through this series.
4 Tips for Time Management
- Brain Dump– This brain dumping session is just listing everything I have to do in a day and then I see how they align with our family values that I share HERE. I start off my day by brain dumping.
- Organize – Then I organize that brain dump list into my block scheduling system. (Explained below) I make sure my week is filled with my values: family, faith, community, work, self-care, service.
- Action– Then I follow the block schedule I came up with for my day. You don’t want to have a different block schedule for each day. You’ll want to keep your block schedule system the same for each day even if you’re not buying groceries every day or cleaning every day. You have that time blocked out so when you do have to get groceries you already know when you would schedule that in your day.
- Reflect – After you’ve tried this for a few days re-assess if this is working for you and figure out what you need to tweak. You shouldn’t be reassessing every week.
The key to a successful day is to come up with a loose but boundary-filled day.
Prioritize the Things I Need in My Day: Brain Dump
After thinking through how I want my day to play out and the things that are most important to me based on my values, I came up with these broad categories that I use to help me before I get into block scheduling. This in many ways is the process of “chunking” where you’re deciding what things you’re going to focus on and then grouping them together.
So for me based on my values there are the 4 things I need in order to function throughout my day: Family, Accomplish Tasks, Connect, and Energize. When I have a routine for these 4 areas of my life I find myself more centered, purposeful, and dare I say “organized”.
The first step is a Brain Dump. Sit down and write everything you need to get done for that week. It can be errands, bills to pay, chores, work, dinner and anything else that comes up.
Then you’ll create broad categories for the things that are important to you. Like family, faith, work, exercise, service, marriage and community. Those will be your main categories. Then list the daily tasks that go under block so for “Family” you’d write: connect with kids or date with spouse… This will then be used to come up with your “Purposeful Daily Blocks”.
Here are my categories based on my values.
- Family – In this category are all things that involve my family. Basically, this category involves my cultivating, guiding, connecting with my family. What I do with them and for them is cultivating the ground and guiding them in our values like: faith, respect, love, encouragement. So in this block its what I do after either in the morning or after school. Their morning blessing, catching up after school, give them a snack, make sure they do their homework, read with them, make dinner for them or with them. It’s the rhythms of our home like making sure they shower, prepare their lunch, we have devotional time, praying time, pillow talk time… This all basically ends at 8:30 p.m. when we put them to bed.
- Accomplish – In this category, I have all things related to my work whether it’s housework or blog work. Things like my freelance writing, meal planning, working on my blog, household chores, grocery shopping, errands, course work… I’ve divided my chores into daily tasks so I’m not doing it all in one day. For example, on Tuesday my focus is the kitchen. Things here change all of the time so this list is constantly changing. I write all of the random things I have to do so that when I come to this part of my day I can start checking off things that fall in that block of time.
- Connect/community – In this block, I have things like catching up with friends either online or in person. Checking email and messaging friends. It’s also a time where I’m volunteering in the community, leading a woman’s group, feasting with friends & strangers over a meal, mentoring gatherings… This category can happen at different times of the day and many times it involves my family but I include some of it in my 11:30-12:30 of my day. But sometimes it changes for a season so once a week in the afternoon I give Mom Chats to girls who have babies and were rescued sex trafficking so this happens during the day in the afternoon. Sometimes it’s in the evening, our family will feast and fellowship in our home with the girls from the local shelter that I’m involved with.
- Energize – In this category, it’s my soul-care. I include all things that I need to energize me, those things that are a necessity for me to function fully in my day. So I have in this section: Connect with God, Eat (Yes, I forget to do this sometimes so I have to include it), yoga & exercise, scripture art, reading… I do Christian yoga to help me physically with my body aches and it’s usually only 10-15 minutes. My connecting with God time is usually a time I spend journaling my prayers, my bible study time and/or my scripture art time.
When I write down all of my daily tasks under these categories I am more focused and it makes me think more about where my energy and time is being spent.
Now that you’ve “Brain Dumped” and listed the various things of your day under your categories you’re ready to go the next step “Organize” which is where you block schedule.
Organize Your Day with Block Scheduling
The 2nd step is “Organizing” by block scheduling your day. Now that you’ve grouped items together based on your values and priorities you’re able to see what is driving you instead of feeling like a hamster on a hamster wheel just checking off items on your to-do list.
For example, when I organized my daily tasks based on my values I was able to see that I value connection so that is why I’m meeting with a friend for tea. I value service in our community and my faith that is why I’m leading a bible study in my neighborhood. It’s no longer just another thing to do it’s living out my values.
Name Your Blocks-– You’ll need to come up with your block names based on what you do in your day. I would stick to 7 blocks or less. You can divide your blocks into things like: morning, mid-morning, lunch, afternoon, and evening or whatever works for you. If you work you can have morning, work, lunch, work, family, night. Do whatever works for your season of life but don’t use too many blocks.
Also, you only want to have one block schedule for your week but if your days vary because one day you work and the other you don’t then it’s fine that you have 2 block schedules but you don’t want to create more than 2 schedules other wise you won’t be successful in sticking to that many schedules.
Then fill each block with the list of things you need to accomplish in your day based on your “brain dump” list. The image below is an example of my schedule and how I broke it down into 7 blocks but it can be fewer blocks. I work from home so that is why you see “work” as two of my blocks. The blocks and tasks will look different for everyone since all of our schedules and commitments vary from family to family.
- Morning 6:30-9:30
Exercise, Read, Breakfast, Connect with God, 5-minute clean-up(dishes, floors), meal plan
- Work 9:30-11:30
Write, clients, course work, teach
last 30 minutes check email and phone use
Lunch 11:30-12:30 – Eat, connect with friends (in-person or online) read
- Work 12:30-2:00p.m.
Work, grocery shopping, errands, dinner prep
- Afterschool 2:00-5:00
Kid pick-up, help with homework, connect with kids, lessons
while kids are doing screen time, outdoor playtime- finish up loose ends at work, laundry in wash, relax
- Family 5-9
dinner, showers, house walk-through, get a load of laundry in the dryer, connect with God as a family
- Night 9-10:30
relax, watch a show, catch up with spouse, lights out by 10:30 no screens
After they are in bed then I either have some me time, finish up some work, just sit and read, catch up with the hubby, watch a show with my husband, projects for myself or hang out with friends… I really try not to work in this time but some days it’s inevitable. My goal is to be in bed by 10 p.m. and lights out by 10:30 because I need sleep. I’m normally a night person and can stay up late but I have found that going to bed by 10p.m. helps me function a bit more easily the following day.
I only use this system for the weekdays, during the weekend I still block schedule but it’s with lots of time flexibility.
Step 3 is Action, so we must keep in mind that you can have the best of systems but if you don’t put them into action they will fail. It’s all about setting boundaries but being flexible enough to go with the curveballs thrown in your day. Otherwise, you find yourself stressing because you still haven’t exercised and now it’s lunch.
The beauty of a balanced life is intermingled with grace and boundaries for yourself and for others.
So hopefully, this has encouraged you to come up with a block schedule and come up with a routine for your day. As I said, I’m very much all over the place and do things as they come to mind or have the desire to do but what I have been doing to help me stay on task is I keep a to-do list and I write those things down so that I can come back to them later when that block of time comes up.
Click here–> Daily Block Schedule (1) for a FREE copy of the block schedule shown above.
The fourth step is to reflect. You may need to reaccess the efficiency of your schedule and tweak it here and there but I wouldn’t do that too often. You want to try it for at least a couple of weeks before you do any major changes.
Key to Planning a Successful Day
The key to a successful day is to come up with a loose but boundary-filled day that is organized into blocks that will help you be more productive.
The key is creating several l smaller to-do lists each day under each block… and then you tackle each of those smaller to-do lists during different “blocks” of time throughout the day.
You also want to schedule things in those blocks based on the time you’re most productive. In general, most people are productive in the morning hours so you want to make sure to schedule the things that involve you sitting or require some brainpower in the morning.
Our screens are quickly becoming a distraction in our day and keeping us from getting our tasks done so I would highly recommend you schedule screen time in your day. For me, that looks like I don’t look at my phone until 10:30 a.m. for the most part. Sometimes I may check the weather or use my Bible app but I keep it to only doing that one thing and quickly turn it off. Also, make sure you schedule in rest and time for yourself if it’s not a part of your categories.
Block Scheduling will help you figure out what you should be saying “no” to and will keep you focused. This block scheduling routine gives me a simple way to plan my day by focusing on the 4 things that I value and want in my day. Block schedules also help me be more productive. The blocks serve as “deadlines” because now the task has to be done in that block timeline.
Just remember to give yourself grace. I know that when I get to rigid with my schedule the minute something doesn’t go as planned then I just throw the whole day out the window. Remember the block scheduling is to create freedom and margin in our life.
If you need help becoming more purposeful with your day I’d love to help you through a life coaching session. I am a certified life coach and I help women go from frazzled days to purposeful days. If you’re feeling like you’re being pulled in every direction and you have no time for yourself or what is most important to you, I’d love to help you re-align your time to what matters most to you. You will learn how to assess your day and you’ll get the tools you need to prioritize your day with the things that are most important to you. You can get more information HERE.
Make sure to stop by Day 1 – 3 Simple Steps to Create a Family Mission Statement if you missed it.