“If something is going to get done, it must occupy a physical space in your calendar.” —Stephen Covey
Now this sounds really simple—but how often do you say you are going to do something and it never hits your calendar, then never gets done?
If you are like most people, you chronically overestimate what you can do in a day.
In his book, First Things First, Covey tells his famous rock story. In the illustration, he proceeds to fill a glass mason jar with big rocks, then with gravel, then with sand, then water.
If the mason jar represents all the time you have in your week or life, the big rocks represent the most important things that need to go in first. The gravel, sand, and water represent successively less important things we fill our lives with.
If we fill our lives with water, sand, and gravel issues—the big “rocks” will never fit.
What are your big rocks?
Those things need to go into your calendar before the Urgent but Not Important things fill up your week.
The BIG Idea: This is the essence of a productive and impactful life—decide ahead of time what important things are going to get your time, then schedule it so it doesn’t get trumped by less important things.
Don’t fence me in!
Some people say they don’t like time-blocking because it feels too restrictive. But if most of your weeks are filled with great things like exercise, dates with your family, spiritual practices, and your most important work projects—aren’t you going to feel like you had a great week?
And by all means—leave yourself plenty of margin for spontaneity, and rest!
Many years ago, my wife and I took Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University class. I can honestly say it was one of the most life-changing things we have ever done. Research shows that one of the most important things you can possibly do to improve your financial health is to do a monthly budget—so that you consistently decide in advance how you will spend your money, then review how you spent it.
Time blocking is like a weekly budget for your time. You decide in advance how you will invest your time, then regularly look at how you did. It brings us to an entirely new level of accountability and ownership for our lives when we take a close look at how we spend our time.
A 2016 Forbes article interviewed 200 highly successful people including entrepreneurs, Olympians, and billionaires. They argue that putting your highest priorities in your calendar puts you in the top 5% of the most productive people.
Most great thinkers argue that time is a more valuable resource than money. You can make more money, but you cannot make more time.
Time blocking takes a good idea in your head and brings it into the physical world. It turns ideas into actions. You are reserving time in your future to do the things you consider most important.
And it is important to have a specific time. For example, if you decide you are going to exercise Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 6am, you are much more likely to go than if you simply say, “I’ll go three times this week.”
The benefits of time blocking:
- It reduces your reliance on willpower (which typically doesn’t work) by writing it down in your calendar.
- You can schedule the most important tasks as early in the day as possible to ensure they are completed.
- You will finish most days feeling accomplished.
- You will make progress on your most important life goals.
- You can minimize interruptions by protecting the time.
- You are less likely to burn out because you are doing meaningful tasks consistently.
- You can be more realistic about the time it takes to do things once you see it all visually laid out.
- You eventually train people they can’t get an immediate response from you, so people stop expecting this behavior from you.
People are usually aware when they run out of space in the refrigerator—because nothing else fits in it.
But we are much less conscious of the limits of time. Time blocking helps people to take their awareness of the limits of physical space—and apply that awareness to time by looking at your calendar.
Work smarter. Leverage the power of time blocking.
“Spend more time on the few activities in your life that actually make a difference. Learn to let everything else go.”
Your homework—Turn information into action
Try one day this week of blocking your time.
- Schedule your most important task for the day as early as possible.
- Try shutting off your email notifications and put your cell phone in another room for 1 hour.
Have a great weekend!
- Read the rest of this series!
- Stephen Covey—First Things First
- Forbes Article