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Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The Block Schedule Experiment

Last year, I experimented with different schedules. My goal was to find a way to manage my day so I could maximize my writing, keep social media to a reasonable percentage, and carve out times for errands, prayer, and my own life. It worked wonderfully!

But...

When I stopped paying attention to my "blocks," my writing life slipped into a big blob of do-it-however-I-can. I'm much less productive when I don't have a system.



Sure, I write out my daily goals, but too often, I don't meet them all, or I let the other things important in my life slide behind less important tasks.

Now that I've returned from conference, I'm starting a new book. It's the perfect time to bring back my block schedule! I've decided to make it a 6 week experiment. At the end of 6 weeks, I'll evaluate what I've accomplished, how I felt during the process, and if anything could be adjusted to make life better.

So what is a block schedule? It's where you carve your time into blocks and assign each block a task.

I'm very, very blessed to be a stay-at-home mother with kids in school full time (lest you get TOO jealous, remember, I don't collect a paycheck! Trust me, there is a downside!). I have different time opportunities than someone with a full time job or with small children at home.

We all have to look at our days and be realistic about what we can do with them. Some writers may only have 30 minutes a day to devote to writing. Some might only have one day a week. Others might have every day available.

I spent years with little to no time for my writing, and I waited patiently, always learning, always reading, until the day came I could devote a large chunk of my day to it. I do NOT take a single minute for granted. After 4:30pm, my focus shifts to my family. I'm often shuttling kids to activities and sports, helping with homework, cooking, and trying to fit a short walk with my mini-dachshund in. So I limit my block schedule to the time I have available.

I break my day into 30 minute blocks. I work from 8:00am to 4:30pm. This gives me 17 blocks to work with. Since writing or writing related activities (plotting, writing, revising) are always my top priority, I reserve roughly 50% of my blocks (8 or9) for them. Sometimes I'll take 1 or 2 blocks away to write blog posts or critique.

Social media is fun for me. I didn't spend much time online all year, but I miss it and want to get back into it on a regular basis. I reserved 4 or 5 blocks for this, which ends up being between 24 and 29% of my workday.

For over a year, I became too obsessed with getting things done, and my eating habits and quiet time went haywire. No more. I set one block aside for lunch, and I set another block aside to have quiet time (and afternoon tea!) with God. These two blocks are very important to me. They keep me calm and focused.

Since my kids come home during this time, I also reserve one block to just relax with them and hear about their day. That's important to me too. :)

That's my schedule. What do you do to lasso your day?

Have a fantastic day!

33 comments:

  1. You love a good spreadsheet--just like me! :) I get up early and track my daily writing to help me spend my time wisely. I just started an accountability group on Facebook where we can post goals. Let me know if you're interested in joining us, and I'll add you to the list.

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    1. I usually take old printouts and write my day out on them, but I decided to kick it up for my experiment! So much easier to plan out my time! :)

      Thanks for the FB offer. I'm already on a Loop, but I appreciate you thinking of me!

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  2. I don't have a spreadsheet! But I do block times. Especially on the 3 days I don't work and my kids are at school. I break down what writing work is a priority and do that first. I may need a copy of this spreadsheet!

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    1. I usually don't have a spreadsheet either, but I'm serious about getting more done. I can do anything for 6 weeks! We'll see how it works out! :)

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  3. I kind of do block times, but mine aren't set in thirty minutes increments. I have specific times for blogging, specific times for working on my WIP, and specific times for writing related stuff (analyze book, doing work for online courses). That means, don't expect me to checking emails during my WIP time. That's when I go unplugged.

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    1. So smart! I find e-mails have a magical pull over me during the day--I try to fight it too! :)

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  4. Wow-you are so organized! I try to reserve mornings for writing as I think better during that time of day. I do make lists and love to cross off the items.

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    1. Great planning--saving writing when you're at your brightest! Nice!

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  5. Oh, I never looked at it this way. I'm not even sure how I'd break down my day, but I want to play with this. Great, great, great idea Jill!

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    1. I'm sure not everyone has trouble staying focused, but I find it all too easy to take several "breaks" throughout the day that add up to getting nothing done! I just want my day back! :) Let me know how you're playing around goes. ;)

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  6. Ooh, great job on the scheduling. I pretty much do the same thing--minus the spreadsheet. Ha! I have an undying fear of Excel. But yeah, with a day job that gulps down 40+ hours of my week, I have to be picky with the other hours in order to meet writing goals, blog, and you know, do the whole social life thing. :)

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    1. Social life? What's that? Ha! I normally don't spreadsheet, either, but I'm willing to try it for 6 weeks!

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  7. I LOVE this idea!

    I've been trying to figure out how to prioritize my day. As a stay-at-home mom with kids in full day school, I can find myself all over the place. Just might try this. Thanks Jill!

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    1. Same here, Heidi. This helps me stay on track when I have little "just 1/2 hour" extras to do. Try it!

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  8. Pretty much what Melissa said above! I've tried to be really intentional for the next few months about saying no to a lot of "extras." I'm sure when the holidays approach, this won't be so easy.

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    1. Lindsay, one thing I'm adament about--saying yes to extras during the holidays. They're a special time, and they only come around once a year. I've been too rigid in the past. I want to enjoy life!

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  9. Jill, I don't use a spreadsheet, but I've been using block scheduling for a couple of years and it's the only thing that keeps me sane at times. This is a GREAT how-to post for those who haven't tried it. I'm definitely sharing this with my friends!

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    1. Thanks, Edie! So cool that you've found success with block scheduling--woo-hoo!!

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  10. Okay,Jill...now you're talkin' accountability. Ohhhh, scary!

    How do I lasso my day? I live by my datebook, notes app, and sticky notes. You do inspire me to try block scheduling though. I sometimes wish I wasn't such a seat-of-the-pantser. Kind of odd for my Type A personality. Perhaps, you're the motivation I need!

    Go, Jill!!

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    1. As with writing, I think we all have a natural flow to our day. As long as we're productive, why change? :)

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  11. I have a block schedule like this in Excel. I've been meaning to revise it, print it out, and use it. You've inspired me, Jill. Soon. Very soon.

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    1. That's a huge key--revising it to stay current with the realities of our lives. So smart!

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  13. I love this, Jill! I've done the same thing, except with an Excel spreadsheet. (I know...Be afraid, be very afraid...) I haven't focused my time like this for a while, though, and it shows. You might have just convinced me to block my schedule again. :)

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    1. Ha! Ha! Are you laughing your creepy laugh at "Excel" spreadsheet? :) Let me know how it goes!

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  14. My son and I are currently working on a Time-Budget for his schoolwork, chores, etc. It's humbling when I look at how much time I spend...frittering.

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    1. Same here, Erica. I think sticking to this block schedule will take a few days to get used to!

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  15. Great ideas here, Jill!

    I haven't made a spread sheet, or used block scheduling. Like Cynthia, I have a date book, apps, and sticky notes.

    I was blessed not to work when the kids were small, but I work now that they are grown and off on their own life adventures. I did a ton of writing then. I made it like a job - 8 to 4 or 9 to 5 and weekends off. Now I work with my work schedule. I do need to make more time for social media and blogging. That's my goal for this year. Thanks for the inspiration!

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    1. It's hard to find time for everything, isn't it? I always struggle! Good luck!

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  16. Yay for schedules! My littlest is only 16th months now, so I don't get alone time during the day, but I can still get things done. I'm trying to plan my goals for each day and fit them in when I have a chance. It's amazing how much you can get done when you have a goal, a plan, and a good attitude :) Oh, and chocolate. And coffee. Yay, probably a few other things, too...

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    1. What a fun age, Cindy! I love those little toddlers! Chocolate, coffee, good attitude and a plan--now THAT'S a recipe for success!

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  17. Good for you! This is a great idea. I work from home as a medical transcriptionist and do my writing early in the mornings. My days are pretty full, but I do like how you've organized yours.

    Waving and smiling,

    Rhonda Schrock
    www.rhondaschrock.com

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    1. Rhonda, it's really tough to juggle work, family, and writing--I give you a lot of credit! Good luck!

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