You ever get to the end of a long and busy day and feel like you got absolutely nothing done? Sure, you changed a thousand diapers and have the spit up scars as evidence of how your day went. But, the laundry remains unfolded and the dishwasher is only half emptied. And forget about that personal project you had hoped to work on for a little “me time.” This is where time blocking comes in.
Time blocking is the science of taking an entire day and break it down into chunks. It allows you to realistically create a “to-do list,” while accounting for all of the things that don’t typically go on the list, but are worthy of taking up time (changing diapers, making lunch, kissing booboos, playing, etc.)
Here’s what time blocking might look for the rest of the world:
- 7-9 a.m Get up/eat breakfast/get dressed
- 9-11:30 a.m. Tackle most important project
- 11:30 a.m. – 12 p.m. Answer e-mails
- 12-1 p.m. Lunch
- 1-3 p.m. Brainstorm ideas for a new project
- 3-4:30 p.m. Meeting with coworkers
- 4:30-5:30 p.m. Answer e-mails
- 5:30-6 p.m. Reflect on the day and create the next day’s schedule
- 6-8 p.m. Family time
- 8-10 p.m. Me time
You might be thinking “A two hour block to focus on one project?! You gotta be kidding me. I’m lucky if I have 5 minutes of uninterrupted time.” But here is where time blocking can be so valuable to stay at home moms.
Instead of scheduling down to the minute what your day looks like, you schedule in blocks. Say, for instance, it only takes you 15 minutes to fold the laundry if you’re uninterrupted. With a typical to-do list, you might be tempted to write a bunch of items like this, regardless of the time they actually take to do.
It might seem easy at the start of the day to write on your to-do list:
- Fold laundry
- Get freezer meal into the crock pot
- Empty dishwasher
- Wipe down counter
- Vacuum living room
Uninterrupted, this list might only take 45 minutes to do. Hence why you feel like a failure when you get to the end of the day and the only thing that has been done is folding half of the laundry.
Why? That’s because our time is interrupted. All. The. Time. It is full of interruptions, both good and annoying. And to make it worse, sometimes our work is reversed, like the time my one year old pulled all the clean, folded laundry off of the bed and threw it on the floor. (He thought it was hilarious. Me, not so much.)
Time blocking for stay at home moms
Here’s how to set up your time block:
- Take a piece of paper and write each hour of the day on the left side of the paper. For example, if your day is 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., write 7 a.m. at the top followed by 8 a.m., 9 a.m., 10 a.m. etc all the way down to 11 p.m.
- Write in the already scheduled blocks. I.e. 7-9 a.m. might be getting ready and breakfast, you might have an activity scheduled for 10-11 a.m. and nap time is 1-3 p.m.
- Keep in mind that many activities require “prep time.” For storytime at the library, you have to account for the time it takes you to get out the door and the time it takes to drive there. For nap time, there might also be diaper changes, potty breaks, time to read a book or rock and sing songs, etc.
- With your open blocks, write in the things you’d like to get done that day, whether it’s the boring stuff (chores and the like) or the fun stuff (doing a craft together or taking extra time to read new books).
How big are your blocks?
Back when I had one child, my blocks were each about one hour long. I knew that with all the interruptions, it would take about one hour to empty the dishwasher or vacuum the living room. The exception to this was putting a load in the washer or switching a load from washer to dryer. I could schedule two of those items in one hour.
So, if between all our activities and routine stuff I had an extra four hours, I knew that I could only schedule four items to do that day. If I only had two extra hours, that meant only two things were getting done.
Ever since having our second, each block has gotten much bigger. In fact, there are many days when I struggle to get even one thing done outside of childcare. And that’s all right. It’s okay for a day or even a week to be a wash. Give yourself grace and allow yourself to be human.
Your blocks may be an hour long or bigger or smaller. You may decide to schedule one item per block and spread your to-do items out throughout the day, or you might find it easier to do all the things on your list during one block. Maybe it’s easier for you to have a one hour clean-like-mad session in the morning or during naptime where you run around and get as much stuff done as possible.
Make small tweaks
The important thing is to try it out, then make small tweaks until you find exactly what works for you. Time blocking not only helps you create realistic expectations, it also motivates you to be more productive. Imagine the difference between accomplishing 100% of the days goals (4 out of 4) vs. only crossing a few off a list that’s a mile long.
Make consistent progress every day and you will start to see results. In fact, I bet you will see better results every day than if you try to move mountains then get frustrated and give up on the rest of the week or month.
I’d love to hear about your experience! Do you use time blocking for creating your schedule or to-do list?