» Time Blocking for Success

Photo by Anna Liz Photography

This article was written by Bethel Nathan, Owner & Business Coach/Speaker at Elevate by Bethel.

For quite a few years, the business buzz was all about multi-tasking. The ability to juggle multiple tasks at the same time seems like a no-brainer when it comes to good tools to have in your personal toolbox.  However, many of us found that we weren’t good multi-taskers – and even when we were managing to do it, it seemed inefficient, and what we were doing is better-called task-switching. And now, many studies have confirmed what we experienced – rarely are you doing two things well at the same time, and it was found to decrease productivity by a good 40%, as it takes time to switch your mind/mindset from working on one task to another.   

Thus, came the idea of time blocking: focusing on one task, or a set of very similar tasks, for a long enough time period to gain efficiency.  Here you identify different tasks that you do on a periodic basis, whether it be daily, weekly, monthly, and for each of those task types, you block a specific amount of time on your calendar for that task. For example, I send all of my couples an anniversary email. So, on my calendar is a block of time at the start of every week in which I create and schedule all of my anniversary emails for the week – it takes much less time to do them all at once than to do a few each day. One wedding planner client creates multiple timelines for upcoming weddings during a single time block. The only thing you are doing within the time block is that certain task or the same type of tasks.  And, you are working on it until either the block of time is used up or until the task is complete. Yes, this means going “old-school” and doing just one thing at a time.

Although time blocking is a simple concept, the set-up and consistent use for a solopreneur or small business can sometimes be challenging, as many of us wear many hats in our businesses. Maybe you are a wedding DJ with a three-hour time block today for you to focus on creating playlists for some upcoming weddings. Then, just as you start, a new inquiry comes in. Do you stop what you are doing and respond to the inquiry? Let’s answer that as we talk about the why and the how of successfully using time blocks in your wedding business.

Why use time blocks?
Time is truly our most valuable asset, because, once used, we cannot get it back. You can make more money but can never make more time. We have only 1440 minutes in a day, and they will pass by no matter how we use them. By using time blocking, we consume our most valuable asset in a more efficient way, giving us some time back that we are likely wasting. That reclaimed time can be used to improve our business or improve our personal lives, or both.   

Is this you? You are a photographer, trying to create an album for your couple, while answering inquiries, and responding to this weekend’s wedding planners.

  • 10 minutes getting everything you need open and ready on your computer and getting focused

  • 20 minutes working on the layout

New inquiry comes in –

  • 10 minutes switching focus to checking your calendar and system and gathering what you need

  • 20 minutes answering the inquiry

  • 10 minutes switching focus back to the album

  • 20 minutes working on the album

Email comes in from this weekend’s wedding planner –

  • 10 minutes switching focus to pulling up what you need to think about for that wedding

  • 10 minutes responding to the email

  • 10 minutes switching focus back to the album

The result: 70 minutes of work with 50 minutes preparing to do work is not very efficient, plus mistakes might have been made along the way with the less-than-perfect focus.  

How to set up and use time blocks

First, identify your repetitive or similar tasks. These could be writing blog or social media posts, communicating with other wedding vendors involved in upcoming weddings, writing ceremony drafts or timelines or playlists, or even doing the bookkeeping.  

Then you need to determine how much time you need to block in each “period” to complete the task(s).  Start with an average and reasonable amount of time for it. For example, if I want to do bookkeeping at the end of each month, and in June it took me 3 hours, July took me 2 hours, and August took me 4 hours, I am going to time block 3 hours at the end of September for bookkeeping, and then add this three-hour block to my calendar on a convenient day each month going forward.   

7 tips to effectively use time blocking:

  • Only work on one thing or similar things during that block. Whether it’s something that requires focus (like timeline or BEO creation), or just needs to get done (like answering emails or admin for recently booked weddings), work on the same or similar things for real efficiency.  

  • Block time in which the concentration level and thought required for the task matches your natural rhythm. If you are most awake and focused in the morning (as my husband is), block some of the more intense tasks during that time and save the more brain-dead tasks for when you are more brain-dead. Personally, mornings are not my thing, so my administrative and brain-dead items are scheduled for the mornings, while my creative and focused time starts mid-day. Find yours.

  • Don’t try to block your whole day or week. Keep open time between the blocks, as well as during the time of day when your specific business needs you to be more flexible to switch tasks.

  • Move time blocks to fit as you arrange your week. If you usually do your bookkeeping for 3 hours on the 4th Friday of the month but will be on vacation or have a wedding on that day, just move the time block to another open time.

  • Reward yourself! Time blocks require focus and discipline, so it is definitely acceptable to give yourself a reward for doing so. For instance, for every 3 hours of focused ceremony writing, I take 20 minutes to play a  game or dance to upbeat music.

  • Use tools and apps to help you focus. I have many that I can suggest to you, and these include turning off notifications on your phone or your email application on your computer, putting on headphones and using something like focus@will, or apps around the Pomodoro technique like Time Timer or even a fun one like Forest (breaks you of the habit of just grabbing your phone as you’re “growing trees” on it instead!).

  • The time blocks you create, and how strictly you adhere to them, will depend on your business model and ideal couples. Responding to inquiries is one of those considerations. Do you need to respond within minutes or is within a few hours okay?  Each of us has a different answer based on our business model and ideal client. Maybe you ask a teammate, employee or virtual assistant to take over responding to inquiries during that time block instead.

I recommend that you start with setting up a few time blocks, see how they work for you and when is best, and then add more each month. The more time blocks you can set up, the more efficiency you will gain, but this should always be balanced with maintaining the appropriate service level or support you provide to your couples.

Bethel Nathan is a San Diego based wedding officiant, business coach, and industry speaker.  Combining her years of corporate and small business experience with a love for marrying awesome couples, Bethel built Ceremonies by Bethel, a successful and award-winning Officiant business.  And although still officiating, Bethel now has another love… helping others turn their passions into successful and sustainable businesses. Learn more at www.elevatebybethel.com.