Before I discovered the secret to getting more done in a day, I always wished for more time. As the owner of a seven-figure design firm and coaching company, time has been a significant struggle for me. Like a lot of entrepreneurs, I always felt behind and struggled to do everything. Whether it’s managing my product lines, working with high-end design clients, coaching other creatives, or being there for my daughter and husband, I always felt like I couldn’t do it all. And as you can imagine, it was making me feel stressed 24/7. I knew there had to be a better way. Because I couldn’t find one, I decided to create one.
The technique that changed everything
The technique I call “24-hour time blocking” gave me more time for my family, my business, and my self-care. It also increased my creativity and doubled my income in less than a year.
I drew inspiration from the way I do my budget. I created this system because I realized that if I don’t earmark every dollar and only budget for the big stuff, then it ends up dwindling away. Sometimes I even end up overdrawing my account.
The same is true with my time. So I started blocking all 24 hours of my time (mental breaks, yoga workouts, prepping dinner, sleep, everything) into my digital calendar. There is no time unaccounted for. When we are only putting the big stuff in the calendar like a client presentation, a dental appointment, and our daughter’s school play, we find that we end up wasting our time away. Then at the end of the week, we end up having almost nothing to show for it, other than exhaustion and an incomplete list of to-dos.
Why time blocking is freeing
If the thought of earmarking every moment of your time seems too constraining and even claustrophobic, I want you to open your mind to the idea that this practice can actually lead to more freedom. When you do this, you’ll probably accomplish more than you ever did (faster than before), which means having more balance.
To start 24-hour time blocking, plan out one week in your calendar, 24 hours a day. If we want something to get done and we put it in our schedule, it’s a lot more likely to happen. Deciding a certain amount of time a task will take and doing it in that time, with no exceptions, creates even more time. It eliminates fits and starts and keeps you from going into perfectionism mode. When you have a set time limit, you don’t have the luxury of seeing how long something takes. You make it take whatever time you have.
Here are a few 24-hour time blocking tips to get you started.
1. Add color to your calendar
Color-coding your appointments in your digital calendar by type of activity shows you at a glance how balanced (or not) your schedule is. I love this trick because it not only adds a little visual excitement to your plan but also removes some chaos from your life. Put every activity (from sleep to client meetings) on your calendar. A digital version (I use Google calendar) makes this process much easier and more efficient. You can even invite others at work or in your personal life to events and meetings with just a few clicks.
2. Pick your two biggest goals for the week
Do you want to increase your profits? Improve work-life balance? Prioritize wellness? Take your two biggest goals for the week, color-code them, and then, at a glance, you can see if the majority of your goals fall into those categories. Say work-life balance is one of your priorities, and your work blocks are green, and your personal life blocks are yellow. If you see that your calendar is 75% green and 25% yellow, then you know you’re not in balance.
These days, I manage my time (and my free time) by mapping out what I want to do with it. I find a mix of downtime and accomplishing things is the most restful and joyful to me. Even planning my weekends actually creates time for me. When I’m intentional about how to spend my time, I don’t end up working all weekend or bingeing on Netflix when what I really wanted to do was to go for a walk or tackle an organizing project.
3. Create a schedule “protocol”
These are the rules for how you run your schedule that are mandatory, no exceptions.
My protocol includes things like no changes with less than 24-hour notice except true emergencies, completing the task in the allotted time, (even if that means doing “good enough” work), and having a minimum of one week zero-balance time blocking done ahead of time. I honor this protocol every single day, and it’s made an enormous difference in my personal and professional life.
I promise if you do this regularly and consistently, it will start to give you a lot of stress relief and increased productivity, almost immediately. Remember, it’s about getting away from a reactionary mindset and proactively designing your dream life. That way, you can spend most of your time on things that bring you the most meaning and happiness.
Tobi Fairley is an award-winning international interior designer and owner of two seven-figure businesses. You can download downloadable planner, The Creative Entrepreneur’s Guide to Time Management to start scheduling and managing your time in the most effective way.