When my son was first born, it was an interesting transition for me to add in being a mom to being a full-time work from home entrepreneur. I was very used to running my own schedule and very quickly had to figure out how to run my six-figure business while being on a new little human’s schedule. Enter: flexible time blocking.
A friend recently asked me how I manage to do everything that I do. And at first I didn’t know what to say. Then I realized that I actually have a really efficient system in place that helps me prioritize efficiently and reach my goals.
What is flexible time blocking?
So first of all, what exactly is flexible time blocking? It’s essentially viewing your schedule in flexible periods of time.
But you can be flexible in both the time periods and what you do in those hours.
For example, based on our current schedule, I know that I can have until about 10 or so in the morning as potential child-free time. I’m usually point-parent most of the day but this is the time my husband spends one-on-one time with our son. I also have nap time and then after bed time available to me.
So within those time periods I have to prioritize what I need to focus on. These are usually either work or self-care/rest.
Whenever I know there are things I have to get done whether it’s client work, my own deadlines, or something else, I prepare as much as possible in the night or morning time blocks. My nap time time block is generally reserved for executing whatever needs to be done that day or self-care.
Self-care is a really important part of my day. I’ve talked about it frequently with Marina on the podcast, but I always say that we need to carve out an hour of the day just for us to do whatever it is that brings us joy. Sometimes for me that means taking a mid-day bath and reading. Other times it might be a nap of my own during nap time. Or exercising. I always try to have at least an hour a day to myself but when this hour happens on a specific day varies by the other things I need to do that week.
An example of my time-blocked schedule:
Here’s an example of what a day might look like for me:
- 8-10am: answering emails, admin tasks, calls, writing, and breakfast.
- 10-12pm: playing with my son, art time or sensory play, lunch for him.
- 12-12:30pm: wind down for nap
- 12:30-2: lunch, writing, scheduling, editing, graphics, filming, podcast recording, etc.
- 2-5pm: more play with my son, a walk, snack, etc.
- 5-5:45pm: dinner
- 5:45-7pm: household chores, play, bath time, wind down for bedtime
- 7pm+: anything we need to finish for the house, work I want to get done (like this post!), reading, exercise, shower, TV, reading, bed.
As you can see, not all of the activities are set in stone and things might get moved around depending (the flexible part of time blocking), but this is generally how my schedule is blocked for now.
My time blocks also looked very different when my son was younger. I did a lot of work standing at the counter while he napped in the baby carrier on my chest. You gotta do what you gotta do!
My secret Time-Maximizing Strategies:
There are a few additional strategies I use to complement my time-blocked schedule to help my manage my priorities and keep everything running smoothly.
A Weekly To-Do List
One of the first changes I made to my work structure was going from a daily to-do list to a weekly one.
With kids, you literally never know how the day is going to go or what emergency might pop up. It’s just part of the territory as a parent. I kept finding that there were at least 2-3 days a week that nothing on my to-do list got done — and that’s okay!
Switching to viewing my to-do list in a weekly format helped me understand that it was fine to have those blocks of time where I couldn’t get what I wanted — or needed — to get done. It just meant that I had to find another time that week to do it.
Switching to this method helped my organize my weekly to-do list with 3 top priorities in mind and not sweat so much about the rest.
I also write my priorities down in my paper planner for the days they have to be done by. I also frequently move my to-dos throughout the week to keep on track. It’s very simple – don’t overthink it.
Systems Within Flexible Time Blocking
I am a big fan of setting up systems for yourself. Systems are essentially streamlining your tasks to make sure everything runs as it should.
We have a system in my home for the dishes. My husband empties the dishwasher and puts all of the dishes away in the morning. I wash all of the dishes and run the dishwasher at night. It’s a clear division of responsibilities and a system that ensures we have clean dishes the next day. Plus, it means no one is panicking when there are no clean milk cups. It’s a very straightforward thing but it leaves no question to who is supposed to do what. I’d bet you have something similar in your house, too.
So, why not set up similar things for your business or work? Some of my personal systems for my business involve outsourcing. I’ve outsourced things that take me a lot of time but also don’t require me to oversee everything.
I also have systems in place that happen on specific days each month. When I’m looking at my calendar of to-dos I know exactly what I need to prioritize.
When setting up your systems, ask yourself:
- what do I personally have to do?
- what can I outsource?
- are all of these tasks absolutely required and essential?
- does this system reduce my stress or add to it?
- am I communicating my needs clearly?
Your systems should reduce stress, streamline processes, and run efficiently. It might take a few tries to get it right, but it’s worth it!
An Editorial Calendar
My calendars are planned out a month in advance. They are somewhat flexible but I generally know the scope of what is happening for the next month. This helps my keep myself focused on what I need to get done each week without having to spending an overwhelming amount of time thinking about it.
Flexible Time Blocking in the Time of Corona
Covid-19 means that my husband is currently working from home as well which makes my life way easier. He isn’t available all day of course, but it means that he is able to help me out more easily throughout the day than if he wasn’t here.
If it wasn’t for Covid-19, my son would be in daycare a few days a week. That would have meant that I would have those days to dedicate solely to work. It’s our personal choice that he won’t be going back for the foreseeable future, but that’s also why it’s so important for me to manage my time efficiently.
How do you manage your schedule as a mom? I’d love to know any productivity secrets you may have!