Time Block Your Way to a Balanced Life

Confession: My to-do list just isn’t to-doing it for me right now.

I’m in one of those busy seasons. You know the kind. Where the squeaky wheel gets the grease and tyranny of the urgent rules the day.

The coronavirus pandemic has propelled us into a world filled with an obstacle course of challenges, from the “virtual learning” hurdles to the “working remotely” high jump to the “managing a household” triathlon, all while caring for our loved ones, staying healthy (and sane!), and trying to remain productive.

It’s the kind of busy season where, for me at least, not only does a to-do list not help, it actually makes me just want to toss it in the trash. When the to-do list gets too long and I don’t even know where to start, I have a tendency to procrastinate, which makes the overwhelm even worse.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love a good to-do list as much as the next person. There are times when nothing is more gratifying than swirling off the tasks one by one. But then there are other times when the list gets so long it actually becomes de-motivating.

Yep, I’m in the kind of busy season where I would rather withdraw to the comfort of the couch than write one. more. essay. for grad school, run yet another load of laundry, make dinner (again?), or wash a single dish.

But, guess what? I’m not caving in.

As a matter of fact, I’m kicking butt.

I’ve implemented a new way to plan my days that is seriously changing my life.

It’s called time blocking.

Here’s how time blocking works for me:

In the morning, when I’m most energized, I evaluate and prioritize what has to get done that day. Then I literally break my day into 15/30/60-minute chunks and assign each item a time block.

On days I need some form of human interaction, I block time for a walk with a friend. On weeks where I have two papers and a presentation due, I block time to work. I need movement to stay energized, so I intersperse sitting and moving tasks to keep the momentum flowing. And then, because we all need “me” breaks, I block time for a nap or a bath or a glass of wine on the back patio. And miraculously, I find that there is indeed enough time in a day to get it all done.

I just have to be intentional.

Unlike the to-do list, which can go on forrrrrrreeeeeeeeverrrrrr…time blocking helps me make a realistic plan of what I can actually accomplish in a day and helps me get it done.

When I recently shared time blocking tips with one of my high school tutor students, she was skeptical. “But, Miss Hauser, there’s never any time to have fun!”

Oh, but yes there is! And it’s guilt free fun, as a matter of fact. Because I know that when I meet with a friend, or watch a movie with my kids, or chill on the patio, I can be fully present, without the stressful to-do list lurking in the back of my mind the whole time.

I know exactly when “it” will get done. It WILL get done.

If you’re in a busy season like me, I encourage you to try time blocking. There are many helpful websites to get you started. The key is to get started. Don’t let that to-do list make a mockery of your strength and skills, my friends.

Let’s do this. We own it.

Alisa’s 15 minutes of fame was as a news reporter just after college. These days, she embraces multiple roles – a mom of three (two teenagers and one who is #adulting), a graduate student at UT Dallas Jindal School of Management, and a freelance writer, editor, and tutor. When she’s not hiding out in the library, you can find her next to a chiminea fire on her back patio. She loves indie movies, eclectic music, random road trips, hole-in-the-wall restaurants, her kids, and her cat Jack Jack (although not necessarily in that order). She grew up as a military brat, residing in four countries and eleven states before settling in the Dallas area. After 20 years here, and with the help of her Aggie daughter, she can seamlessly use “y’all” and “howdy” in a sentence like a true native Texan.