Increase Productivity By Protecting Your Time

Mondays are productivity days at SimpleProductivity blog.


Photo by kevin dooley

My current client is a tax preparation firm. Since it is tax season in the U.S., I have been working. A lot.

Unfortunately, working has been encroaching on my personal time. And I find that when I do not set the boundaries with my time at work, I get nothing done at night. Or even worse, I get grumpy and resentful about the choices I have made.

So, in an effort to get control of my time and to make better choices, I have started protecting my time. These are the methods I am currently using:

Scheduling

My home and work schedules are laid out in blocks. But within those blocks, there is no structure. I have started hard scheduling things within my days so that I make sure they happen.

I have started scheduling a lunch hour; if I stay at my desk, I will continue to work. I schedule the time when I need to get ready to go home; this is time to wrap up my tasks, write up my day’s work and enter my timesheet.

I have scheduled “unwind” time first thing when I get home. I make myself a cup of tea and sit down with my book for 30 minutes.

I have scheduled my get-ready-for-bed and lights-out time. Without these I end up skimping on sleep.

The secret here is that these are actual events. My lunch time is blocked out on my work calendar to prevent meetings being scheduled. All event times are indicated by alarms on my iPod so that I know when to start and/or stop.

What I find is that I am more conscious of my break times (and taking them), and I am getting better about going to bed on time.

Timeboxing

Timeboxing is the allocating of a block of time to a particular activity. This can be used to clear out nagging little tasks, or make a dent on bigger ones.

I use this strategy both at work and home.

At work, I box the morning to work on the big tasks. Anything little, unless it is system critical, waits until 10:30 am. I again block out the time between 12:30 and 2:00 to work on the big projects. This allows me to keep the focus on what I am doing without being pulled into a million directions and lost my train of thought.

At home, I use this to make dents in my writing projects. From 9 pm to 10:15, I am in my writing studio, working on either blog projects or the book. I am much further than I have ever been on previous manuscripts…it will be going to my alpha readers in the next few days!

Timeboxing allows me to focus. Instead of fragmented thought that bears too much resemblance to multitasking, I stay on one task and concentrate.

Isolation

I am very fortunate that my client allows me to work from home occasionally. I have only done it when I have not felt well or when my daughter does not have skill, but I find my productivity soars when I am at home and the only way people can find me is electronic.

I don’t interact much with the people I am sitting around; my clients are in another building, and my boss is on the other side of my building. What I find, though, is that the constant coming and going of people around me distracts me to a certain extent.

At home, I make full use of my writing studio. Although I have a larger space in our shared office, it is too near the core of the house for it not to be distracting. Even if no one is in the room with me, I can still hear the television or stereo in the main living space. My writing studio is sufficiently removed (a closet off the bathroom of the master bedroom) that I can hear very little of what is going on in the rest of the house.

Isolation removes one more level of distraction. With that concentration I can get more done, which means I don’t have to work as long.


By scheduling certain events, timeboxing to concentrate and get through tasks, and isolating myself for efficiency, I am reclaiming my schedule.

What tactics to you use to protect your time? Share below. I would love to add more strategies to my toolbox.


Photo by kevin dooley

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Comments

  1. says

    LJ, this is a super helpful detailed account of using your calendar, with time boxing, to be mindful and “single task” – something I find helpful for me too.
    For example, because I know Mondays are dedicated to money management and bigger marketing projects, any “to do” items that emerge during the week get slotted for the next Monday and don’t take me off-task on my client-focused days.
    Thanks for this useful post!

    • LJ Earnest says

      I am glad you found it useful. I have been struggling with getting my time under control, and it really helped to clarify the techniques I know so that I could apply them.