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Great time management is one of the most essential skills leaders can develop. In fact, being so good at time management that you can pass on your knowledge to your team members may very well be one of the most important skills of all.
If we all have the same amount of hours in a day, why are some of us more productive than others? In this article, I’m going to let you in on a secret weapon to increase your productivity levels on your team: time-blocking. Only then can we run our teams on a more efficient and productive level.
What is time-blocking?
Firstly, let’s give you a proper introduction into what time-blocking is. Time-blocking is when you block off a spot or a chunk of time on your calendar to work on a single task.
When doing this, you are blocking off your time (and your mind) from other projects that you may be typically distracted by. By time-blocking, you eliminate anything that demands your attention outside of the allocated task.
Think of time-blocking as your to-do list, but instead of just telling you what you’re going to do, it also tells you what you’re going to do and when you’re going to do it. If you use this system to block your team’s time, you’ll be able to track their productivity and timing more accurately.
How does it work?
As you know already, every one of your team members works differently. This is why the first step to effective time-blocking is identifying your team’s productivity times. You can do this by monitoring their current regimes and work schedule to take note of how and when they complete tasks.
Without this knowledge, we wouldn’t be able to accurately time-block. Once you’ve completed this first key step, you can now begin time-blocking to plan your team’s schedules with more ease and effectiveness.
Then, you can assign time blocks to each team member for each project they’re currently working on. Adding these blocks as recurring tasks in your team’s schedule is simple — even with a basic tool like Google Calendar.
Importance and urgency
When we talk about time management, we like to use what’s commonly referred to as the “time management matrix.” Others refer to it as the “quadrants.” Whatever you call it, Stephen Covey, the author behind The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, pioneered what’s truly one of the greatest tools when it comes to time management.
You can make your time-blocking technique even more effective when you use the following quadrant systems to prioritize your activities and projects.
1. The first quadrant: Firefighting
The first quadrant is what we refer to as “firefighting.” It represents the activities that are time-sensitive and important to you. These activities can be classified as the following:
- Deadline-driven tasks
- Important daily responsibilities
- Demanding obstacles
- Last-minute financing
- Last-minute repairs
- Paying past-due bills
- Time-sensitive appointments
- Crisis management
2. The second quadrant: Quality time
The second quadrant is what we like to refer to as “quality time.” Even though these activities are just as important as those in the first quadrant, they don’t have to be completed immediately.
As a result, they can be planned for when you can give proper attention to them. These activities can be classified as the following:
- Preparation and planning
- Crisis prevention
- Time-sensitive activities
- Showings, offers and appointments
- Team management
- Skill development
- Family time
- Things done for loved ones
- Lead generation
3. The third quadrant: Deception and distraction
The third quadrant contains what we call “deception and distraction.” These activities are tasks we have deceived ourselves into believing are more important than they are, and we’ve incorrectly categorized them into the first quadrant.
We often get deceived into believing that these activities are important simply because they are urgent. Here are a few things that fall into this category:
- Minor pressing tasks
- Some phone calls
- Most meetings
- Some mail
- Some salespeople
- Some repairs and cleanup
4. The fourth quadrant: Time-wasting
Lastly, the fourth quadrant is what we call “time-wasting.” Some tasks are hard to place. For example, if you are treating yourself to true recreation and relaxation (or resting and renewing yourself), you are in “quality time.”
If the activity you are engaging in really means that you are avoiding a problem and not finding the solution, you are time-wasting. Tasks in the fourth quadrant include:
- Busy work
- Junk mail
- Some phone calls
- Surfing the internet
- Playing games
If you implement time-blocking into your team’s schedule from the start, you will have already pivoted yourself beyond most teams capabilities. We ensure we have clear goals and understand our key performance indicators with team members to not only time-block, but to model a schedule built for performance.
Kathleen Black is the CEO of Kathleen Black Coaching and Consulting in Oshawa, Ontario, Canada. Connect with her on Instagram at @kathleenblackcoaching or through her website ItTakesa.Team.