We get asked quite often from other creatives about time blocking. Do we use it in our business? How do we set it up? The truth is: we hate time blocking. It never worked for our brains, and we kind of thought part of us was broken. We thought it was time blocking or bust, and that if we didn’t time block we must be scattered and fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants type of workers. Well, we don’t really fall into that category either, so what does that mean?
When we created the boards and workflow that we show you inside Trello for Business we like to think of them as a unique marriage of time blocking + organic productivity. Because if you’re anything like us it’s hard for you to commit to specific task days. For example, if we set Monday as writing days and Monday comes and we’re not in writing mode it ain’t happening.
We very much look at the big picture, lay it out in easy to get done chunks, and check off as we go. It doesn’t mean there’s still not structure to our days and weeks, it just looks different. So when some more questions about time blocking came up in our group the other day we found ourselves explaining it like “well, we don’t time block, but we do organize our tasks”. So how is it different? How, if time blocking is something that just doesn’t work for you, can you still be productive?
First, give yourself some grace, you’re not broken. Just because you can’t work in time blocking chunks doesn’t make you unproductive. It doesn’t mean you can’t get just as much done in an organized way. You just need to reframe your thinking.
It's definitely helped me assign due dates to aaaaaall my ideas and tasks to actually get shit done. And, breathe :-) My life was cluttered in lists and ideas that kept floating around in my head, they are now getting the pretty little card and deadline they deserve. And I get to exercise, have my nails done, and smell the roses while getting more done. - Marie
Secondly, the way that we show you how to use Trello inside our program Trello for Business is truly a new way to look at getting your to-do list done. It’s not time blocking, and it’s not scattered either. Let us break it down for you.
Brainstorm all the ideas
Map out the big picture
Pull out projects that can happen next
Get to the nitty gritty
Go week by week, day by day
Here’s the thing. A creative’s brain never stops. A small business owner’s brain never stops. So we think that something as rigid at time blocking has to be the answer to our problems. But that rigidity is sometimes, well, too rigid. It doesn’t allow for creative freedom and whitespace. It doesn’t leave room for your mood or life.
By starting with the brainstorm you’re able to get all those hairbrained ideas out of your head and into the physical space (hello, good juju). Just by getting those out into the world you’ll be able to sleep better tonight we guarantee it (#NotADoctor).
Once you see all those wild ideas, you can now begin to ask yourself which ones can happen now. Which ones seem the most fun, the most rewarding (financially and soulfully) and which ones are in my wheelhouse to get done now? Moving things out of the “would be nice” list to the “okay, let’s make this happen” list really reigns in your focus.
So once we’ve pulled out the projects that can happen now we like to go into launch mode. You might need to reframe your head around the word “launch” at this point. You can “launch” your blog even if you already have a website. You can “launch” a course or a coffee mug. You can “launch” a Facebook group or a social media marketing strategy.
So let’s go into launch mode for 2-3 things. No more. Do not stockpile your launch pad with all your dreamy to-dos. Let’s tackle just a few at a time.
Okay so say we’ve got three things in launch mode. Maybe you’re going to launch:
A blog (on your pre existing website)
A better (or actual) Instagram strategy
An line of coffee mugs
Each of these would live as their own launch with their own tasks. You want to now break down all the nitty gritty details and steps it’s going to take to make these things happen. Some example steps for launching a blog might look like this:
Decide if you can add a blog onto your current website
Design what the blog page looks like
Decide on how often new content is coming out
Poll audience or ask questions to figure out blog niche
Decide if you’re going to offer content upgrades to posts
Research how to add content upgrades to posts
Brainstorm ideas on what to write
Outline/write X blog posts (depending on how often you’re putting new content out)
Decide what your blog graphic should look like
Design blog graphic
Format blog post
Create social media workflow for posting new content
There are details we’re missing for sure, but this gives you a good idea as to how detailed you should be getting in this step. Now, here’s the most important part of the entire process.
Assign dates to each and every task.
This right here is the make it or break it factor. This is the difference between “I’m thinking about it” and “I’m doing it”.
Inside Trello for Business we walk you through exactly how we do this in our own business for tasks like blogging or product launching. We’ve got the workflows built right in for you so you don’t even need to think about those aspects . Then it’s as simple as looking at your calendar and moving the current week pieces to, well, your current week.
So come any day during that week, you’re only looking at the tasks that need to be tackled that week. Your big picture plan is on an entirely other board so your little biz brain won’t get distracted.
Can you see how this is semi-time blocking, but not? It’s like task blocking. With freedom. Because now that you’re just looking at your 5 day (or whatever day) workweek you can move around tasks as your mood or life sees fit.
Realistically you’d have other tasks on your week like client work, other content creation, and steps of your other launches (like the Instagram and coffee mug collection). But at one glance you see if Tuesday would be a great day for brainstorming blog ideas of if you can can swap a task from Thursday instead. You aren’t harming the flow because you have all week to get it done. Just don’t not do things, silly.
With this method you’ll be checking off things like hotcakes, because you are giving yourself the space to breath. You’re working on multiple launch tasks so you don’t get bored. You’re tackling the bigger picture steps that make a launch successful into tiny doable chunks.