237: What Is Time Blocking and How Do You Time Block?

237: What Is Time Blocking and How Do You Time Block?


In this episode, I discuss the concept of time blocking, explaining what it is and how it can improve productivity and prevent burnout. I shares examples and tips for effective time blocking, including prioritizing tasks and aligning them with energy levels. I also acknowledge that this approach might not work for everyone and share alternative approaches for those who prefer more flexibility in their schedules.

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237: What Is Time Blocking and How Do You Time Block?


Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: [00:00:00] Welcome to the top rated and award nominated grad school femtoring podcast, the place for first gen BIPOCs to learn about all things grad school, personal development, and sustainable productivity. This is Dr. Ivette Martinez Vu, and I will be serving as your femtor. Providing you with tips and tricks and everything else you need to know to successfully navigate grad school and beyond.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: For over 13 years, I've been empowering first gen students of color along their academic and professional journeys, and I'm really excited to support you too.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: This episode is brought to you by listeners like you. As many of you know, I started this podcast four years ago to provide a space to empower first gen BIPOCs as they pursue higher ed. Over time, I've also been able [00:01:00] to uplift voices of those systemically excluded from the ivory tower. Now that the show has grown, however, the podcast requires financial support to sustain itself.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: If you are a loyal listener, you can provide a monthly or one time donation at the links provided in my show notes. And if you are a mission driven company or organization interested in sponsoring an episode, please contact me at gradschoolfemtoring at gmail. com so that you can learn more about my sponsorship packages.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: If you found this podcast valuable in any way, shape, or form, I really hope you'll consider investing in the show. Every little bit helps. Now, back to the episode.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: Welcome back everyone to another episode of the Grad School Femtoring Podcast. This is your host, Doctora. Yvette, today's episode is all about time blocking. I'm gonna be covering what is time blocking and how time [00:02:00] blocking works. I decided to record on this topic because. It has come up on multiple occasions in my productivity coaching sessions.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: It is one of many time management methods or techniques that you can try out for yourself to help you to improve your productivity, your efficiency, uh, to do things with more ease and less stress, and hopefully, eventually, um, help you to prevent or, or overcome burnout. So that's that. The goal is always like, let's.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: Reduce any harm. Let's improve your wellbeing and let's find ways for you to work that feel good to you. So I'm gonna be talking about time blocking. I'm not saying that everybody needs to do it. I'm not saying that it's going to work for everyone. I just want to clarify. This is not a prescriptive approach.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: Uh, in terms of how I support people. I do introduce it because in some [00:03:00] cases it can be quite helpful, but if it doesn't work for you after trying it out, that's completely okay too. So I just wanted to just mention that I. As a kind of warning or caveat and then go into the topic for today. So what is time blocking?

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: Like I said, it's a time management method and when you time block, you are breaking things down on your calendar. You're. Delineating blocks of time in your calendar for specific types of tasks, for groups of tasks, for similar types of tasks, for ca tasks that can be categorized in one way or another. So you're blocking out chunks of time, or some people call this chunking, like quite literally chunking out your calendar.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: It might mean blocking out two to three hour blocks of time. Uh, sometimes it's as little as an hour of time, and in that time you've allocated a certain [00:04:00] type of task for it. So I may give you an example. I work with undergrads, grad students and faculty members. I work with some working professionals. I was recently working with a grad student.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: And in this case, uh, she needed support with time blocking as she prepares for her qualifying exams. And so in her scenario. She has different courses that she's taking that take up some of her time. She has to make time for exam prep, and then of course she has personal responsibilities and so we broke up her calendar based on the courses that she's taking.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: So it could be in your case, course one, course two, course three. The exam prep that she needs to work on, and the exam is divided into three different committee members and the types of reading lists that she has for these committee members. So then that got broken up into three other categories. So course [00:05:00] one, course two, course three, exam one, exam two, exam three.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: And then the personal responsibilities. I like to make sure that that's also a category because you need to take care of yourself, even if. You are in a season of your life where you are making some sacrifices, especially some time and energy sacrifices that are temporary to reach a certain goal. You still wanna make sure that you take care of yourself.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: You don't wanna sacrifice everything you know for the sake of this temporary win. So yeah, include your personal responsibilities, and then after that you want to rank your categories. So let's say. You know, going back to if you're a grad student, maybe you are. Maybe you have three courses, maybe you have three, um, reading lists.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: Maybe you have te a teaching commitment. You're teaching on the side and you have your personal responsibilities. In this case, you have several categories. You have the three courses. You [00:06:00] have the three exam prep, that's six. Then teaching, that's seven. And then the personal responsibilities, that's eight categories.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: So now we have to block out time in your calendar. For those eight categories. If, um, when you're blocking out time, you want to start with the high priority tasks. And one of the things that I like to, to make sure that folks do is okay, break down your life into the categories that you can. You know, organize them under some sort of umbrella categories.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: Then rank them what is the most important thing right now. So what is the single most important thing that would move the needle forward for you in terms of your biggest goals? And so in this client's case, it's the exam prep. So the exam prep goes at the top of the list next after that. It's maybe one of the courses that is directly or tangentially or in some way related to the exam prep is gonna help her with the exam prep.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: So then that comes next. Then of course [00:07:00] you get to decide where you wanna put your personal responsibilities. Some of us put it at the very top, you know, for some folks it comes, you know, after the high priority exam prep. Uh, so in her case, let's say it goes after the high priority exam prep, and then we've got the other courses, and then at the bottom of the list is the teaching.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: This is a good reminder that even if you have a passion for something, even if you are really committed to doing something, sometimes you're gonna have seasons where that thing, in this case, teaching might be at the bottom of your list, and so you have to be okay with doing good enough work. That doesn't mean that you're a bad teacher.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: That doesn't mean that you are going to have a poor performing class. It just means you're not going to devote as much time as you previously thought you would during this season or during this period. Sometimes you're, uh, as you're categorizing, let's say you categorize everything and then you're starting to [00:08:00] find blocks of time on your calendar for it.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: You find that there isn't enough time for everything, and so this is when you have to make very difficult decisions around, okay, so if I, if I literally do not have enough time on my calendar to get to all of these things, then what do I need to put on pause? What can I say no to? What can I delegate?

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: What can I do less of? It's not easy to do this, but. When you put it all down on your calendar, it becomes, uh, easier to like, quite literally see what you do and don't have time for. So I recommend starting with creating those categories. Those are gonna be your time blocks from there. Ranking them from there.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: Trying to find time for each of them, starting with the stuff at the top of your ranking, the most important categories. Now, another way to [00:09:00] even further. Optimize your time blocking is by thinking about your energy levels. So for me, I am someone who, I have very, very low energy levels in the mornings. I actually feel quite sick in the mornings, so that for me.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: Is a time block where I cannot expect myself to do, um, high intensity, high energy, high focus tasks that for me is my lowest energy, lowest focus time of day. So you figure out, are you someone who works best in the mornings? Are you someone who works best in the afternoons? Are you someone that works best in the evenings?

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: And to the extent possible, schedule things out so that you're aligning your high. Priority, high importance categories with a time of day that you feel the most energetic, the most focused, the most alert. So for me, that usually means allotting some [00:10:00] afternoon time for these high importance tasks because I know that's when I am feeling my best.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: So keep that in mind. I also know that sometimes we have required commitments. Sometimes we are in jaws where we have no control over our hours. There is some degree of inflexibility that might also impact your time blocking. But again, work with what you have, so work with the time slots that are available to you.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: This might even mean thinking about how you might be more intentional around how you use your weekend time. You know, sometimes some work bleeds into the weekends, but you'd. You may not want that to be the case all the time. So if you do have some occasional weekends that you work, maybe having a time block for that as well so that you have a clear start and end time for whatever it is that you're doing and prioritizing.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: So, um, I'm trying to think about, uh, I'm gonna keep this episode short, but time blocking as using a year paper or digital [00:11:00] planner to block out chunks of time. Based on categories of work that you do, starting with the highest priority first, trying to align those things with the time of day that you have the most energy.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: And then if you find yourself running out of. Time running out of space on your planner, on your calendar for all of the things reconsidering, what can I put a pause on? What can I say no to? What can I delegate? These are the difficult decisions you're gonna have to make to ensure that you physically are capable of physically, mentally, spiritually, all the things are capable of doing all the things that you are trying to prioritize right now.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: Um, lastly, I just wanna say if you wanna try it out, if you've never done time, time blocking before, test it out for a week or two and see how it feels. So let's say you do it for a week or two weeks. At the end of that week or two week period, [00:12:00] uh, go back actually and figure out like, how well did I actually keep to the time blocking?

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: Did I, was I able to maintain it? If not, then why not? Did, did you over schedule yourself? Um, are the time blocks too rigid for you? Perhaps? Are you doing too much or are you not feeling a sense of urgency? Maybe you are blocking out times for doing certain things, but you just don't have that accountability or that urgency to get those things done.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: Sometimes time blocking is just not the thing for you. It just doesn't work for you to schedule things out based on specific blocks of time. I know some folks that work best with a lot of flexibility in their schedule, kind of working in a state of flow, and if that's the case, I think that. I have another suggestion, and again, it might or might not work for you, but I've seen that having themed days can also be [00:13:00] quite helpful.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: So maybe Mondays are your planning and admin days. Maybe Tuesdays are your exam prep days. Maybe Wednesday is course prep day. Maybe Thursday is going back to exam prep Friday. Is more exam prep. Saturday is personal life. Sunday is, you know, whatever you name it. But having, um. Themed days where you tell yourself no matter what, even if your schedule is relatively flexible, you will touch that theme each day that could work for you.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: So those are just some two suggestions. Test it out. Let me know how it goes. If you do try it out, please send me a dm, send me an email. I always love to hear from my audience members if anything that I share is helpful for them. Alright y'all. That's it for today's episode. I hope y'all have a wonderful rest of your week.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: I'll talk to you all next time.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: Thanks so much for joining me in the [00:14:00] Grad School Femtoring podcast. If you like what you heard, here are four ways you can support the show. The first is to make sure you're subscribed and leave a review on Apple Podcasts. The second way is to get your copy of my free Grad School Femtoring Resource Kit, which includes essential information to prepare for and navigate grad school.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: You can access it at the link in today's show notes. The third way to support my show is to follow me on social media. You can find me on Instagram with the handle at gradschoolfemtoring and on LinkedIn by searching my name. The last way to show your love is to sign up to work with me via my Grad School Femtoring Academy, my group coaching program for first gen BIPOCs seeking to work on their personal growth and gain sustainable productivity skills.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: You can learn more at gradschoolfemtoring. com slash academy. Thanks again for listening and until next [00:15:00] time.

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