HUGH CULVER

How I overcame procrastination by blocking time

Updated to Habits, Productivity on January 2, 2023.

You get off the phone with great intentions.

“Yes” you say (full of promise and pride) to your prospect, “I’ll get that proposal to you by Thursday.”

So far so good.

Immediately you note “Send proposal to Joe Blow” (not his real name, hopefully) to your long, growing To-Do list. Or maybe it goes into Outlook Tasks, on an app, or the back of a crusty napkin – whatever.

It goes on a list. And then…

Tuesday goes by.

Wednesday goes by.

Now it’s Wednesday night. And instead of chilling out reading the latest Lee Child with a glass of warm ale, you’re bent over, half-asleep trying to complete a proposal that is probably more important than 80% of the junk on your list, phone calls, interruptions and emails that gobbled up your time in the last two days.

Sound familiar?

Well, you’re a blockhead.

No, actually you need to block time (you might also be a blockhead, but that’s for a future post.)

Let me explain.

Why we make appointments

When I ask audiences if they respond differently when there’s an appointment on their calendar, without exception, they all nod their head. Of course, we do—an appointment represents a commitment attached to a deadline.

You’re either there or you broke the commitment.

“Send proposal to Joe Blow” on a To-Do list is destined to get lost somewhere between “Pick up laundry” and “Back up my hard drive.”

The trick is to create an appointment (block time) for the task you want to complete. I call it Blocking time (clever.) Blocking time helps you complete critical tasks and overcome procrastination.

Blocking is a part of my overall planning strategy, called Plan Like A Pilot.

How to Block time

Let’s go through the all-too-familiar scenario above, once more.

You get off the phone and add “Send proposal to Joe Blow” to a To-Do list. That’s important – you do want to cross tasks off once it’s done.

Next you go to your calendar (I use Google calendar) and make an appointment with yourself (slightly narcissistic, but it works.)

As soon as I make a critical commitment I block time (red boxes) to avoid procrastination.

 

When making your time block, pay attention to how you define the work. What seems like a molehill in the moment can look like a mountain up-close.

When an appointment labeled: “Complete proposal” rolls around it might look so daunting you blow it off. Instead, you could label it “Work from ##### proposal to create proposal for #####.” Or break it into two blocks: “Create quick draft of proposal”, and “Check pricing and deliverables – send final to ######.”

If you want to create reoccurring blocks of strategically unavailable time, I call those Boundaries (read about Boundaries in this post.)

If you’re with me so far, let’s look at what tasks to block time for.

When to block time

If I block time for everything I need to get done its overkill. Instead, I block time for any of the three following reasons:

  1. I know I might procrastinate on this task
  2. Someone (like staff, a client or a prospect) needs this information
  3. The task is strategic to a project I’m involved with. For example, I block time for writing proposals, planning events, preparing slides, writing my blog, preparing for a talk and a host of other reasons critical to my success.

No more procrastination

While blocking time to get things done might seem simple, so are sleep, water and food – they still work.

When I see the block of time on my calendar I treat it like an appointment. I wrap up whatever I’m working on, brew some tea and get ready to go to work on that task.

By the way, guess how I got this blog completed?

I blocked time for it.

Tell me in the comments below – what tasks frequently come up that you need to block time for?