Do you ever find your self sitting there in the middle of the day knowing you should be working on something but you are unsure of what direction to go?
I have! I’ll have every intention of being productive and then I waste my time trying to figure out what I should be productive with. The possibilities seem endless and some times I feel paralyzed by all of the choices.
To narrow down the possibilities and help you focus on the important tasks I’m going to teach you how to create a time map so your daily schedule is no longer a mystery.
What is the difference between a time map and time blocking?
A time map is an overview of the amount of time you are going to spend on important work throughout the day and allows you to start time blocking.
Time blocking is filling in your time map with the important tasks and routine tasks that need to happen throughout the day.
I believe in order to make time blocking work you need to start with the overview in the time map.
Why should I use a time map?
Time maps are a general guide to how you will run your day. Why do we need a guide? Well, if we are continuously making decisions about what we have to do we will run into decision fatigue.
Decision fatigue means that the decisions we make will deteriorate in quality after a long session of decision making. In other words, the more decisions we make the more likely we are to start making bad decisions or default to the default.
Another reason to use a time map is Parkinson’s law which states that work expands to fill the time allotted for it. If you give yourself a 4-hour deadline to work on your financials chances what could have taken you two hours will expand to the four. How does it expand? We are much more likely to indulge in distractions if we do not estimate the time needed properly.
Using a time map will allow you to minimize the number of decisions you need to make on any given day.
Creating your Time Map
What to use
Choosing the method to create your time map is an important first step. Things will get messy and you will need to erase and rewrite your time map in order to get to your ideal week. I recommend two methods: paper and pencil or a spreadsheet.
Both the paper and pencil or the spreadsheet will allow you to easily make changes. My preference is to use a spreadsheet so I don’t have to erase as I need to change things.
If you are using paper you may want to consider using colored erasable pens so you can more clearly see any categories you are trying to track. You can use the fill cell option on a spreadsheet to color-code your time.
How to start
How long should my time blocks be?
The first thing to do is decide how big you want your time blocks to be. You can go as small as 5 minutes or a large as hourly blocks. I prefer 15-minute blocks for my own planning. You may need to experiment to find what works for you.
How many categories should I track?
One of the benefits of color-coding your time map is that you can see where your time goes at a glance. It can be easy to get carried away and track too many categories. I suggest sticking with three to five categories for your time map. Make a note of what each color stands for in case you forget in the future.
My preference in setting up a time map is to use a spreadsheet so you can make your time blocks as small or as big as you want them.
How do I set up the page?
If you are working with paper on the left side of the page write down the time you wake up and then continue to write the times down to the time you go to sleep. On the top of the page write the days of the week. Now you can start filling in general categories and what you will take action on.
If you are working with a spreadsheet you will have the same setup as you had with the paper but you can choose what time to start with. For example, I start with 12 am to account for sleep.
What do I block out first?
When filling in your time blocks start with any recurring appointments you may have. Then fill in your sleep schedule along with any other self-care time you need to set aside. From there you can fill in your themes for the day if you have any and break down your day according to those themes.
Color coding based on categories allows you to see where you are spending your time at a glance. I use three categories which are self-care, family time, and business.
Can I have more than one time map?
Yes, you can have more than one time map. If you have recurring health issues it may be wise to have a time map for when you are feeling low energy. You may want to create a time map for at home and a separate one for work.
What happens if you get off track?
We won’t always be able to stick to our time map. You may need to schedule clients or a project took longer than you expected. That’s ok. Your time map is a guide to help ease decision fatigue.
If you get off track see if your task can wait until the next appropriate block or you may need to schedule a time to work on that task in your “off” hours. How you get back on track depends on the task and the deadline for that task.
How often should I update my time map?
I recommend looking at your time map at least every quarter. Our priorities are always shifting so a time map can become outdated.
Some people create a new time map for each week. Remember time mapping is a general guide to your week. Time Blocking is where you actually fill in your tasks.