How to balance work life and personal life with time blocking
Time blocking is a fantastic tool to explode your productivity but it is also a simple but effective way to balance work life and personal life.
With the pandemic and the increase in remote work, many people have realized that there is more to life than just waking up at 5 am, leaving by 6, and spending the day at the office.
Time blocking is an amazing way to ensure you make room for everything important in your life despite your busy schedule.
I first discovered time blocking at university. At the time, I was working full-time during the day and going to university in the evenings and on Saturdays. Work and classes kept me busy 70 hours per week.
As I was no longer living with my parents, I also had to deal with housework, cooking, working out, and trying to have a decent social life.
I left home at 6 am and came back from uni around 10 pm. To protect my sanity, I had to find ways to balance my life and make sure I did not forget about taking care of myself and spending time with my loved ones.
This is why I started optimizing my time and built a crazy effective schedule.
Time blocking is probably one of the best ways to balance life, get organized and reduce stress.
In this post, we will discuss how time blocking can transform your life by optimizing your time to finally make room for what matters to you and support your goals.
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Why is balance important in life?
When we think about balance, the first thing that comes to our mind is often work-life balance.
But balance is not just restricted to our professional lives.
We must find a balance in all aspects of our lives to be happy and productive. In this post, when I talk about balance, I also mean emotional and social balance.
Achieving balance is not easy but it is definitely worth the effort.
Too much of anything can be bad for us, and we need to find a way to balance our lives if we want to live fulfilling lives.
How can time blocking help you achieve balance?
Time blocking is a time management method that implies blocking out a specific amount of time for a task or group of tasks.
The idea behind it is that if you know in advance when and how long you are going to work on something, it becomes easier not to procrastinate.
It is also much easier to ensure you include time for everything that matters to you and focus on essential tasks.
Time blocking is much easier when using a digital planner such as Google Calendar (or any other planner you can access on all your devices).
Another great advantage of digital planners such as Google Calendars is that you can schedule blocks to be repeated automatically, set reminders, and create different calendars based on activities (more on that later).
If you have read a few of my posts on productivity and time management, you already know that what matters is finding what works for you when it comes to productivity.
If you feel more comfortable with a pen and paper planner, go for it! You’re good to go if you find what works best for you!
The benefits of time blocking
Time blocking has many benefits.
First of all, this simple method ensures you plan your days more effectively and do not forget any important tasks.
It is also a great method for identifying bad habits.
I used to think I did not have enough time to complete all my tasks until I realized how much time I used to waste watching tv or scrolling on social media.
When I started to time block, I realized that by optimizing my time (studying or reading emails while commuting, reading notes between classes, etc), I would be able to save several hours per day.
Time blocking is an amazing method to identify time wasted in between tasks and find how to use it wisely.
And this, my friend, will make all the difference and explode your productivity!
If you time block effectively, you will actually be able to get ahead of your schedule and this is one of my favorite things about this method!
When I am super focused and productive, I am able to accomplish tasks sometimes days in advance.
I can then use that time to plan other tasks on that day or… just chill.
Finally, time blocking is an amazing way to have an overview of your schedules and know exactly what you are up to.
This last advantage will be obvious if you set up different calendars in Google calendar. Color coding can truly bring perspective to your schedules.
How to use time blocking to find balance in life
Finding the right tool
Time blocking for the first time can be overwhelming. You will first have to find the perfect app/website if you decide to do it digitally or the best paper planner if you decide to go the old-fashioned way.
I have tried a lot of apps during my 4-year curriculum at university. Some of them were free, and others required a subscription.
Still, despite trying almost every app out there, I came back to Google Calendar last year and do not regret it.
First of all, the app is totally free, which is essential, especially when you’re a student and need to be super careful with your expenses.
But this is not why I decided to return to Google Calendar.
The app is simply the best digital calendar for me. You can synchronize it with all your devices and add an unlimited number of calendars. You can also define cute color hex codes to make it look nice. These functionalities will be super important to organize your life with time blocking.
Define why you need more balance in your life
This step should be one of the firsts you consider when starting to time block.
I started time blocking to ensure I would stay focused on important tasks while also spending time with my friends and working on personal projects.
My priority was to work smarter, to make time for things that mattered to me.
If you want to have an intentional life and create a life you love, you know that personal development is a non-negotiable thing.
Create your calendars
This is one of my favorite functionalities in Google Calendar because it allows users to ensure they have a balanced life with color-coding.
Create one calendar per important area of your life and define a specific color for this calendar.
In my case, I have 6 different calendars in my Google Calendar app :
- Work (9-5 job)
- Home (home chores, meal prep, etc.)
- Getting Fit (Exercising is definitely one of my priorities this year…)
- Self-care (Skincare, haircare, meditation, reading books, etc)
- Breaks (15-20 minutes breaks during the day to stretch, make breathing exercises, and have coffee)
I have defined a cute color hex code for each of these calendars to ensure my the overall result looks nice. Here is one of the palettes I created :
Once your calendars are created, you are ready to start time blocking.
Start to time block your obligations
This is the easiest way to start.
Think about your obligations such as work or classes or any other non-negotiable activities you must consider when creating your schedules.
Starting with these activities will make it easier for you to figure out how much time you have left to work on personal projects, take care of yourself, and have fun.
Once you have added these blocks (and made them recurrent), you can start planning your days around them.
Of course, your career is important. Still, if you want to seriously work on your personal growth this year, you will need to start focusing on other important aspects of your life supporting your goals.
Add goal-driven activities
Successful people define goals and set milestones to ensure they achieve them.
Time blocking will help you in this process.
Think about habits that help you achieve your goals and plan them throughout the week.
These activities can have a huge impact on your personal growth. Hence, you should schedule them when you have the most energy to ensure you actually complete them.
To help you define your productivity peaks, you can take my free chronotype quiz.
There are 4 different chronotypes and each chronotype has a different ideal schedule. Take the quiz and discover yours!
Add your Morning and Night Routines
If you are interested in time blocking, chances are that you are already familiar with the concept of morning and night routines.
Implementing routines is a simple way to ensure you get things done and work towards your goals.
My morning and night routines have exploded my productivity. If you haven’t implemented your routines yet, you should definitely do it. This is one of the best things you can do to boost your productivity and support your goals.
Once you have defined your routines, add them to your daily schedules and make them recurrent.
Plan some fun
Now that you have set and planned your top priorities, you can plan some fun activities you will look forward to. To maintain a balanced life, you must spend time with your loved ones.
Spending quality time with your family and friends is essential to ensure you feel supported. This is particularly important to your mental well-being as well.
Even if you are the most goal-driven person you know, you need to set time to unwind to find balance in your life.
This will help you feel less stressed and positively impact your productivity and sleep quality.
Plan your workouts
Exercise is important to your well-being. If you want to improve your life, you need to take care of your health.
In general, peace of mind and good health are important to stay productive in the long run and achieve goals.
Maintaining good health can only be done by taking care of the mind and body.
There’s no need to plan intense HIIT workouts if you are not a sporty person. Going for a long walk is also a great way to take care of your health.
Plus, getting some fresh air will boost your productivity as well. Regardless of your goals, do not forget to include some exercise to take care of your body.
Plan your meals
Cooking can be a waste of time when you don’t know what to cook.
Planning your meals is a great way to save time and money.
The easiest way to do it is to plan your meals before going shopping for groceries. Knowing exactly what to buy will save you a lot of time and money.
It is also an easy way to ensure you eat healthy foods.
Fill in the gaps with unproductive but mandatory activities
The last step is planning for all the unproductive tasks you have to complete daily or weekly.
By unproductive tasks, I refer to cleaning your home, doing the laundry, ironing, making dinner, etc. These tasks are necessary to take care of our spaces but do not bring any value to our lives.
As explained in this post, if you want to be productive, you need to cut off the time spent on these unproductive recurring tasks as much as possible.
I love to have a clean home, perfectly ironed clothes, and delicious homemade meals. Still, these activities do not pay the bills and do not help me grow as a person.
This is why, if you are a goal-driven person, you probably want to reduce the amount of time spent on these activities.
There is actually a way to do it, and time blocking helps!
The next time you clean your house, use a timer. Do not rush, do things just as you do as usual, and check how long it takes you to get them done.
When I did this test 3 years ago, I noticed that, if I wanted to take care of my space, do the laundry and iron my clothes, It would typically take me 5 hours.
Now you might think that 5 hours in a week is not that much. The issue is that, after 5 hours of cleaning, I would run out of energy and crash on my couch for the rest of the day.
This is actually what I did during my first year at university. I thought I did not have enough time to do home chores during weekdays, so I wasted all my Sundays cleaning and then binge-watching Netflix.
Split unproductive tasks
This is why one of the secrets that helped me increase my productivity was splitting unproductive tasks.
Instead of wasting 5 hours every Sunday cleaning around, I have added 20 minutes of cleaning to my morning and night routines.
This simple trick helped me gain one day of productivity per week.
I now spend my Sundays working on this blog and my education. I basically replaced 20 minutes of social media in the morning and TV in the evening with 20 minutes of cleaning around and now have my entire Sunday to work on my personal growth.
Review your schedules
You now have a pretty good overview of what your weeks will look like. During the first weeks of implementing this method, you will probably have to make some adjustments to find what works for you.
This is totally fine. Nothing is set in stone.
As an example, here is my Google calendar :
As you can see, my days start with my morning routine (on weekdays only) and end with my night routine at 10 pm.
I also work on this blog for 2 hours every day after dinner. You cannot see these activities because I had to cut them off in the screenshot.
In the blocks’ comments, I add details on the main tasks to be completed during each block. I generally add the comments one week before when I plan my week more in-depth.
When I add my comments, I only change this specific event and do not change the entire occurrence.
When I start the week on Monday at 6:30 am, my entire week is already planned and that’s what works best for me.
Time blocking definitely helps me balance my life and make room for things and people that matter to me.
The simple methods also helped me free up all my Saturdays to spend time with friends, which is something I couldn’t do before I started to time block!
What are the signs of a balanced life?
After implementing this method, you might ask yourself if time blocking actually helps you find balance in your life. Well, the answer to this question is different for everyone.
However, a few signs can help you determine if you have found balance in your life.
If you feel happy and satisfied with what you are doing, then chances are that you have found some balance in your life.
Another sign could be the ability to enjoy your free time without feeling guilty. This is something I really struggled with during my first year at university.
Feeling guilty as soon as you do something for yourself instead of working or studying is a strong sign that you lack balance.
If you can leave work at work, you are on track to finding balance in your life.
Last but not least, if you feel you have enough time for everything important to you, congrats! You have a well-balanced life!
Time blocking is a great method to ensure you achieve balance in life despite your busy schedule.
No matter your goals and priorities, you must ensure you work towards them daily. Gain control over your life and make it happen!
Working on your personal growth on a daily basis will help you have a fulfilling life. This is something all successful people have in common.
Another thing they have in common is that they want to work smarter and not harder. By gaining control over your time and improving your time management skills, you will be able to make the most out of it with minimum effort.