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Here's How Time Blocking Can Help Boost Your Productivity

I know, I know. The world is in a state of panic and the last thing a lot of people want to hear is 'productive this' and 'productive that'. I get it, so if you're able to, I'd definitely use this time to take care of yourself physically and mentally, pick up a new hobby (or re-discover an old one), and just relax and do anything that isn't "work". 

However, being a medical student, I just don't have that kind of luxury and I'm sure a lot of other students don't either. So if this post made you roll your eyes, then it just isn't for you and that's okay!

This post is for people like me who abruptly shifted to an online platform and needed to find a way to motivate themselves, limit distractions, keep themselves accountable and get some sort of a routine in their life.

I started using the time blocking (or calendar blocking) system during my first semester of medical school, stopped using it when my weeks became repetitive because I just knew what I needed to be doing anyway, then started using it again during exam season when things started heating up. It's a great system that I would recommend at a time like this when a lot of our normal routines have been spun upside down. 

So, what is time blocking?

Quite simply, it's allocating specific amounts of time to a particular task and intentionally slotting them into your calendar to ensure they get done. It's amazing for prioritising what's important because in a regular to-do list, you don't see the entire picture laid out in front of you the way it is when you schedule everything into your calendar. It's easy to end up focusing a lot more time than you intended on one task, but when you slot it into your calendar you can decide how long you want to spend on that specific thing. It's also great for letting you concentrate on one task at a time and making sure this time you have will be spent on it.

I use this method to create a routine in my day. I set a wake-up time, lunch time, breaks, and an end time in the evening and it's been amazing!

Here's an example of what last week looked like:

(I tried to take a nice blog-ish photo but the camera quality on my old phone is abysmal lol).

As you can see, I've inserted my classes, when I'm going to study, make new flashcards, do homework (let's just look at how long I spend on biochem... *shudder*), and when I'm gonna work on the blog.

I've also created a lunch break from 12 and I end my day at 10pm, as well as another little break after my afternoon classes. 

During these breaks I do stuff that doesn't need to be written down, like eating or cleaning because I already know I need to do that anyway.

To achieve this, I use the standard Samsung calendar app that came with my phone and it syncs to my Google account so if I wanted to check it on Google Cal, it's easy to do so. I also like to colour coordinate everything because it just looks so much better, so you can see that my classes are yellow, dedicated studying is blue, homework is purple, creating flashcards is green, and blogging is peach.

In addition to this system, I do still use to-do lists so I can structure the time I intend on spending on something. So where it says "study anatomy" for example, my to-do list would break down the tasks I need to do just for some structure. I even have a whole blog post about perfecting your to-do lists if you're interested!

So, that's what my calendar looks like!

A tip I have is for you if you're also looking to start using this system to prioritise what you need to do and be realistic about how long you can actually spend doing that thing. I spend one day studying or working on a maximum of 2 subjects - I can't realistically go over all of them in one day. Depending on you, it might just be one subject you can focus on, and that's great too. 

I now set my tasks every evening because I used to get a bit overenthusiastic about what I can achieve in a day and end up not finishing everything. Now when I set my tasks in the evening as opposed to the beginning of the week, I can think about what I didn't do during the day and plan my next day accordingly.

If you prefer to lay your whole week out on a Sunday or Monday, then I'd advise you to be flexible with it and not be too rigid with your time; it's fine to switch things around!

Another tip is to slot in the most important things first. The very first things that get scheduled in are my classes because they're obviously the most important. After that, I'll put in homework, then allocate time to study. Anything after that depends on how much time I have left over, like blogging, flashcards or adding in more time to study if I'm up for it. I work around my class schedule to regain some sense of normalcy, because it's what I used to do when our classes went ahead as normal. If there are non-negotiable things you need to get done, definitely schedule those in first.

I hope you found this post useful! It's such a weird time the world is going through at the moment, and I've found what's helped me is building a routine and trying to stick to it as best as I can. I don't always fully go along with my schedule; just on Saturday I spent some time out when I had no initial plans to haha. But I don't give myself a hard time; just re-schedule whatever I didn't manage to get done and keep it pushing!

You can save pin this post for later! ~~~

Photos by Alexa Williams on Unsplash

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