The demands on our time are greater now than ever before. With information coming at us faster than we can digest it, responsibilities handed to us faster than we can handle them and communication moving at breakneck speed, finding ways to fit as much as possible into your day is a daunting task to say the least. But there is a way to get more done of what you want and need with less distraction, and it’s a strategy that you likely employ for some things already.
You have to schedule stuff. Not just the appointment-specific stuff, but all of the stuff that matters. You can do that by scheduling time blocks.
The one great equalizer that all of humanity has is time. No one has twenty-five hours in their day; we all have twenty-four. How we choose to use those hours is what separates us. By scheduling the stuff that matters (from the urgent to the crucial), you’ll be spending those hours far more wisely. In addition, you’ll be living your days proactively rather than reactively.
As a writer, I have always made time for writing – specific time, in fact. I have blocked out entire days to do most of what I write and on other days I’ve set aside an hour or tow of uninterrupted time to do the same. But I have found that setting aside blocks of time for writing isn’t enough. I need to set aside time for specific types of writing. There’s blocks of time for my work here at Lifehack, there’s blocks of time for my fiction writing, there’s blocks of time for my personal writing and there’s blocks of time for when I am working on my book project. That’s what I have to do to ensure that I get all of my writing done during the week, and it keeps me focused on the area I’m supposed to be writing on rather than the very broad category of simply “writing” that I’ve used in the past. Narrowing the category down to the specifics has boosted my productivity by keeping me on track and allowing me to fulfill all of my writing needs.
Scheduling: It Isn’t Just For Work AnymoreOh, and scheduling blocks of time doesn’t just have to involve work-related stuff. I was having coffee with a friend this week and he told me that he blocks out every week a set amount of time to have coffee with me. That’s brilliant. It creates a standing appointment for him that he knows is coming, and it’s something he enjoys doing and doesn’t want to let it slide. During our coffee visits we’re able to disconnect from our devices, have stimulating conversations that stay with us well past our time together and enjoy a quality cup of coffee as well. There weekly get-togethers are something I look forward to every week. Their value lies in the company I’m keeping and the time it gives me to recharge my batteries and replenish my creative juices. So I’m scheduling them as well. They are as crucial to me as my writing, so they can’t afford to be missed. I have also started to block out time for reading, which is crucial to me as a writer who wants to get better at his craft. There’s an excellent post by Randy Murray on why scheduling reading time can be really beneficial.
Other areas I’ve started to block out times of my day for include:
Homework time with my daughter/Bedtime preparation with my son.My wife and I trade off on this, where she’ll help her out and I’ll get my son off to bed. Either way, that time is sacred and can’t be moved around. Children need to know that their parents are there to help nurture their minds and spirit and they need to learn routines. This time with them offers both.
Date night with my wife. Even if it’s at home watching a movie or reading together quietly, it’s something that promotes a healthy relationship. While it can be moved around, it is something that we’re trying to lock down. It’s a work in progress – much like a marriage.
Sporting events on television. I do my best to watch every Cincinnati Bengals football game that I can — as painful as that can be. It’s a Sunday ritual that I truly enjoy, so much so that my family knows that when I put on my jersey that it’s time for the game. It’s easier to stick to these days because I’m able to watch most games in the morning on the west coast, and it’s also easier to stick to since I’m a Bengals fan and they rarely play more than 16 times per year.
How to Lock Down Time Blocks
1. Blocked times should scream out at you when you look at your day planner, online calendar or task management solution. Create an online calendar with a title that does this, use a vibrant colour (perhaps your favourite one) and put all of the stuff that you’re blocking out time for in that calendar. If you use paper, use a different colour pen or write in capital letters to make it stand out among your other items. In a task manager, label or flag it somehow with tags or a similar method that highlights it for you. In order for things to not be missed (especially when you first start doing them), you need to make sure that your eyes don’t miss them.
2. Share these times with those who need to know. My wife subscribes to my Google Calendar so that she can see when I’m absolutely indisposed. She knows when I’m busy in an area that’s been blocked out and doesn’t even try to reach me during those times – or try to shift me away from them in any form. Same with other colleagues that I am working with. Whatever pertains to them, I make sure I let them know. If you don’t use an online calendar, simply draft up a standard email that tells people when you’re either available or when you’re not available. I like to use the former because it’s always better to show them when you can be reached rather than when you can’t.
3. Stick to the blocked times for 30 instances. In order to make this a habit, you need time to let it stick. Repeat the blocked time for 30 instances if you use a digital calendaring solution and make sure you jot them down the same amount of times if you’re using a good old-fashioned paper system. Not only will the blocked times become part of the flow of your week, but you’ll actually discover how crucial these items your blocking out time for are. You’ll also be able to figure out how much time you really need, whether or not that time or day works for you and much more. Consider this an experiment…and you’re the guinea pig.
I don’t use my task management solution to schedule things; that’s what calendar apps are for. I always look at my calendar when I start my day to see what blocks of time are already mapped out for me. That proactive approach keeps me on task – and on target to get all of the stuff that matters to me done each and every day.
Block out time for that stuff and you’ll block out all the distractions that can keep you from getting that stuff done. It’s time well spent – both now and in the future.
The online marketing industry is complex and volatile, but an exciting one for anybody who stays up on modern trends. Each year, new hardware, new software, new companies, and new user preferences dictate a host of sweeping changes that either get adopted or ignored by the businesses of the world. Early adopters get a leg up on the competition, appealing to new markets or cementing their reputations as industry leaders, while those lagging behind miss out on a key opportunity to retain their positions.
2016 looks to be a great year for online marketing, and I anticipate it shaking up the game with these seven trends:
1. Video ads will start dominating. Video ads are certainly nothing new, with social channels like YouTube dedicated to hosting billions of videos and advertising platforms like Facebook and Bing already offering advertisers video options. 2016 is set to be different because Google is finally getting on board with in-SERP video advertising. It’s a sign that users are becoming more accepting of video ads online, and as that trend continues, expect to see more types of video ads popping up in more unexpected places. With Google’s ownership of YouTube, the possibilities are virtually limitless.
2. App indexing will lead to an explosion of apps. Google has offered app indexing for a while, but as the ranking possibilities for apps become more complex, 2016 will be the year more business owners realize the online visibility advantages of a dedicated app. A mobile-optimized site works wonders for appealing to the mobile crowd, but soon, apps will begin to replace them. Apps can do everything that websites can, except in more intuitive, convenient, accessible ways. We’re still several years away from apps completely replacing websites as a medium, but 2016 will be a pivotal year in app adoption from business owner’s perspectives.
3. Mobile will completely dominate desktop. 2015 was a big year for mobile—not only did Google announce that mobile traffic finally overtook desktop traffic in 10 different countries, it was also the year they released the “Mobilegeddon” algorithm update to phase out sites not optimized for mobile. But apparently, you don’t have to have an optimized desktop site in addition to a mobile version—according to Google, a mobile-only site with no desktop counterpart is perfectly acceptable. This alone won’t be enough to drive down desktop traffic, but it’s clear what side of the fence Google’s on; they’re banking on desktop traffic fading away, meaning the smart money rests on mobile-focused online marketing.
4. Digital assistants will lead to a new kind of optimization. Search engine optimization (SEO) and pay-per-click (PPC) advertising are two highly popular strategies for getting your site seen by thousands of previously unknown visitors. But the rise of digital assistants is going to lead to a new kind of optimization. Digital assistants like Siri and Cortana do utilize traditional search engines, but only when necessary to find information. The key to optimizing in this new format is to make sure your business information is easily accessible to these assistants, rather than trying to funnel people to your site specifically.
5. Virtual reality will emerge. There are dozens of different virtual reality devices set to release in the next few years, some of which are dedicated for specific applications like video games, and others which are available for general use. Oculus Rift, arguably the most hyped VR device, is set to release in the first quarter of 2016. Oculus Rift and other VR devices will introduce an entire new medium of online advertising, with integration to popular social media platforms, video channels, and even forms of direct messaging. There’s always a chance VR could fizzle as a temporary fad, but there are billions of dollars of funding in limbo, ready to bet otherwise.