How to Timeblock: A Beginner’s Guide

How to Timeblock: A Beginner’s Guide

As a virtual assistant, I work for a number of different clients. If I didn’t organise my time thoroughly, I guarantee that I would spend my day going round in circles. This is why I use Timeblocking.

As I mentioned last week, timeblocking is simply a way of timetabling your day so that you use your time for the things you should be doing. Sounds simple, but let’s be honest, how many of us start doing a piece of work, then check our emails, go back to the piece of work, then check our phone, then we see someone has liked our post on Facebook, then we remember the work we are supposed to be doing, and all of a sudden it’s lunchtime and you’ve done 30 minutes of work?

How to Start

Before you try and timetable your day, you should write a Master To Do List. My Work Week To Do list (free!!) is great for this. Sit with a piece of paper and write down every single thing that you know needs to be done, whether it is work related, home life, personal, side-hustle related… write it all on a list. If you’re a regular reader, you’ll have already done this in preparation for this week’s blog!

Sort Your List

Next, sort your list into categories. Mine are Client Work (which I divide up by client), Personal Work, Housework, Family and Charity. By sorting the tasks, you should see which lists are longer, which are shorter, which are more time heavy etc.

Allocate Time

How long do you think each list will take? This will vary vastly from person to person, depending on their individual skills, the nature of the tasks, and more. Be reasonable with your time, but not overly generous. I’ll give an example from my personal list here.

  • Write a questionnaire
  • Edit flyer
  • Distribute flyer
  • Send out email newsletter (including writing content)
  • Schedule video calls with clients 1, 2 and 3.

I know that editing the flyer should take less than 15 minutes, and composing the email to distribute it will take less than 5. The email newsletter could take up to an hour as I would need to compile the information for it and then create the email and send it around. Writing the questionnaire could take an hour – unless I can find a template, which I will try and do to save some time – no more than 10 minutes looking for a template. Scheduling the video calls is something that I automate, so sending my booking link to the three clients will take less than 2 minutes. In total, that list should take me about 2 and a half hours.

Repeat this step for each of your lists.

Block Your Time

Using my new February Printable, you can block your time on a day-by-day basis. I start my timeblocking from 7am, but realistically you can start it at any time of the day. For this step, you will need coloured pens or pencils – a different colour for each list. You know how much time each list will take, so you can either block out a chunk where you do all the work, or you can break it down. Whatever works best for you! The first few days or weeks will be a little bit of trial and error as you establish how you work best.

Here is an example of my day:

This is my Clever Fox daily planner. You can buy it here

The pink colour is my Stephanie Ward – Productivity Guru time, yellow is for household stuff, green is for a specific client for whom I have scheduled tasks throughout the day, purple is a different client for whom I do a block of work once a week, blue is for my charity and orange is my personal time. In the orange sections, I do things to replenish myself, such as reading, playing on my laptop, relaxing with my family, or listening to an audio book.


Do I need to say it louder for the people at the back?

So, I’ve blocked out my day, where does my list come into this?

It’s simple, you choose the corresponding list at the time of day which you have blocked out, and you just work through it! In my 7am block I have a pink block which means my business admin, so I’ll choose the Stephanie Ward – Productivity Guru list, and just start working through that. When 8am comes, I’ll put down that list and switch to my household tasks. I don’t generally keep a list for my household tasks as it is the same each day – put Jack’s lunch in his bag, make his breakfast, iron uniform, dress us both. And then at 9:15 when he is at school, I switch to the green list for my client. And so on!

Sometimes it can help to subdivide your lists if you have a lot of similar tasks. Next week, I’ll also teach you different ways to batch your tasks for optimum success.

Please note, this blog contains a few affiliate links to products I use and love. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. It helps me keep the lights on and provide for my family. I would never endorse a product I have not personally tried and loved.

Working Mums Are Suffering the Most During the Pandemic… and Here’s Why

Working Mums Are Suffering the Most During the Pandemic… and Here’s Why

For the past ten years I have been ‘disabled’. I’m not asking for sympathy, it’s just a fact. I’ve worked intermittently throughout that period, but most of my time was focused on supporting my son and keeping myself together. Lockdown 1 was hard, having my son at home for a total of ten months because of school refusal…But it wasn’t until COVID-19 Lockdown 3.0, where I was no longer disabled and had returned to work, that I truly began to understand the pressure being placed on working parents during this lockdown, especially on women.

As well as being Your Productivity Guru, I am also the Chief Executive and Chair of the Board of Trustees at a charity working to combat the impact of COVID-19 on families with additional vulnerabilities. This means that I am a Key Worker under the government definition. In addition to this, my son has an EHCP, my partner is a police constable, but both my partner and son have asthma, making them more vulnerable to the effects of COVID-19, should they catch it. A lot of factors to balance when making decisions!

So, here are the observations I have made over the last 3 weeks since the new school term began:

  1. We are damned if we do, and damned if we don’t….send them to school.

If we send our kids to school, believe me we are aware of the risks of that. We don’t need other parents questioning if it is ‘really necessary’. If we are putting them into school during the plague, YES, we deem it necessary and we don’t need the judgement. BUT if we keep them at home, it dramatically reduces productivity, as well as the impact we can have in our daily job. For example, I make and take Peer Support Calls to the families we support via Zoom. I cannot do this with my son at home, as the nature of the calls can be particularly intimate and sometimes harrowing. Oh, and when exactly am I supposed to educate him? If I’m at my desk from 9-5, do I get him up at 5am to start the school work? One of my friends has two kids of very different ages and abilities at home, both have live lessons daily, and both require ‘additional’ support. Between supporting and educating both kids, she has very little time for housework, never mind actual paid employment!

Photo by Ketut Subiyanto on

2. He needs his rest – what about mine?

I love my partner, I really, really do. But when he is on a rest day from work, he rests. He might help with the school run, he might not. He might help with the cleaning, he might not. I appreciate fully that he needs his rest after doing three back to back 10 hour shifts. But that means I, and women like me, bear the brunt of the housework too. Before I sit down to work at 8am every day, I’ve made packed lunch for my son, emptied and loaded the dishwasher, set the laundry away, dressed my son, dressed myself, and fed the goldfish (Heady Goodie Spaghetti eyeballs me if I don’t feed him the moment I get up!). I spend 30 minutes logging into work stuff and making sure I’m abreast of everything, and then I take the boy to school. During that 40 minutes of school run, I could be doing my work… And I know I’m not alone. I’ve seen lots of children on Zoom calls lately coming to interrupt their mums, when Dad is also in the house. I thought I was the only one whose child actively walked past the man of the house to ‘ask mum’. I am not.

3. Our days are getting longer

Even for the most productive women, among which I include myself, the days are longer. Working at home brings a whole range of distractions compared to working in an office. Your normal hours may be 9-5, but many of the people I have spoken to are logging in earlier and logging out later to get the same amount or less work done.

Photo by Anastasia Shuraeva on


Three times, three, my son, or my partner has developed COVID-19 symptoms, which have required them to get a COVID test. All three times, Jack has to be kept off school, Bryan has to work from home, I have to pick up the slack. Today, as I write this, we are waiting for a result. Jack won’t leave his room because he is worried Bryan will give him COVID, and so my day will be spent between waiting on Jack in his room, waiting on Bryan who admittedly isn’t feeling well, whether or not it is COVID, working, feeding everyone… I have a fully booked day and I’m now dealing with last minute changes.

In all this, I feel privileged with my productivity knowledge and experience that I can keep abreast of it all, but many working mums just feel like they are drowning. This all comes from outdated unconscious bias that ‘women keep house, man bring home bacon’. I’m honestly not surprised and yet I’m concerned that women, who already face the ‘motherhood penalty’ for taking maternity leave if they have children, are now facing the ‘COVID penalty’ too.

And so, I’m upping my game to help you. I’m offering 20% off my GYST package, Productivity Consultations, and Productivity Subscription Block Bookings bought before 31st January 2021. If you need a little help getting yourself back on track during lockdown, I’m here for you.