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Gus Van Horn blog

Reblogged:Build Your Day With Blocks

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Having recently encountered planning advice I largely agree with, I also encountered a problem: I either incorrectly recall the advice or I can't take it because I usually can't devote whole days to any one type of work. In part, this is due to circumstance: I have kids, and must plan my time around their schedules. But I also know from experience that I need breaks from intense concentration. Through some measure of trial and error, I realized I needed to schedule in terms of blocks of time, rather than entire days, but I wasn't completely sure how to go about it.

An Internet search turned up an article about time blocking at a site calling itself "Productive Flourishing."

After explaining that the timing and number of blocks of each type is dependent on individual circumstances (e.g., what time of day is best for focus), the piece lists four types of scheduling blocks:

Image by La-Rel Easter, via Unsplash, license.
  1. Focus blocks are 90-120 minute blocks of time where you're especially creative, inspired, and able to do high-level work that requires focus.
  2. Admin blocks are 30-60 minute lower-energy blocks of time where you're not in the zone to do the work that requires heavy lifting, but there are still other types of work you can do effectively.
  3. Social blocks are 90-120 minute blocks of time where you're primed and energetically in the right space to meet with other people.
  4. Recovery blocks are variable-length blocks of time that you use for exercise, meditation, and self-care.
What I like about this advice is that it helps bridge the gap between Cal Newport's Deep Work and David Allen's Getting Things Done. Newport is up front about blocking out time for creative work for the maker, but does not focus so much on the manager-like elements we still have to attend to, to borrow Paul Graham's terms. (See last link.) And then, of course, Allen is good about having lists for different contexts and doing tasks consonant with one's energy level. But I find that creative work is not so amenable to lists and, when it is, one project needs its own list, apart from everything else. This kind of scheduling allows for separation of these widely different kinds of work and can drastically reduce decision fatigue by helping one plan deep work in segments of focus blocks, as the article explains in more detail.

-- CAV

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