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The Teaching Space Podcast

The podcast is on pause for a year (as of August 2021) as I am tackling the final year of my masters in education (which I am doing alongside my full-time job). In the meantime, please revisit the considerable back catalogue of episodes. Also, give me a follow on Twitter, where I am still very active and sign up for my personal newsletter here. You can visit The Teaching Space website here: theteachingspace.com.

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Jun 27, 2020

Episode 98 of The Teaching Space Podcast revisits time blocking and why it is an essential strategy for teachers and trainers.

Introduction

Episode 62 of the podcast introduced the idea of time blocking. Here’s how I described it in that episode:

"There are probably lots of different definitions, but for me, it is planning every single 15-minute block of my day (this includes rest, breaks etc.). Every. Single. Thing. Goes. On. The. Calendar."

The idea being that if something is on the calendar, it gets done.

I went on to explain my Google Calendar approach (if you have not listened to the episode, it would be a great idea to do so, to get a feel for what I was doing then and what I am doing now).

Incidentally, time blocking can be done using a paper calendar very easily, so please don't be put off by my regular references to Google Calendar. Also, if you use Outlook, it is easy to use colour coding to differentiate between time blocks and other specifically scheduled activities.

Not Just a Strategy for When You are Busy

In the past, I tended to use time blocking when I was at my busiest. It was the only way I could get everything done and stay on top of my workload. However, I have now changed that approach, and I time block my day regardless of how busy I am. If I don't have a lot on, I will schedule relaxation, exercise, professional reading… whatever is appropriate. The entire day is blocked, including relaxation time in the evening and meal breaks.

One of the benefits of time blocking every day is that it helps establish routine. For example, morning and evening routines (encompassing when you wake up and go to bed) can be set to reoccur if you are using a digital calendar.

You can also schedule batching as your timetable allows (see episode 65).

Simplified Calendars

One change I have made since the last podcast is that I have simplified my Google Calendar setup. Side note: the great thing about Google Calendar is you can have multiple calendars that show events in different colours, but you view them all overlaid in one calendar, and you can toggle each one on and off.

Previously my calendars were:

  • External appointments
  • Internal appointments
  • Events
  • Get stuff done (this is for tasks)
  • The Teaching Space
  • Martine Makes
  • Health

Now they are:

  • Events and appointments
  • Martine Makes
  • Planning
  • Tasks and study
  • The Teaching Space

I also have the 'reminders' calendar enabled, but not 'tasks'.

INSERT CALENDAR 1 SCREENSHOT

This simplified approach is far easier for me. Events and appointments are my default calendar, which makes sense as these are the things I schedule most often. However, the important addition is 'planning'.

My Planning Calendar

Rather than time blocking in each of the above categories, I time block my entire day in the planning calendar so that I can see my ideal day, however, things like appointments are still visible. This is helpful because if I had a 30-minute appointment at noon offsite, I could create a time block of one hour to include 15 minutes either side for travel. This gives me a far more accurate picture of my day. There is a basic (non-teaching) example in the show notes.

See theteachingspace.com/98 for images.

Your Blocks

Another slight adjustment is that I don't block in 15-minute increments now. My minimum is 30 minutes, and even then I prefer to time block an hour at a time, to buy a little breathing space. If something takes less time than expected, I will use what's left for checking emails (although it is better to block that time, of course).

Test Your Planning

The next logical step for time blocking is to try tracking your time with a tool like Toggl to see if what you are planning works out in reality. I've not taken things to this stage yet, but you never know. It might be an interesting experiment.

Wrap Up

And that's it. If you have any questions about this episode or comments you'd like to share, please join The Teaching Space Community: community.theteachingspace.com. I'd be interested to hear about your approach to planning your day.

The show notes for this episode include any links I’ve mentioned; you can find them at theteachingspace.com.

If you have enjoyed this episode, please consider supporting the show by making a small donation towards the running costs on my Ko-fi page which you can find at ko-fi.com/theteachingspace. Alternatively, please consider leaving a review on Apple Podcasts or whether you listen to the show. Thank you.

Thanks for listening and I hope you'll join me for the next episode.