There’s nothing I love more than a YouTube video that promises to solve all my procrastination problems and anxieties about productivity only to see, three minutes in, that it’s another argument for time-blocking.
I have learned to scan the timeline of each video, previewing frame by frame, to look for the candy-colored grid that will inevitably show up in these ‘tutorials.’ “Let me show you how I plan my week,” they will say in dialects of enthusiasm and twee and then explain how their particularly busy influencer life can be broken down into Tetris-like blocks that always fit well.
If I sound cynical, it’s because I am. Having undiagnosed anxiety for most of my life left me feeling demoralized when it comes to productivity. I couldn’t produce or create what I wanted. I couldn’t stay on task. I couldn’t follow through.
I would always be a failure.
Then I started to realize that these tools, suggestions, tutorials, classes, courses, the entire world of productivity influencers focused mainly on people with typical brains. By typical, I mean brains wired to properly work in our capitalistic-achievement society. Perhaps typical is the wrong word.
Perhaps they have “preferred” brains.
What I want to say to you, and give you permission to say to yourself, is that time-blocking is one way to schedule your day, or give priority to your goals, but it’s not the only way.
For me, blocking out my day created too rigid of a structure. And it was a structure built for failure. The confinement of all those colorful boxes on my calendar made me excited to see all the things I would accomplish, but this only lasted during their creation.
Once set up, the slightest adjustment or distraction, meant I slammed up against the bottom of a blue or red box and had to switch tasks to stay on track.
Hold on, I’d built the track and could rearrange it. But then that added another task to the list and the boxes all fit so nicely together, to insert five minutes to shift everything would ruin the aesthetic of the whole… Aaaaaaaaagh.
See? For me, the anxiety of the grid took over my thinking and I could never really focus on my writing (or other work for that matter). Time blocking blocked my writing.
Over time I’ve noticed that my biggest area of anxiety is transitions, from one task to another or one place to another. And realizing this has allowed me to think more strategically about my time use with fewer boundaries. I’ll explore more of that in a later post.
For now, just remember what works for everyone else isn’t the right way to do things, it’s just their way to do things. We can all find new ways together.