Episode #3: Time Blocking

The last few weeks we have been talking about how you can reach 10 or 10,000 people, depending on your main outlet and we suggested doing both. Working with people in person (the 10) and then putting out information online or expanding beyond yourself to reach 10,000.

The question now is, "How the hell do I have time to do both?".

The next few episodes we will be discussing time saving strategies that will keep you from wasting time doing pointless things, how to be more effective, and increase your efficiency doing effective tasks.

This episode we discuss time blocking.

Time blocking consists of getting out your calendar, whether that's a paper calendar, google calendars, iOS, whatever. It doesn't matter which calendar you use, it matters that you use an actual calendar. Don't try to use a 'mental' calendar. Use a real calendar. If you don't make an actual change, how can you expect a change?

Now that I have convinced you to use a real calendar, here is what to do:

  • Figure out the tasks that you need to get done to push the needle forward
  • Figure out the times of day that you can block off to work with people in person
  • Block out sections of your day for the tasks you want to get done
  • Block out time to push the needle forward
  • Block out a time where you will check email
  • Block out a time when you will workout
  • etc

Your calendar should keep you on track for being productive. Most people waste so much time because they don't have a plan. As the saying goes: 'Plan tomorrow's work today'. At the end of each day, get your calendar out, and block out tasks you need to get done.

We recommend if you are working with people in person, you have set hours that you work with people 1 on 1 and don't compromise. Your time is extremely valuable and you can't let people own your day. You set a schedule, you block out time, and stick with it!

This Episode's Challenge

This week we have two challenges:

  1. Create time blocks on your calendar
  2. Turn off email notifications on your phone

Podcast Transcript

Ryan I’m Dr. Ryan Debell. Welcome back to the Health Fit Business podcast. This is episode 3. What we’re going to talk about is “Time Blocking” – The importance of setting time blocks in your day. Whether that’s a block of time for working out, block of time to working with people one on one, a block of time dedicated to blogging or reading or thinking deeply. Whatever it is, if you don’t control your day, if you don’t make time for things, life will fool you around and you will have no control over your schedule. You have to take command of your schedule by putting time blocks on it and you will see unbelievable changes in your productivity. So, that’s the topic for this week’s podcast. Let’s tune in. I hope you guys enjoy and make the changes that we talked about because you will find them immensely helpful.

Ryan Anthony Gustin, once again. This is episode 3.

Anthony Episode number 3.

Ryan Episode number 3.

Anthony A little jog on the park here. San Francisco summer is freezing. So, we do warm up a little bit.

Ryan: Those really strange to me when... Like I run really fast… I run fastest. Like the marathon. Just like the guy running now. What are we talking about this episode?

Anthony: So, we can always hear Jacksons to… Yeah, you need to help people, you do all those things.

Ryan How to help 10,000 people? Too busy!

Anthony: I have packed schedule. I see people these times a week. I have no time, how you have time? That’s been a thing that we heard for the last couple of years when people had been seeing the stuff that we’ve been doing. How the hell do you guys have time for that? How can you be doing all of that and still be practicing? Or how can you do all that and still have time for other stuff? Well?

Anthony Well…

Ryan Share your secrets with us Anthony.

Anthony A lot of people waste a lot of time.

Ryan Unbelievable amount of time. So, what we’re going to talk about this episode is essentially the things found that can immediately save you time where you are bleeding time out of your body. Like, where you are totally wasting time that is so easy to not do. A lot of us are unaware.

Anthony Right. There’s countless things that you can find, for instance, how the routines -like routines can be huge. Outsourcing tasks, cleaning up your schedule, automate things, I mean, limitlessly.

Ryan But to not overwhelm.

Anthony Right. And so, one of the biggest things going from a schedule packed with people-working one on one in the health and fitness industry, especially, is blocking your time and making good decisions about how and when you spend it.

Ryan And it’s a very intentional thing. Like setting strict blocks of time where you are - what time are you going to wake up, blocking time do to deep work which is something I am sure we are going to talk about in future episodes, blocking out time where you specifically will see and work with people, blocking out time to do email slash other administrative tasks. Then what I think is important is setting a bed time so that you don’t go into this nighttime spiral where you waste all these times doing unproductive things at night.

Anthony Right. And so essentially, when you are a at your day from a calendar stand point, you should be able to drag down a few blocks of time, that’s why it’s called time blocking, and be able to say “this is when I do this. This is when I do this. This is when I do this.” And so, that way, you are not trying to have this distracted energy pulling you from place to place and place. Never really getting deep to what you are actually doing.

Ryan Yeah, exactly. If you just go… If you just wake up in a sort of “Yeah, I’m going to do this now. I’m just kind of get ready for the day. Go to the clinic and then I’ll come home and put on Netflix and watch whatever.” You are just letting your day fool you around rather than tightly controlling your day by intentionally setting blocks.

Anthony Right. So, a good example, like immediately some people could use in this service industry in health care or fitness, you are working one on one with people and so generally, the schedule is like this “Oh my clinic hours, my gym hours are 8 am to 5pm. Some people are loaded 100% on schedule and booked every single day but a lot of people aren’t. And so, what happen is…

Ryan You have gaps.

Anthony You have someone at 8 and then you have 20-minute gap. You have someone at 9 and you have 40-minute gap and you have 2 people and you have an hour gap and you have three people and you have a gap. This is the worst way to approach your schedule.

Ryan It’s such a time killer.

Anthony And this way, you cannot get other work done. It’s impossible.

Ryan It’s so hard to switch from trying to work on important tasks and knowing that you have like 30 minutes and then having to switch back to different mode of working with somebody and doing a service one on one.

Anthony Right. We talked about last episode, how working one on one should be this learning experience. It should be solving problems and testing new hypothesis and giving answers and it should be a very intentional thing to do. And so, if you do that and then jump out and try to answer your email or do this task-based work and how to go back to that problem-solving mode and go back and forth all day. Your energy going to be sapped. You are not going to be efficient and you are going to get so much less work done and more amount of time.

Ryan One of the things that was hard for me and I think it was actually you who encouraged me to do this initially, was basically, doing this time blocking thing and being strict about it. And I think there is hesitancy to be strict about it. Like you feel a little bit strange, telling people that you can’t see them at a certain hour during even if it’s available. Like, let’s say someone goes “Oh, I want to come in. Can I? I’d like to come in at 10 o’clock” but you are blocking out morning hours on that particular day so you are blocking out until noon and you are just going to work afternoon. I feel like we almost feel obligated because our job is to help people and we feel obligated. Yes, that time is technically open but it’s not you already blocked it out and reserved it for larger task-completion activities.

Anthony Right. And so what the good doctor here is talking about is so like what we’re saying before. You have a schedule from 8 to 5. Your clinic’s open from 8 to 5, that’s when everybody can book. I would suggest, for people who are not 100% booked every single day, to pick a certain time. And you can do this by evaluating your schedule or just doing a patient/client survey and saying “Okay. I’m only going to see people from 9 am to 12pm, Monday, Wednesday, Friday, instead of all day on those days” and try to tighten up all your windows on your appointments. It means that there’s no gap from back to back to back, you can stay on the same momentum mode of solving problems and in that way when you are done treating the patients, you can completely focus and put all your attention into another task.

Ryan Yeah. And the objection to that that I have initially have was… (“Holy crap! Freaking huge tree branch just fell out of a tree on the car. Oh, my gosh! It scared me!”)

Anthony There’s a guy in the car.

Ryan She had a guy in the car. Wow! It was up close there. Look at that! Look at those trouble makers, holy crap!

So, my originally objection to that was I felt weird, almost like I was lying to a patient being like, “I’m sorry I don’t have any time available. The only time I have available is in that time block, right?” I was really surprised at how actually easy it was to tighten it up so much once you realize the value of your own time, because if you are thinking on that 10 or 10,000 scale, you realize that your time doing that, those other tasks, is also very valuable and very important and so you are obligated to put time offside for yourself to do that work, and you are obligated to have very specific time in a physical clinic so that you can focus and do the best work. If you let people dictate your schedule and then you have these blocks of 20-30 minutes, mentally you can’t even help those people that you are seeing in person, as well as you could because you are mentally fried. You’re actually getting double benefit, two for one. You’re going to have better time blocks to do stuffs that you need to do on a larger scale but you are also going to be sharper the time that you are working with people one on one.

Anthony Right. I get notable (sounds like 00:09:32) to say this but there are plenty of studies that show that when you get distracted by something, you are not focused on one task from start to finish, your input, creative input, mental input, is drastically reduced. And so, let’s see you have somebody at 8 o clock, you have 20-minute break and you try to work on a project, not going to happen. You have a little work done but without being able to try to finish something, you’ll be completely distracted and your actually work output is going to be so low if you will just compare that to time blocking and working on something intensely, for a better and more efficient route (sounds like 00:10:13).

Ryan Right and that bleeds also to how you work with that next person once they get there. You’re in the back of your head thinking about the task that you did not have time to fully complete that you might have been working on. And so, when you should be focusing on completely helping that person to improve your skills set, to help them, in the back of your head eating away at you is thinking “What do I need to do next on that thing I was working on? I need to get through these next couple of people so I can get back to it.” So, it’s better to be just in a zone, blocked out for that one specific task to working with people or working out something else, so that you can dedicate yourself a hundred percent to it. So, if you’re trying to do two tasks even sort of “Oh, I can do fifty-fifty if I split my time right, like a hundred percent capacity” I think when you start splitting like that, you are down working at 40 to 30% on each thing and it doesn’t even aggregate up to 100% that you could be working than when you are focusing on one particular thing.

Anthony Not even close.

Ryan It’s like, you take and this is such a cliché overly used thing but I have to say it “it’s like you take a magnifying glass, you take all the rays of the sun or whatever right and you magnify it on one point and suddenly you can burn the hell out of a freaking leaf or ant or whatever you are doing because you are focusing that energy so intensely but if you don’t time block, you can’t do that.

Anthony So, a challenge out there to anybody who has a schedule or see people one on one, if your schedule is not a hundred percent booked, and if I get to later episodes how that is a pretty foolish way to approach scheduling anyways, but if you are not a hundred percent booked every single day, I challenge you to at least take one of your days, tighten it up and wait until that is 100% fully booked and you can start and increase those hours. So, let’s say you have a 10-hour schedule in your clinic or in your gym, and only, if you evaluated, only six hours are being taken up or four is being taken up by actual one on one treatment or care, make a 4-hour block and put that in your day and then force everybody to schedule within that block. Once that hits 100% capacity, then add on to either end. Keep that block as protected as possible, so that is a challenge from me.

Ryan I have one more question for you.

Anthony Right.

Ryan Do you think it’s more valuable to block out whole day or to block off parts of days?  So, let’s say for example my clinic, was at 75% full capacity, do I take a whole day, blocked off and keep the other days open and filled, open to seeing people or do I shorten each day in to blocks?

Anthony That’s a great question. I think this is going to be vary greatly per individual. So, if you are person I was when I was seeing 20-30 people a day, and I was in 10-12 hour a day of patient care, at the end of the day, if your brain is fried and you can’t think through it, all day is not good. I found for myself that structuring deep thinking, problem solving in the morning, before anything else, is the best ways for me to be charged up for other activities as possible and so for me, that time blocking would look like more AM slots than PM slots, obviously some people are going to be the ones to go to PM slots you can put that in to another day, but all day for me is not good because I ran out of that energy to problem-solve maybe cooking (sounds like 00:13:49) somebody else.

Ryan Got it! So, know yourself. Test the different methods and see and think about how it’s currently going for you in terms of where you feel like you have more energy, less energy.  Do you get charged up seeing a full-packed day or does that totally drain you?  I think that would dictate how you approach that blocking out of time.

Anthony So we covered scheduling people or primary tasks, for anyone in health fitness one on one. I think another one that people overlooked, is responding to emails. It’s so… if you’re going back and forth all day long putting on these fires, aren’t important in the first place, you are wasting a considerable amount of time. So, if anybody out there listens to you say stuff from Tim Ferris, he is like a master of this, and being able to just have time blocking for responding to emails or any kind of task-based work that has to be done into little chunks, can save you way more tasks than you can imagine. And so, if you for instance, every 30 minutes checking email responding to email, let’s say you responded two emails you come back for these four emails. you responded four emails, you come back, there twelve emails.

Ryan You can’t win that game. It’s a loser’s game. You can’t win in that situation.

Anthony And so a lot of times, people think “Oh my God! Emails, I need to respond to it right away!” Emails should not be instant message. Right. I guarantee that for the vast majority of people that didn’t check their email or responded to anything within the week, nothing better happened.

Ryan Yeah, it’s very unlikely to get in the habit of trying to respond to people like within 30 minutes or an hour, the value that it creates is minimal. If you just waited until you could manage it at specific time.

Anthony Right. But if you have let’s say three 45 minutes blocks in your day for responding to email, let say at each block you have 30 emails you need to get through, you can just crush all of that, right in one session instead of trying to dedicate our time in to these 10 or 15 minute chunks and going back and then being distracted, feeling like you are never getting though that tasks, it’s always an ongoing tasks and it’s never going to be checked off.

Ryan Right. Again, you are changing your focus frequently. You are going from this tasks to this task. This task to this task. And that really dampens your effectiveness. So, you can get way more done email wise in a shorter period if you just do one after another after another after another, after another. So, let say you can do 10 and it took you a total of 3 minutes right versus if you did 10 sort of as they came in, that will take way more than 3 minutes. Because you are interrupting your tasks. You have to get back to tie it, get back to another tab of web browser. It’s a total time… It is sort of gratifying and easy to do and it gives you this sort of this sense of completion, but you sort of have to like neglect that surface level satisfaction.

Anthony Right. And a good analogy to this and I think anybody listening to this will be able to connect with this is if you’re, for instance working out, 60 minutes 90 minutes, depends.

Ryan Depends on?

Anthony Let say a general work out and you can say even a run. Let’s say an hour and a half of run. You time block that. You do it all at once. You do it from start to finish, you do it, and then you’re done. Let’s imagine like you are doing some squats and you did one set of squats and then you stopped and 45 minutes later you did those same set of squats, and then you stopped and then you went did a set of pushups.

Ryan You warmed back up and you got to cool back down. You got to get prepared. You got to get in and out physiologically.

Anthony In just the same way that your body requires a warm up and cool down, so is your brain. When you think about the tasks that you are doing, try to consolidate it so you can dive in. Warm up your brain, focus, and then cool down. Switch task.

Ryan So what’s our challenge? Our challenge is look at your schedule, create time blocks, and put in time blocks for your emails. One thing that really helped me and I know you do this too is turning off email notifications on your phone so it does not pop up as a notification.

Anthony You won’t get those manufactured emergencies that you think you have to respond to.

Ryan So I challenge people to turn off the push notifications of email on your phone as well. That’s my challenge. Your challenge was making the blocks, my challenge is turn off the notifications of emails and make email checking a block on your day.

Anthony Right.  And so, we discussed scheduling, we discussed email. This can work with anything that you do, more than one time a day. Think “could I be doing this in a batch and then work and fit that in my day.”

Ryan Awesome. So, lots of action! Thanks for listening guys if you find this valuable. On the next episode, we’re going to get in to some more specifics on other time saving activities so make sure to tune in. If you have any suggestions or idea or thoughts, use emails. We will put those in the show notes. See you guys next time.

Anthony Catch you guys next time.

Ryan Thank you, guys, for tuning in to this episode of the Health Fit Business podcast. If you find it helpful, please share with someone that you think it would also help and leave us a five-star rating on iTunes, make sure also to go to and sign up for the email notification to which you can find right on the homepage so that you get all the updated podcasts and blog post sent directly to you. Until then, we will see you next time.