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[00:00:00] Dr. Sharp: Hello, everyone. Welcome back to The Testing Psychologist podcast. This is the podcast where we talk all about the business and practice of psychological and neuropsychological assessment. I’m your host, Dr. Jeremy Sharp, licensed psychologist, group practice owner, and private practice coach.

All right. Today is a business. This has been a really nice transition. For those of you who listened to the episode a few weeks ago about taking the podcast in new directions, this has been great. Having one clinical episode each week and one business episode each week, I am feeling much more energized about pushing out podcast content. And it’s been really fun to follow this schedule and be talking about more business topics. So, thanks for listening and hanging with me through this transition. I hope that you’ll take a good bit away from this episode as well.

Today is again another business episode. [00:01:00] The content today is really going to focus on a concept called time blocking. So, this is one of those things that I’ve been doing for a number of years. At first, somewhat intuitively, and then later finding out that there’s some good science behind it, and there is quite a bit of strategy actually to time blocking.

Time blocking, if you don’t know, is the idea of only doing certain things at certain times of the day. This is really a huge reason that I’ve been able to run a group practice, do the podcast, do private practice coaching, maintain a running schedule of 30 to 40 miles a week, and a number of other things all while picking my kids up from school every day and [00:02:00] basically not working weekends.

People are often asking that question here and there, and they’ll say, “Jeremy, how are you doing so much? It seems like you’re doing so much. How are you doing this?” And honestly, a big part of it is just good time management and a big part of that is time blocking. So, that’s what we’re talking about today.

Before I get to the episode, I want to invite any of you advanced practice owners out there to consider jumping into the Advanced Practice Mastermind which will start in September 2020. This is a small group mastermind of no more than 6 psychologists, all in the advanced stages of practice who are really looking to ramp up their practices, take it to the next level. A lot of things we talk about include hiring, time management, efficiency, expanding your practice, [00:03:00] additional streams of income, things like that.

So, if that sounds like you, and you would love to connect with a group of folks who are in the same boat, I would love to have you consider the Advanced Practice Group. This is a group that I facilitate and provide group coaching to the members. So, if that’s interesting to you, you can go to thetestingpsychologist.com/advanced and get a lot more information and schedule a pre-group screen to see if it would be a good fit.

Like I said, this will be launching in September. There are six spots. I imagine that they will fill up quickly. So, I’d love for you to jump in and see if it would be a good fit.

All right, let’s jump to our episode on time blocking.

[00:04:00] Okay, everyone, welcome back. Here we are talking about time-blocking. Many of you may have heard of time blocking or heard of some version of it, maybe it’s hasn’t been called time blocking or that’s not what you know it by, but the general definition of time-blocking is picking specific times of the day to do specific tasks.

Some of you might be listening and saying, that actually sounds very intuitive. Of course, that’s what I do. I do specific tasks at specific times of the day. What I found is that many of us, myself included think that we are managing our time efficiently and basically single-tasking throughout the day when in fact we are not doing that at all. Just being [00:05:00] transparent, I’m recording podcasts right now, but as I look across the tabs on my internet browser, there’s our EHR, there’s my calendar, there is my work email, there’s my work chat, there’s my Google drive and my show notes, my content calendar, there’s a random evaluation intake note up there- who knows what that is, there’s my Asana task list, and then there’s my recording software here. So, even for someone who has practiced this a lot, there you go. I’m not single-tasking at all at least in theory here.

So the idea is that time-blocking is something that is necessary to truly help us hone in and engage in single-tasking rather than multitasking. There is a good deal of [00:06:00] research out there that we are not good at multitasking. And in fact, it’s not a thing that we can do. We might think that we’re doing it well, but we can’t.

What happens is, many of us jump into the day, we open up our internet browser if we closed it in the first place the day before, and we’re immediately drawn to whatever shiny object is presented on our screen. And that’s even if you get to your computer without touching your phone. Maybe you’re looking at Facebook, maybe you’re in your email, maybe you’re on your chat, maybe you’re on Twitter, maybe you’re working on that report that is still open from the night before. So there are any number of things that could pull your attention to them without your explicit decision to work on that thing.

And so, [00:07:00] the idea, again, of time-blocking is that you cut all of that out and you really get down to what you want to be doing at each moment of the day. And during those time blocks, when you’ve decided exactly what you’re going to work on, you only work on that thing. You do not switch your attention to something else even just for a second, because there is again, great research out there around, I’ve heard of called attention residue where even if you just switch over, like, say from writing a report to answering that quick email, you have what’s called attention residue for much longer than the time that it takes to actually complete the task. So it takes a lot longer to get back in the “zone” to be writing your report [00:08:00] than you think it might. So even if an email only takes 15 seconds to shoot off, that task switching in and of itself is very disruptive from a cognitive standpoint and it takes quite a while to get back in the zone for the tasks that you’re actually trying to work on.

So, there are many aspects of time blocking that we could get into. I am going to give you a good solid overview of what time blocking looks like, the different types, and how I implement it in my own schedule. So, let’s dive in.

So again, generally speaking, the concept behind time-blocking is that you just dedicate specific blocks throughout the day to do specific tasks. And during those blocks, you don’t do other things. [00:09:00] For example, for me, whenever I need to work on a report, I know that I have to block out three hours. This is what it takes at this point. Now, there are plenty of tech tools and apps and things like that to make the actual writing more efficient and quicker, that has been covered and will be covered in other podcast episodes. But for now, I’m just talking about the time you need to write your report. Maybe that’s two hours, maybe that’s one hour, maybe that’s five hours, but the idea is that you give yourself a really solid block of time to work on the most important tasks each day.

So that component of picking your most important tasks for the day is crucial. You don’t want to dedicate a three-hour block of time to work on your email unless for some reason that’s the most important thing [00:10:00] that you’re going to do that day. So this really involves stepping back, looking at your week, looking at your clinical load, figuring out really what tasks you really need to be doing throughout the week, and then prioritizing those tasks each day and creating blocks of time to make those happen.

Like I said, if I know that I have to write a report, then I will have a three-hour block of time per report for that week. And those are just set aside and I know that that’s what I’m going to be doing.

So the rest of the day, you might be asking, well, what do I do during the rest of the day? Well, this is again where you can really engage in time blocking to plan out your day in as much detail as you [00:11:00] would like.

Now, the way that I end up doing it is a combination of simple time-blocking, which is just again, just dividing the day into blocks of time with each block specifically being allocated to one particular task, but I’ll combine that with something called a task batching, which some of you have probably heard about, I’ve talked about batching here on the podcast, but it’s this idea that you do similar things all at once so that you aren’t like switching back and forth between disparate tasks.

What this looks like in practice is, for me, for example, I typically come in or start work at the beginning of the day by opening a new internet browser. What that means is [00:12:00] that the day before I have closed my internet browser. So, part of my end of the day ritual is to close out my internet window and make sure that you have that setting on where when you open your internet browser for the first time that day or open a new browser window, that it goes to a blank page, that’s what I found most helpful, or a specific page if you just always know, for example, that you’re going to start your day with email, that’s fine. But I have it open to a blank page because I don’t start with email every day.

So I open the new browser and on, let’s say a typical day, I will spend the first half-hour, so I have a half-hour of time blocked out to jump into the email, answer anything critical, anything urgent. I’ll run through the chat for our [00:13:00] practice and I’ll just make sure that there are… I always take care of the urgent things first, that also involves checking the Facebook group moderation comments and that sort of thing, and then, like I said, I spend about a half-hour on that. So I take care of the urgent things first.

Then I move to just work on my inbox. I do a lot of archiving. There are many things that I do not respond to. We could spend episodes on just email in and of itself, but just as a quick rundown, I don’t respond to everything. Like I said, I do a lot of archiving. I do a lot of forwarding to other people who might be better to answer the question, whether that’s my admin team in the practice or my VA or other clinicians, or whatnot. So I spent about a half-hour on email.

And then for me being a [00:14:00] morning person, if I have to get some crucial work done, I try to have a nice three-hour block in the morning right after email. So let’s say that’s from 9 to 12. So then after I finish my big block of time, then I’ll usually do another 15 minutes to check in on email. And then, in the afternoon, that’s for me, when I try to save work that is less cognitively demanding. For me that might be, I don’t know, researching some new technology for the practice or doing some administrative work or writing up training manuals, things like that.

And then I’ll do, like I said, another hour or two of that, and then I’ll always do a check at the end. So another 30 [00:15:00] minutes to touch base on email or messages. And let’s see, voicemails are the other thing that I’ll typically do at the end of the day. So that’s just a general overview. 

In theory, this sounds really easy. The practice though can be really challenging. The biggest challenge that I found in my work and coaching other practice owners is that we get drawn in during those big blocks of time to do other things. So, even if you sit down and you say, okay, I’ve got a three-hour block. I’m going to work on this report. I’m going to work on this bit of research. I’m going to do some writing, whatever it might be. It’s really easy to get pulled into other things.

So there are a few strategies that I use to keep that block sacred. One of them is, [00:16:00] I only keep internet tabs open that I am working on at that time. So if I’m really sitting down trying to zone in on a report, basically what that means is I have Google drive open with the client file folder and the Google doc is open that has, for example, the evaluation notes, the behavioral observations, and test results, I have a word document open working on the report. And that’s it.

I don’t have my email open. I do not have the chat open. It’s pretty straightforward, but I close out everything else so that I can, like I said, truly focused on the task that I’m working on.

For me, my phone is not a huge distraction, but for some people, it is certainly. So if that means you have to put your phone on airplane [00:17:00] mode or even turn your phone off or just hide your phone, that’s totally fine too. Whatever you have to do to protect that block of time is worth it. But the whole idea is that you are sitting down and you are only working on what you want to work on. You’re not switching your tasks or your attention.

If you have trouble focusing for that long, that’s totally fine. A lot of people do like to take breaks and you can totally do that. A strategy that I’ve used to structure those breaks is the Pomodoro method. The Pomodoro method is the idea that you work for 20 to 25 minutes stretches and then you take a five-minute break. Instead of one huge block of time, you give yourself [00:18:00] miniature deadlines. And there’s something compelling about that to let you know or to keep you focused and keep you motivated for what you’re working on because you know that your timer is going to go off. And at least for me, there’s a psychological effect there that I want to get as much done as possible before the timer goes.

So that is the general idea of time blocking. Now, I have taken it to maybe another level and engaged in a concept called de theming as well. And this is another aspect that I will talk with my coaching clients about that has been really, really helpful especially in clinical practice. So, day theming as you might guess, is where you dedicate specific days to specific tasks or responsibilities that you have.

For example, in a clinical practice, what this might look like [00:19:00] is, Mondays are clinical days. So, on Mondays, you do two interviews and two feedback sessions, and any other clinical contact that you might have. So, for us, interviews are two hours each and feedbacks are one hour each. So, that gets up to about a six-hour day. And that allows for a little bit of time for email at the beginning and end of the day, and maybe a little extra time if you don’t go over your sessions, but the day theme for Monday is clinical.

The day theme for Tuesday and Wednesday, let’s say if you’re doing two evaluations a week, is that you test on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Now, that could be two full-day sessions or it could be four half-day sessions. However you want to structure it. But [00:20:00] the theme for Tuesday and Wednesday is testing, administration, and scoring.

In a lot of clinical practices then, the theme for Thursday is report writing. So, on a Thursday, if you’re going by this 3 to 4-hour block, most of us will have to two of those blocks to write reports. So, Thursday is all about writing. And you have that time set aside to knock out your reports.

And then, Friday is open. It could be a random kind of follow-up. It could be researching topics you’re interested in. It could be growing your practice. It could be just taking the day off. It could be any number of things.

That’s an example of a typical week and how you might day theme [00:21:00] your weeks in addition to time-blocking each of those days. The combination of those two strategies has been super helpful for me. And again, a set of strategies that I talk with coaching clients about quite frequently.

So, there’s a lot more to be said about both of these things, time-blocking and day theming, but like I said, this is just a little bit of an introduction to get you thinking about how you might do this in your own practice.

My hope is that, by listening to this episode, you might get off of your phone or your computer or wherever you’re listening and go to your calendar and look through your calendar and do some shifting around just to find one three-hour block each week. And you can use that block for whatever you want [00:22:00] to use it for, but just create a three-hour block. It might take a few weeks if you’re booked out, you may have to shift some things around, but just try to create one three-hour block a week that you can dedicate that you know that you’re going to be working on one specific task during that time.

And if you are feeling extra motivated, you can go in and you can tweak some of these settings that I talked about. So, you can do some time blocking for email. You can change your browser settings so that it doesn’t open existing windows every time you open up a new browser window. So, you can take a couple of extra steps as well, but if you do one actionable thing from this episode, the idea is to block out at least one three-hour stretch where you can get some really quality work done.

[00:23:00] And if you’re interested in learning more about this concept and why it’s important and how to do it, I have found two books that have been really helpful. Both will be listed in the show notes. One of those is called Deep Work by Cal Newport. And that book really is entirely about time blocking and managing your attention and how to stay focused when you want to. That’s a really good one.

And then, another one that has a pretty solid section on time-blocking, the whole book is not about time-blocking, but has a good section on it is the 12 Week Year. I’ll list both of those in the show notes. And again, my hope is that you can take some of this information and translate it into your practice so that you can increase your efficiency and really maximize the time that you might have.

[00:24:00] So, thank you for listening to this episode. I love this stuff. I’m a time management and efficiency junkie. So, it’s really fun to talk about, and I hope it’s been helpful for you.

Like I said at the beginning, if you find yourself compelled by this content and interested in really diving in and taking your practice to the next level with this topic and many others, then I would love to have you apply to join the advanced practice mastermind group which will be starting in September 2020. You can go to thetestingpsychologist.com/advanced to learn more and to schedule a pre-group call. I hope to be talking with you soon.

All right. Y’all take care. Continue to enjoy your summer. I hope that everyone is staying safe. We will be back with you on Monday with another clinical episode.

All right. [00:25:00] Bye-bye.

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