• Jason Griffing

The 3-Block Time Management Framework

The Three-Block Framework

Above is a messy first sketch of a new system I'm experimenting with. The idea is to try and reduce the angst I feel around trying to reconcile two competing forces—my desire to relax over the weekend and my intrinsic drive to always be engaged in something that feels productive.

Like most everyone, I have a lot to juggle. Naturally, this can be a source of stress. But when I really examine the stress, I find that it isn't actually rooted in having too much to do, per se. More so, my stress rooted in not knowing what to do when. While I struggle with this in the workplace as well, it becomes especially prevalent over the weekends when there are not nearly as many clear signals dictating my choices (for better or worse). This system is designed to help alleviate some of that angst.

On the right, I quickly jotted down all the things I want/need to get done this weekend. For me, these also include activities my wife needs to do as those will result in me needing to be available to keep our kids occupied.

Next, I created a simple six-block table. The two columns represent the two days of the weekend. The three rows represent the general times of day (AM, afternoon, and PM). Using this simple structure helps me battle my natural tendency to over-plan (i.e. try and schedule everything down to the hour).

Finally, one by one I moved over the tasks on the right over into the table on the left, crossing them off as I did so. I made decisions about what tasks went where with the help of my wife. Some of the choices were obvious. Swimming lessons, for example, are at a set time. Others require a different decision-making process that I'm still trying to figure out. Energy levels are a big one. For example, any task requiring any sort of creative energy is generally better for me to do in the morning. I'll write more about this in the future as I continue to experiment with various frameworks designed to help drive these decisions.

My hope is that by creating this framework I can:

  • Reduce stress: I find looking at one giant to-do list very overwhelming. This system helps me break it down by beginning to separate the decision about what all needs to get done from the decision about when I do each task. This means I can spend more time doing, and less time agonizing over whether or not I'm working on the "right thing".

  • Gain clarity: into exactly how much is achievable over any given time period. Looking at one long to-do list, it is very difficult to tell if you're overreaching (hint: if you have to wonder, you probably are!) Conversely, it is much easier for me to know if the three tasks I've assigned to Saturday afternoon are realistically achievable, while still leaving me some breathing space to simply relax and be present with my family over the weekend.

Investments vs Spending—Does this model work for time management?

Lastly, you'll notice "(I)" or "(S)" by some of the items. This stands for "Investment" vs "Spend". More on this to come in future posts. In short, this is another framework I am experimenting with. The idea is that, in one key respect, time is exactly like money—how we "spend" it will make a massive difference in the quality of our lives. Also similar to money, we can spend time it or we can invest time. We are, of course, required to do both spending and investing. The key is to find the optimal balance.

In this context, time investments (I'll call them "Impact Investments") refer to allocations of time toward things like exercise, hanging out with our kids, or self-improvement, all of which have a clear long-term return. My goal in tracking this is to begin measuring how much of my time is being spent vs being invested, in what ways, and if there are opportunities to optimize to achieve additional impact.

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