Time Blocking & Admin

March 13, 2019

I really like my organization system. It really works. I haven’t changed much in the past year, but I did recently come across some old HTCs (Hobonichi Techo Cousins!) and it made me realize that I have definitely honed things significantly over the years.

My daily ‘dashboard’ type page was born in 2016, and has evolved subtlely since then, for example. My accessory notebook (with various goals / lists / etc) has become more complex. At any given moment, I’m pretty confident that I know where all of the seemingly random tasks live, and how I can corral them.

Now, my biggest challenge is not allowing myself to let things pile up to a stressful degree! The only way that I have found to avoid this is purposefully designated Admin Time. Admin time must be:

  • time with childcare or when children are all reliably asleep (essential)
  • time without a high likelihood of frequent interruptions (ie, between patients – not a great time to admin)
  • at a time when I am not super tired/hungry/grumpy
  • scheduled regularly to avoid task pileup

When I notice that the sidebar of my weekly view (where I keep my ‘to do this week’) list of tasks seems to be just rolling over and accumulating more things, I know that I need an admin block. When I realize I haven’t triaged/emptied my email for weeks I also see the need for an admin block — I know everyone feels differently about this, but achieving Inbox Zero from time to time definitely is essential for the way I process things. I also find that I need a ‘bigger’ admin block each month to do some planning and perform my monthly review.

SOOO . . . the tough part is — when? The mornings aren’t necessarily long enough. In the evening I am too tired. That leaves my days off or weekends when I happen to have childcare.

I have actually found that a weekend call day can be perfect for a highly productive admin block. Even if I do have to see some patients in the hospital, it rarely takes the entire day and I usually have an extra 2-3 hours I can sit in my office and just GET *&#$ DONE. And then I feel a million times better afterwards!

On a similar note, I have been working on adapting some time blocking into my regular work schedule. This has become necessary as my administrative/GME time tends to get run over by clinical tasks if I am not ruthless about protecting it. I’ve started to note in my planner things like “1p-4p – GME” and closing our clinical workspace during that time. I think the concept of time blocking (and on a similar vein, singletasking) is really important and I’d like to explore it further.

Too many empty / migrated boxes – time for an admin block!

Some more random notes:

  1. My Summersalt bathing suits arrived! Sadly though the one-piece (this one) did not fit at all. I think it was a length issue (ie it was too long) because the top was basically falling off of my shoulders and gaping next to the bra cups — not a good look. If I had 2″ more torso, it probably would have been fine, but . . . I don’t. The two piece (bottom, top) fit really nicely and I like the look of the contrast band (it’s also a nice compromise between high and low rise when left unfolded). I still want a one-piece though too and may try Madewell or Athleta next.
  2. I found out yesterday that C got in (via lottery, totally random) to a very popular public magnet elementary school. I entered both kids on a whim, assuming our chances were quite low (they were, something like 60/800!) and I honestly did not expect to have this option. It’s a Montessori-style program and located close to my office/hospital. I am tempted to let him try it even though it will increase our logistical challenges for next year (although not terribly; again, drop off is 7-8 min from my office and there is also a bus). There is sibling preference, so G would be allowed in at pre-K 3 and A could potentially transfer in if a slot opens up. If we find that it’s not worth the logistics, we can pull him out at any time. Am I crazy? My thought process is that this is likely our only chance to try the school and I would regret not finding out if it’s worth it.


  • Reply SW March 13, 2019 at 3:12 pm

    Re the lottery school: We recently had a similar choice to make – our oldest (current second grader) got in off the waitlist for our district’s K-8 lottery school a week or two before the school year started in September.

    Some of the things we thought about:
    – Would she be with her classmates at her next school, or would they be split up? (Kids from the lottery school go everywhere for high school, but her district-assigned K-5 school would send most kids to a different middle school than she would attend).
    – K-8 meant that our three kids would be in the same building longer at the lottery school than at the other K-5 schools. That makes a big difference for our family logistics. The school also made the pitch that middle school is an easier time for kids when they stay with the same cohort and in a smaller setting, which may or may not turn out to be true (or apply to your decision).
    – Are there different classes/extracurriculars? (Our lottery school is smaller than the other middle schools, so there are the same general opportunities, but the sports teams are less competitive and only one language is offered)

    We ultimately decided to go for it, largely because we knew we could change our minds (but that this was probably our only opportunity to attend this school) and because of the K-8 aspect. We’ve found that there’s a much stronger sense of community at this school than our previous school, in part because everyone has chosen to be at this school. We’re generally pretty happy with the choice.

    One mistake – we let our daughter know that we could change our minds and go back to her old school. I wish we hadn’t done that – she’s brought that up a few times when there’s been a rough patch at school.

    Good luck with your decision!

  • Reply Emily March 13, 2019 at 8:05 pm

    Tough decision. My kids did Montessori preschool/K and I’m a big fan of the curriculum and general approach. I wish there were public Montessoris in my area! I would have kept them in Montessori but we decided to switch to public school for a number of reasons.

    I think for me, though, it might not be worth it to send the kids to two separate elementary schools. If you felt pretty certain A could get in for the following year, then maybe go ahead and do it because it’s only one year (if you feel like A is the kind of kid who wouldn’t mind switching and having to make new friends again right after just doing that this year when you moved from MB). For me, wanting my two kids in the same elementary school is partly about logistical challenges, as you mention, but also about sibling camaraderie and my limited time as a parent volunteer. I always grew up going to the same school as my sister and I think it made us closer and helped us both in different ways. It’s also easier for the parents because you’re more familiar with the way things work at the school (and with teachers, etc.) with subsequent kids after you’ve gone through it with the first kid. Also I like to be involved in the school to the extent possible as a working parent, and dividing volunteer time between two schools would be tougher (this may be more of an issue in our district, which is a typically under-resourced urban district which could use more parental involvement).

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger March 15, 2019 at 9:22 am

      Thanks Emily. It really is tough! I was saying to Josh I wish we HADN’T won the lottery which is probably a good clue that the angst isn’t worth it 🙂

  • Reply Krishna March 14, 2019 at 4:17 am

    Hi Sarah,

    I have been experimenting with this Admin block and I find it very productive. I see many benefits in doing this. So many of the admin tasks take more time than we anticipate and it causes irritation when I attempt to finish it
    and miserably fail, during the wait times and other adhoc 10-15 minutes that pop up – while waiting for calls etc . Instead, knowing that I am going to have this block helps me focus on my projects. I have so much accumulated and started this concept recently and I am trying to have this block every alternate day. Of late, I am trying the Pomodoro, very effective indeed, and I devote just 1 Pomodoro of 25 minutes for Admin on alternate days and it works wonders..

  • Reply Ana March 14, 2019 at 2:07 pm

    OMG, the admin block is 100% what I need. Just a time to knock out a bunch of lingering tasks. I’m looking at next weeks schedule and going to add a couple hours for that!
    I would definitely try the new school for one year—with A in her school, you really can compare/contrast the styles and see what you prefer going forward. If you are not happy with the Montessori, then you can always switch C for 1st grade. I agree that having kids in the same school is logistically easier and can help with their own relationships with each other, but if its just one year, it may be worth the hassle (which doesn’t sound insurmountable) to get the experience, otherwise you will always wonder!

  • Reply Ana March 14, 2019 at 2:07 pm

    Oh also, I have a short torso too and have a really tough time with one pieces for that reason. Boden has some really cute ones this year, but reading the reviews it seemed the worked better for long-torso gals. I have one from J Crew with a lot of ruching that works OK, but because of the short torso, the ruching doesn’t stretch out as much and looks more puffy on me than I’d like. I’m loving the high waist bottoms with bikini top look, with a rash guard on top usually for sun protection.

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger March 15, 2019 at 9:16 am

      Somehow the high waisted bottoms are not working well on me – but I am all about the rash guard, too. I have a white one from Athleta that even survived stretching over my bump during pregnancy 🙂

  • Reply Marcia Francois March 14, 2019 at 2:26 pm

    I love and use the admin block. Gretchen Rubin calls it Power Hour (although I tell myself that so it’s not so boring….. it’s often longer because I procrastinate on paperwork and such!).

  • Reply Parent Lightly Beth Cubbage March 14, 2019 at 2:46 pm

    My younger daughter has gone to a Montessori school since she was a baby and it has been wonderful. I think it’s great for kids who are motivated and independent. I have never seen a more focused group of little kids than in a Montessori classroom. We have loved it. That being said, it has been annoying that my kids have been at different schools since my youngest was born (almost 5 years ago). I am SO happy that they’ll be in the same place next year, finally. It has been OK so far since my younger daughter’s school is on-site at my office, so it’s not out of my way at all. But it still adds time to pick both of them up separately. So, in summary, Montessori is awesome but I think it would be challenging to balance two pickups, different event schedules, potentially different aftercare situations, etc. Hard decision for sure!

    • Reply Parent Lightly Beth Cubbage March 14, 2019 at 2:46 pm

      Oh also, I would suggest visiting the magnet school if you haven’t already. We considered a Montessori magnet school when my oldest was starting K and it wasn’t that Montessori because it was still bound by all of the public school rules. Not sure how it is in FL but something to consider!

      • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger March 15, 2019 at 9:16 am

        Thanks Beth! On further exploration – I think the logistics are going to be a deal-breaker. Another pitfall of kidsx3 – but I know there are worthwhile rewards to having 2 siblings, too 🙂

        • Reply Parent Lightly Beth Cubbage March 15, 2019 at 1:41 pm

          Yeah, makes sense! Even with just 2 kids + 2 working parents, logistics tends to trump for me. 🙂

  • Reply Dr Eva Lantsoght March 14, 2019 at 4:37 pm

    FWIW: Time blocks are popular among university professors – you may like to read these posts: by Tanya Golash-Boza ( ) who has a large admin block on Fridays, by Raul Pacheco-Vega ( ) and my pre-kids schedule ( ) which reminds me I should do an update on that post (I have larger blocks for admin now, as I became a full professor and there are more demands from others on me).

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