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“How do you get so much done?” she asked me.
After all, I was building a business, launching new products, learning to bake homemade bread, and homeschooling a 3-year-old and I still showered every day and kept up a daily yoga practice.
The truth is, I think I’m addicted to the dopamine hit that I get when I finish something, especially when it’s something big.
I used to pick my library books based on how thick they were to make sure I didn’t run out of reading material. (One of the best was Sacajawea by Anna L. Waldo, landing at 1427 pages.)
Even now, I keep trying to squeeze more into every day and figure out how to get more done in less time.
While the only way to get through all those books was one page at a time – and it’s not that different with productivity in your business.
So, what’s my secret?
Bricks and Blocks
Yep – just like Lego bricks and Duplo blocks. (Maybe I’ve been spending too much time on that homeschooling…)
So, what are bricks and blocks, and how can they help you get more done in your days?
Bricks and blocks are a way to break down your business activities based on how long they take.
It’s not about the Eisenhower Matrix or Gantt charts. It’s purely about tackling the right projects at the right time.
Bricks are small tasks – that can take 15-20 minutes.
Blocks are more significant tasks that can take up to 2-hours.
Let’s look at some examples:
- Writing a creative brief for a project
- Delegating a project
- Testing a workflow
- Creating the outline for a new blog post or podcast episode
- Scheduling social media content for the week
- Curating content
- Entering receipts
- Writing a sales page
- Creating an email sequence or sales funnel
- Recording lessons or webinars
- Competitive analysis
- Partner research
- Account reconciliation
You can use bricks and blocks across your business – from developing products to managing your day-to-day tasks.
And when you get used to using it, you may find you start to think of ALL the tasks in your life as bricks and blocks!
How to Use Bricks and Blocks in Your Projects
Most of the time when we start planning a project, we see big swaths of things that need to be done.
For example, if you’re creating a new digital product, you know that you need to create the product, create the sales page, integrate your payment processor and set up follow-up emails.
If you’re opening a new location for your restaurant, you need to find a new location, get the right permits, buy the right equipment, get all your inspections, decorate, and launch all your marketing efforts.
Then each of those items breaks down into smaller pieces. (I’ll use the digital product example instead of the restaurant since I’ve actually launched digital products – but the theories are the same!)
To create your product, you’ll need to:
- Identify the ideal outcomes for your customer.
- Determine how to deliver that outcome – through an ebook, an online course, a combination of trainings and workbooks, etc.
- Develop the content for the product.
- Set up the deliverables in your product management system, like MemberVault.
Out of these, a few can qualify as bricks or blocks:
- Identify the outdeal outcomes for your customer: Brick. (Usually you’ll know the outcomes pretty quickly when you have the idea for the product.)
- Determine how to deliver that outcome: Brick. (When you came up with the idea for the product, you probably also thought about how to deliver it. But spending a few minutes to review the options never hurts!)
- Set up the deliverables in your product management system: Brick. Once you’ve created all the materials, uploading the content into your product management system should go fairly quickly.
But the rest – developing the content and creating the deliverables are still often too big. Most of the time, this takes longer than just a couple of hours.
If your deliverable is an ebook, you’ll need to have blocks for:
- Outlining your book content
- Writing each chapter or section (depending on how long your ebook is!)
- Incorporating feedback from your advance readers
- Editing and proofreading
- Final Proofing
And yes – some of these take multiple blocks. When I was writing Minimum Viable Marketing, I had several blocks for most of these all the way through reviewing the final print edition.
When you set up a project like this in your project management system, it could look something like this:
The items with the little purple labels are bricks, the teal labels are blocks.
This also gives me a great visual reference for how long it’s going to take me to do this project.
How to Use Bricks and Blocks in Your Regular Business
Bricks and blocks aren’t just great for special projects or launches. You can also use them to kepe your every-day business on-track.
Keep track of all that routine stuff you need to do every week, whether that’s scheduling social media posts or reviewing payroll. Get it all out of your head and down on paper. Figure out how long each takes, and how often it needs to be done.
Then, categorize it into bricks and blocks – just like you did when planning your project.
You can even set these up in your project management system like Trello or Asana.
If you use a calendar to organize your daily tasks – like traditional time-blocking, then you can also reserve time on your schedule for these tasks. I still suggest using color coding – our eyes can recognize colors faster than almost anything else.
Once you have this visual representation set up, you can see where you have time in your week to add in project-related tasks. In the example screenshot of my week, I could definitely add in some more bricks, but my blocks look pretty full. (The number of bricks and blocks you can handle in a day will depend on how many hours you have available to work.)
How do Bricks and Blocks Help You Get More Done?
Every time you complete a task, your body releases a little shot of dopamine – the feel-good chemical that helps you feel joy and pride.
Bricks give you those little dopamine hits. Plus, finishing blocks can quiet the mental buzzing that comes from trying to keep all those little tasks in your head.
But you also need some balance to get that deeper feeling of accomplishment – and to move yoru business and those big projects forward. That’s where your blocks come into play.
When you have a block – a good solid chunk of time to work on one task uninterrupted, it allows your mind and body to get into flow. Flow, as described by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and Jeanne Nakamura, is when you get so immersed into an activity that you lose all track of time (and no, watching old episodes of The Office doesn’t count).
In a 2004 TED Talk, Csikszentmihalyi said: “There’s this focus that, once it becomes intense, leads to a sense of ecstasy, a sense of clarity: you know exactly what you want to do from one moment to the other; you get immediate feedback.”
It doesn’t hurt that blocks also give you a dopamine rush – so keep those good feelings going.
Getting Started Using Bricks and Blocks
Wondering if bricks and blocks are right for you? The only real way to find out is to try it! Grab your favorite task management system – Asana, Trello, or even your bullet journal or notepad. (Just grab a couple of different color pens or highlighers if you’re using an analog system.)
Take a look at what you need to get done in the next 3 days, and what time you have available to do it. It’s usually easier to figure out when you’re going to fit in a block, then fill in the bricks in the surrounding time.
I do most of my blocks in the afternoon (during quiet time for my daughter) or in the evenings after she’s gone to bed. But I can squeeze in lots of bricks during the day while she’s playing independently.
You may find you do your blocks best in the morning, before you even check your inbox. Or maybe you need to knock out a few bricks before your team stand-up meeting. You can make this system work for you from day-to-day, week to week. No matter how you use it, you’ve got the opportunity to get more checkmarks on your to-do list. (Let’s be honest – a checkmark on your to-do list is the equivalent of a gold star on your math homework.)
One other advantage of working with bricks and blocks is that I find my block time to be much more productive and focused. I’m not trying to squeeze in bricks (like scheduling the plumber) because I’ve already done it or I know I can handle the bricks another time.
I’d love to hear how your bricks and blocks work in your business! Subscribe to my email list for direct access to me (along with access to my full resource library!), or use the contact form to get in touch.
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