Productivity framework: Vertical and horizontal Time Theming

time theming
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🖊 This article was last updated on May 8, 2020

Sometimes, as a solopreneur it can seem like you need a split personality just to fulfil all the roles required to run your business. In a traditional 9-5 business you’d have whole departments managing the different tasks that you are now solely responsible for. You have many hats to wear— the CEO hat, the accountant hat, the entire marketing department, the content creator, and the face of the company.

Everyone knows that wearing more than one hat at a time is not a good look! The same goes for your business, it’s going to look like a mess because it will be a mess. Trying to do too many things at once will result in chaos and your business goals will slip further and further away.

So, how can you effectively and efficiently divide your time (and your hats) and keep the professional ball rolling and on track?

Well, there is a little productivity hack called ‘time theming’ which does just that.

What is ‘time theming’?

Time theming, or time boxing is nothing new in the world of productivity but the concept has been made popular by productivity expert, Mike Vardy, the founder of Productivityist. Vardy calls it ‘time crafting’ and at a basic level, it’s about giving your day a focus or a theme.

For example, Monday might be content creation day, Tuesday is social media day, Wednesday is given the theme of planning. It’s a simple but effective way to work by dedicating time to what you need to do.

Time theming takes away the element of the unknown and the anxiety that comes with it. Instead of worrying about ‘what do I have to do today?’ OR ‘I have so much to do and I don’t know where to start’, this approach allows you to actually focus on one thing at a time (or monotasking), giving you the freedom to actually DO it.

There are two different types of framing you can use to divide up your time and tasks: vertical theming and horizontal theming.

The Vertical

Vertical theming is like the example above, giving each day of the week a set focus. For example,

  • Monday: SEO
  • Tuesday: Admin
  • Wednesday: Content creation
  • Thursday: Training
  • Friday: Client meetings
  • Saturday: Family, fun, relaxation!
  • Sunday: Planning

Each day has a particular focus, so no time is wasted wondering what hat you’re going to wear that morning. You just get up and get on with it!

The Horizontal

Horizontal theming is about blocking out hours within the days to different, recurring tasks.

For example:

  • 6:45am: Meditation
  • 8am-9am: Process your emails
  • 10am- 11pm: Social media
  • 1pm-2pm: Process your emails
  • 4:30pm: Plan the next work day

Horizontal theming is especially useful for those smaller tasks that you repeat every day. By setting aside a specific time for them and sticking to the same time every day, it helps form positive habits.  

Combine Vertical and Horizontal for Maximum Productivity

You can choose to use the vertical or horizontal method, whichever one you feel suits your personal needs best. Or, for maximum productivity, and what I also do, is use a combination of the two theming techniques.

For example, your week will be vertically themed day by day, but your mornings are horizontally themed for those recurring tasks.

You can also stretch this out beyond the day or the week and time-theme your entire month or year. Whichever method you go for, the key is to provide your mind with a clear path that it can trust and follow.

What are the Benefits of Time-Theming?


Solopreneurs tend to agree that the 9-5 life kills productivity but without structure, whatever you are trying to build is likely to fall flat. You don’t have to force yourself to recreate the 9-5 structure at home but as Mike Vardy says, “Frameworks foster freedom”.

Instead of being limiting or restrictive, a framework puts a plan in place. This plan, this framework can be adjusted when necessary. Think of it as the stabilizers or training wheels on your bike as a child. They kept you steady and on course, allowing you to learn and reach your goal and your destination faster.


Jumping from task to task means you are very busy achieving very little in multiple areas. By dedicating a theme for an entire day or afternoon you force your mind to laser focus. This single focus allows you to dive deeper and do better. You’ll be giving yourself the time to get into the flow and ultimately, get things done!


Introducing time themes either vertically, horizontally, or both helps gives maximum focus for optimal productivity. This simple technique frees up mind space allowing your brain to do what it’s supposed to do… create!

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