Do you always struggle when it comes to getting tasks done? Then, you need to learn about time blocking: what is it and how to do it.
Time blocking is a simple yet powerful productivity technique.
This practice will not only show you how to get more done in a day but also give you more time to do the things you love.
It is an increasingly popular method of time management that has won many advocates.
For instance, Elon Musk swears by it since it helps him not only to manage his busy day, but also find time for family, exercise, and even leisure activities.
What Is Time Blocking?
When you time block, you schedule everything you want to do.
This includes not just work, but also personal time, and even meals.
By dividing your day into these blocks, you ensure that you are not only actually getting work done but also identifying wasted time that you can put to good use.
You may be thinking that this sounds a lot like making a ‘to-do’ list.
There is a major difference in that with a time block schedule, you are actually taking into account how long each task will take.
With a ‘to-do’ list, you are simply going through the tasks in order without accounting for how long each takes to complete.
Thus, it is possible that you could not finish everything that is on the list.
This will inevitably lead you to be frustrated.
But with a time block schedule, you know what you can finish in a day.
So you won’t end up making unrealistic lists where you just hope that you can complete everything on it.
Another major advantage of using this time management technique is that you are actually forced to prioritize the tasks that are most important.
You have to decide what work is most urgent to complete in order to fulfill your daily goals.
Here are some of the reasons that highlight the importance of time blocking for success in work and life:
It Makes You Accomplish More
When you time block, you have to list down all of the things you need to block out time in your schedule for.
When you look back at the end of the workweek, you will realize how much work you have completed.
It Helps You Focus.
When you know that you have to finish a task within a particular time frame, you are able to focus your attention only on that.
You don’t have to think about anything else.
When you finish that block and you move on to the next one, you can focus on the new task and forget about other things.
It Makes It Easier To Move To Another Tasks.
When everything that you want to accomplish has been scheduled for the day, you can easily shift your attention from one task to the next.
It Gives You An Overview Of How You Are Actually Spending Your Time.
When you time block, you can see exactly where your time is going.
This allows you to schedule your time so that you are able to allocate it more effectively.
It Helps You Better Understand How Long It Takes To Complete Certain Work.
When you start to time block, you may find that you are allocating too much or too little time for particular tasks.
As you continue to practice the technique, however, you will find that you are better able to allocate your time.
It Can Help Promote Creativity.
You can block out time for you to get your creative juices going, i.e. by taking a walk, listening to music or just doing nothing.
Otherwise, you may allow yourself to be overwhelmed by work and not have this time to nourish your inner self.
Even if you are skeptical, you should commit to trying this time management technique out for a week.
By doing so, you can try and see if it works for you.
If not, then at least you know that it does not work for you and you can move on to other methods of managing your time.
How To Time Block
There are many ways to time block.
If this is your first time, however, you may not be sure how to go about it.
In this section below, we will take you through one of the basic time blocking techniques step-by-step.
You can try it out as it is, or make changes to make it fit your requirements better.
Write Down Everything You Have To Do And Want To Do During The Day.
The list should include both work tasks and non-work activities.
When you finish, arrange the items on the list as follows:
The Most Important Tasks.
What do you absolutely need to prioritize?
For instance, are there work tasks for which a deadline is coming up?
Is there a long-term project you need to start making progress on?
These are tasks that you have to do every day, such as answering emails and updating your company’s social media accounts.
Take note of how long each task will take to complete.
These can include spending time with your family or loved ones, watching a movie, playing video games or going on a date.
You can also include time to do things that can fuel your creativity.
Create Blocks For The Tasks And Activities You Want To Accomplish In A Day.
This is the heart of the time blocking strategy, and what distinguishes it from a ‘to-do’ list.
You will actually have to decide how much time to devote to each task.
For instance, a daily task list for a small business owner might look something like this:
- Track accounts receivable and accounts payable
- Order new supplies
- Respond to customer feedback
- Look over advertising material
- Talk with employees about work-related issues
- Look over business financial statements
Let’s say your working day is from 8am to 5pm, with 12 noon to 1pm already blocked out for lunch.
So your time block schedule could look like as follows:
- 8 am – 8.30 am Create Daily Schedule
- 8.30 am – 9 am Order new supplies
- 9 am – 10 am Track accounts receivable and accounts payable
- 10 am – 12 noon Respond to customer feedback
- 12 noon – 1 pm Lunch
- 1 pm – 2 pm Look over advertising material
- 2 pm – 4 pm Talk with employees about work-related issues
- 4 pm – 5 pm Look over financial statements
You can create your time block schedule on any sheet of ruled paper or you can invest in a diary with every day already divided into half-hour sections.
Alternately, you can use time management tools that allow you to easily create schedules.
These tools provide you with the ability to quickly make a daily, weekly or monthly schedule and change it as required.
Revise Your Schedule
Particularly when you are starting out, you may notice that you are not correctly estimating how much it takes to finish each task.
The time that you have blocked out may be too long or too short.
Thus, part of an effective time blocking strategy is to learn how to adjust your schedule to reflect how the day actually goes.
For instance, if you finish a block early, you can use the remaining time to take a break or move on to the next task.
On the other hand, if you are not yet finished, you can continue and just bump the next block.
You can move everything forward and just postpone the last block.
You can also choose a block to be moved to some other time.
You should also be flexible enough with your schedule to allow for interruptions.
No matter how much you try to avoid disruptions, there will be times when you will be disturbed.
At the end of the day, provide a block to review your accomplishments.
Check how well you’ve stuck to your time block schedule.
Have you correctly estimated the amount of time it takes to do your typical tasks?
Are there adjustments you need to make?
If you seem to have difficulty following this productivity technique, you might consider using a time blocking app.
There are apps that are specifically programmed with time blocking techniques that will guide you through the process.
Many of these are available for free or come with a free trial period, after which you will have to choose a paid plan.
You can use the trial period to see if the time blocking app is genuinely useful so that you can decide what features you need and what plan to subscribe to.
Tips On How To Time Block More Effectively
1. Know When You Are Most And Least Productive During The Day.
This will allow you to determine when to schedule particular time blocks so that you will be the most productive.
One of the keys to a successful time block schedule is knowing the times when you are most productive.
These are the times when you should schedule the most difficult tasks.
For these tasks, you should block out at least an hour.
2. Schedule Less Demanding Tasks Towards The End Of The Day.
By the time the workday ends, you’re probably tired and ready to go home.
So, you should schedule the least difficult tasks during this period.
These can be things that don’t require you to be creative or which are not tedious.
For instance, you can schedule routine follow up calls during this time, or answering routine emails.
3. Spend Time To Measure How Much Time Your Regular Tasks Take
To do this, list down all the regular tasks that you do as part of your work week.
Then measure how much time, on the average, each of these tasks takes to complete.
You can then use these times as a basis for setting your time blocks.
4. Break Tasks Down Into Smaller Pieces.
Give each of these pieces its own block.
You should avoid spending too much time on each task.
Try to keep each time block to no more than two to three hours.
This will prevent you from getting too fatigued by working too long only on a single task.
One advantage of this tip is that it can help you avoid cramming.
For instance, if you know that you have to submit your employee’s tax returns by a certain date, you can break down these tasks into subtasks and give each one its own shorter block.
This will help you to avoid creating a single long block to complete the task.
5. Group Small Tasks Together In A Single Block.
If there are tasks that will only take you a few minutes, such as returning calls or answering emails, it makes no sense to devote a single short block for them.
Instead, you should group these shorter tasks together in a single block.
You can assign these a half hour or an hour block.
6. Use Color-Coding On Your Blocks.
You can use different colors to indicate how urgent a particular task is, i.e. red for the highest priority, yellow for moderate, and blue for the least urgent.
You can use colored pencils or markers if you are creating a paper schedule.
If you are using a time management app, check the settings to see how you can color-code your calendar.
7. Block Out Some Time For Planning.
You can schedule this at the start of the working day or at the end of the day.
In addition, you should set aside some time for medium and long term planning.
For instance, on Monday, you can create a one-hour block to list down all the goals that have to be met during the workweek and all the tasks that need to be completed.
You can also do the same thing for monthly and yearly planning.
8. Block Out Time To Do The Things You Want To Do.
As we already mentioned, the importance of time blocking is that it ensures you have time for everything in your life.
If you have planned out what you need to do in advance, you can create blocks for leisure time.
For example, if you know that you will finish all the urgent tasks you need to do by Friday afternoon, you can leave early and create a block for spending time with your family.
9. Stay Flexible.
Do not make your block schedule too rigid.
Particularly when you are starting, you may realize that you have not allocated enough time for a certain task.
You may also be running behind.
To accommodate these eventualities, you can include a short empty block as part of your schedule.
This block can start at thirty minutes and increase as needed.
Alternately, you can add short blocks of around fifteen minutes before and after each longer block.
This will give you some time to finish up what you are doing or prepare to work on the next block.
10. Get The Support Of Your Family And Friends.
A time block schedule will work only if the other people in your life respect it.
This is particularly so if you are working from home.
So talk to them about your schedule.
You might want to share all or part of your time blocks with them so they’ll know when they can disturb you and when they should leave you alone.
Doing this will also ensure that you avoid distractions.
At the same time, you should respect other people’s schedules.
Coordinate with family and friends so that your schedules don’t clash.
11. Avoid Telling People You Are “Free” At A Particular Time.
In a time block schedule, there is no such thing as “free time” unless there is a block that is specifically empty.
Instead, tell people that you can “make time” or can “move things around”.
The reason for this is that you are subtly communicating that your time is valuable.
12. Make Sure You Keep Track Of Your Productivity.
Creating a time block schedule is a technique for how to get more done.
So to measure if it is working for you, you should use increased productivity as a metric.
You can do this by, for instance, noting how much you have achieved at the end of a working day or week.
You can start your tracking on Monday and then look at how productive you have been on Friday.
13. Keep Things Simple.
Creating a time block schedule is intended to be a simple time management technique, so you should avoid making it too complicated.
Follow the basic steps above and you’ll be on your way.
Now that you know what is time blocking, you should not hesitate to try it out if it seems like something that would be helpful to you.
Commit to doing it for a week or two to see if it helps you in getting work done.
You may find that it is one of the best ways for helping you get control of your time, and your life.