Time blocking has become an increasingly popular time management method. But what exactly is it? And how can you use it to boost your productivity? This guide explores what it is, why it’s effective, and time blocking tips that can help you get the most out of your time.
What Is Time Blocking?
Time blocking is a time management technique that involves dividing your day into blocks of time. During each time block, you focus on completing a specific task or a group of related tasks.
Unlike a conventional to-do list, time blocking guides you on what tasks to do and when to do them. While this may sound counter-intuitive, it can allow you to get more done. Creating time blocks can enable you to narrow your focus and prioritize tasks.
Why Time Blocking Works
Time blocking may sound impractical at first, but here are several reasons why it’s effective.
It Encourages “Deep Work”
Multitasking may seem like an excellent way to get more done, but it can divide your attention and ability to focus. Instead of multitasking, time blocking encourages single-tasking. Focusing on one task at a time can allow you to dedicate all your attention to it rather than split your attention across various tasks. As a result, it can help you develop the mental skills required for “deep work” and prevent you from getting distracted.
It Helps You Accomplish “Shallow Tasks”
Mundane tasks like replying to emails, making phone calls, and sending invoices can seem endless. These shallow tasks can consume a lot of time, and if you spend an entire day doing them, you may feel like you haven’t achieved much at the end of the day. That’s because while shallow tasks can be urgent, they won’t help you accomplish your long-term goals.
Time blocking shallow tasks can limit how much time you spend on them. As a result, it can create time for more important tasks.
It Makes You Conscious About How You Use Your Time
Time management isn’t easy. It requires discipline. Time blocking can enable you to monitor how you spend your time. It forces you to account for how you spend your time, and it can make you more intentional about how you use it.
It Counters Perfectionism
Striving to do your best on every task you work on is a great trait. But if you’re a perfectionist, you may find you spend more time than necessary on tasks. Time blocking can help you set strict deadlines on tasks so that you don’t spend more time than required trying to ensure everything is flawless.
How to Begin Time Blocking
Now that you know the benefits of time blocking, here are four steps you can take to get started.
Outline Your Priorities
First, you need to establish why you’re blocking time. Perhaps you want to use time blocking in the office to minimize the time you spend in meetings, or maybe you want to set aside more time to work out.
Whatever your reason, determining your key priorities will determine how you create your schedule and block out time.
Create a Template
Next, create the actual blocks. You can use a time blocking template to facilitate the process. When creating the template, don’t only focus on work-related activities. Set aside time to rest and create time for family and friends. These things are equally as important, and they can help you avoid burnout.
Allocate Time for Both Deep and Shallow Tasks
Once you’ve set aside some personal time, adopt the same approach with your workday. Allocate time for deep tasks like writing, researching, or coding. However, don’t dedicate entire days to only deep work, or you may fall behind on other tasks. Instead, try to strike a balance between creating blocks for both deep and shallow tasks.
For example, if you usually feel lethargic in the early morning, consider spending the first hour of your workday on shallow tasks. Then, as your productivity peaks and your creative juices start flowing, move on to more challenging tasks.
Block Time for Reactive Tasks
Reactive tasks are tasks that are difficult to predict, like impromptu meetings or calls. While creating time blocks for these tasks can prove challenging, doing so can stop them from infringing on your time.
Types of Time Blocking
The best thing about time blocking is that it offers flexibility. Besides the traditional version of time blocking, here are other variations that may be more suitable for you, depending on the nature of your work, work style, and schedule.
Task batching involves grouping similar tasks together so that you can complete them within a specified period. It’s an effective way to prevent context switching and keep you focused.
For instance, you can set aside two 15-minute blocks to respond to emails instead of checking your inbox every 10 minutes.
If you have multiple tasks and responsibilities demanding your time and attention, you may want to consider day theming. Day theming involves dedicating entire days to particular tasks.
For example, if you run a startup, you can pick a day to focus on marketing, another day on product development, and another day on strategy.
Like, task batching, day theming can help you avoid context switching and keep you focused on the task at hand.
Time boxing is closely related to time blocking, but there’s one significant difference. While time blocking allows you to adjust your schedule if tasks take longer than anticipated, time boxing doesn’t. With time boxing, you have to complete tasks within a set time. If the time allocated to do tasks elapses, you should mark the tasks as complete.
Time blocking can prove helpful if you’re a perfectionist and take more time than necessary to complete tasks. It can also come in handy if you want to challenge yourself and improve your efficiency.
Tools to Help You Improve Your Productivity
Once you identify a time blocking method that works for you, a time blocking app can help you get the most out of your time. Here are some apps that can facilitate the process.
Calendar apps can allow you to keep your blocks organized in a central location. Plus, they usually come with useful features like reminders and scheduling so that you stay on top of all your tasks.
Time Tracking Tools
Staying focused and avoiding distractions can be challenging. Time tracking tools can help you identify your biggest distractions and the times when you’re most productive. As a result, they can help you establish the best time to schedule challenging tasks.
Watching time dash by encourages some people to work faster and more efficiently. If you’re one of them, you could benefit from using a timer.
Time blocking can improve your productivity. By dividing your work into blocks, it can help you get more done and help you work towards achieving your long-term goals.
However, time blocking isn’t a magic bullet, and there isn’t a one-size-fits-all technique. If you’re trying it out for the first time, try out the various time blocking types until you find the one that’s suitable for you.
Finally, don’t be too hard on yourself if it doesn’t work out at first. Stay committed. As with anything new, it may take some time to get used to, but you’ll eventually get the hang of it, and you’ll notice your productivity improve.