Do you often get tired of not being able to manage that seemingly unending workload? Do your seniors think of you as a less-productive employee because you cannot complete your assignments on time?
Does any of these situations sound familiar? If yes, you aren’t alone. Countless employees suffer from the same problems each day.
The good news is that there’s no shortage of time. It’s just that you don’t know the techniques to utilise your time effectively.
You can use several techniques to manage your time efficiently, from implementing the 80/20 rule to more traditional methods such as using a scheduler or planner.
But there’s one highly effective method that most people often forget about: time blocking. If you haven’t heard of the term, continue reading, and you will soon master the art of time blocking.
In this complete guide to time blocking, we will discuss all the vital aspects of the method so you can control your time efficiently.
Let’s get started with the fundamentals without wasting any time.
The Basics of Time Blocking
Time blocking refers to a technique where your time is broken down into specific blocks, during which you will accomplish particular tasks. When using this technique, you define a particular time frame (block) for an activity, event, or task and book that slot in your calendar.
You can move on to a task only after completing the work mentioned in the previous time slot. When selecting a time slot, you need to decide on the duration it will take you to complete a task.
For instance, you may block twenty minutes for checking and replying to emails and then two hours for completing some office work. There are no pre-defined rules for time blocking. You get to set them according to your requirements.
For example, the time management routine of Elon Musk, SpaceX’s founder, CEO, and chief engineer, includes a time blocking technique that helps him balance working over 120 hours each week and spending quality time with the family.
Comprehending Time Blocking Variations
Although time blocking is an extremely effective time management technique, it doesn’t come with a one-size-fits-all approach. To make it work for everybody, time blocking variations exist.
There are three time blocking variations: day theming, time boxing, and task batching. Let’s see what each of these entails.
- Day theming
Let’s assume you need to create content for an entire day. No checking of emails, no meetings, only a long stretch of time to demonstrate creativity through writing. This is what’s called day theming.
Here, you organise an entire day encompassing one specific activity and pay complete attention to it. Once that day is over, you get into your daily routine again.
It’s important to understand that while day theming allows you to dedicate an entire day to a particular task, it also signifies staying away from any task that’s a misfit for your day theme.
Therefore, if you need to be available for different tasks throughout the day, day theming may not be the ideal time blocking variation for you.
- Time boxing
This time blocking variation needs you to set aside a specific period of time for one task, allowing you to set better deadlines. Basically, it makes your goal time-limited and more specific.
Many people think of time blocking and time boxing as the same thing. However, they have one major difference between them.
With time blocking, you set aside timeslots to pay attention to specific tasks. For example, you may block 2 to 5 pm for creating content.
But with time boxing, you are setting a deadline for yourself. For instance, “I will finish this article in three hours.”
- Task batching
You can consider task batching an upgraded version of time blocking. Here, rather than paying complete attention to one specific task or activity at a time, you group similar activities or tasks and finish them in one go.
Let’s assume you supervise the social media marketing campaigns for your organizations. Instead of switching from creating the right posting schedule for thirty minutes to writing social media captions and then returning to refining the posting schedule, you can complete them all at once.
Key Steps for Effective Time Blocking
Now that we have talked about the fundamentals of time blocking, let’s see how you can put this technique into action.
To help you out, we have divided the entire process into several easy steps. Just do your best to follow them, and you should be able to start time blocking your schedule without a problem.
1. Brainstorm and Identify Your Tasks
The first step of effective time blocking starts with brainstorming all the tasks you may need to complete within a particular week and then delving deeper into other steps of the technique.
Ideally, you should make a to-do list mentioning all the tasks that need to be completed within that week. This will be handy for the next step.
2. Plan Your Tasks Based On Priority
Once your to-do list is prepared, go through it thoroughly to identify the urgent tasks and those that don’t have immediate deadlines. You can scrap the second group of tasks for the time being, while trying to complete three to five urgent tasks each day.
These can be recurring tasks that you must handle each day, such as answering client calls or responding to important emails. These may also be tasks like conducting research for a new project or finishing some periodic but important administrative work.
Irrespective of the nature of the tasks, prioritizing them will help you decide on the tasks that you need to fit into the schedule of a particular day or week while postponing others to be completed later.
3. Assess How Much Time You Will Need to Complete Each Task
Now, you have a list of tasks organised based on their priorities. Go through it again and try to figure out an approximate amount of time you will need to complete each task.
It’s strongly advisable to block at least double the time that you think you will need to complete a task. This is because the goal of time blocking is to allow you to enhance your productivity and control your work and tasks without getting overwhelmed with all your workload.
4. Spot Your Most Productive Time
Productivity preferences vary from one person to another. For example, you may feel more focused and energised in the afternoon, unlike your colleague who works optimally during the morning hours.
This means you should schedule tasks that need deep research or complete attention in the afternoons. Similarly, if you feel less energised in the morning, you may schedule routine tasks like answering emails during that period.
5. Block Your Time
Now that you have prioritised your tasks and identified your most productive times, it’s time to schedule your time blocks. Start by noting your priorities for a particular day and setting aside dedicated timeslots for each task according to your work calendar.
You can always block multiple timeslots in a day for one single task. For instance, you can block three to four timeslots for checking and answering emails.
6. Continue Refining Your Time Blocking Schedule
Usually, it takes time to create an effective time blocking schedule according to your requirements. So, you should observe your week and identify the tasks you accomplished within the timeslots blocked for them.
At the same time, you need to spot the tasks that needed more time to finish than you expected. This will help you create a more effective time blocking schedule for the subsequent week.
Be sure to keep your patience while refining and developing a time blocking schedule that’s most effective for you. Remember that you will need to keep tweaking the schedule based on the tasks assigned to you, but you are sure to identify the right pattern within a few weeks.
Making the Most Out Of Your Time Blocking Schedule
Once you know the steps to create your time blocking schedule, the next thing is making it work for you. You can only leverage the full potential of the time blocking technique when you know how to make it more effective.
With that in mind, our experts have rounded up the following tips to help you make the most of your time blocking schedule right from the beginning.
Block Your Time Judiciously
Many fans of the famous Pomodoro principle prefer to work in 25-minute cycles. However, according to the science of ultradian rhythm, human minds function in 90-minute cycles.
So, you may want to keep 90 minutes as the maximum limit of a time block. According to science, you cannot focus on one activity without taking a break for over 90 minutes if you want to deliver quality work.
Both the Pomodoro technique and the science of Ultradian rhythm emphasise taking frequent breaks. So, irrespective of the duration of your time blocks, remember to take at least a 5-minute break after each work session.
You can also club them together. Depending on the tasks, you can block 25 minutes for completing paperwork, responding to emails, etc., and 90 minutes for more challenging tasks.
Try To Group Your Meetings
Rather than having meetings scheduled throughout a day that diminish your productivity, you may want to schedule time blocks for meetings. By scheduling meetings one after another with short breaks in between, you can handle urgent tasks.
This also helps you get recharged during the breaks and have the rest of your day free for more focused work.
Be Prepared To Make Changes to Your Time Blocking Schedule
It’s certainly exciting to start using the time blocking technique that tries to revolutionise the way you have been working till now. But, it’s also important to understand that the excitement may lead you to face an extremely tight schedule.
In that case, either of two things can happen. First, you may want to give up on your time blocking schedule before the week’s end. And second, it may eventually maximise your chances of burnout.
Therefore, you should be ready to make alterations to your time blocking schedule. For instance, some tasks that don’t need to be done on the day itself may be postponed to the next day.
You may also schedule an additional hour to deal with unexpected events or to maintain your routine if something doesn’t work as expected.
Try To Schedule a Whole Day for the Tasks You Can’t Complete on Time
Trying to block an entire day is always advisable to catch up with the things you are falling behind with. The presence of an entire day just for the tasks that make you feel anxious throughout the week helps you feel less stressed and more confident to follow through with your time blocking schedule.
Even if you are a master of time blocking, it’s important to set aside at least a couple of hours to deal with unexpected tasks. There are two key benefits of doing this.
First, you may reschedule the unexpected tasks and deal with them during these few hours. And second, you may complete them immediately, knowing that you still have a couple of hours to deal with your top priorities.
Let Others Know That You Are Following a Time Management Technique
Sometimes, obstructions come up regardless of how meticulously you plan your schedule. For instance, other people may come and interrupt your schedule, and as a result, you need to multitask throughout the day.
While many of these interruptions may be completely justified, you can avoid at least some of them by letting others know of your new habit.
Therefore, rather than anticipating that no one will schedule a meeting during one of your busiest blocks, let your team members know of the changes you have made to your work schedule.
Generally, when your team members know that you are very busy with something else, they tend to change their own plans and wait for your next free time to connect with you.
However, if you want to take this route, you must inform your team members of the best methods to reach you quickly if there’s something that cannot be delayed until you finish your busiest blocks.
For decades now, science has taught us that multitasking doesn’t work. Even if you think you are great at multitasking, you can perform much better by concentrating on just one task at a time.
In fact, according to studies, multitasking lowers productivity by 40%. With effective implementation of the time blocking technique, you can avoid multitasking.
Set just one task for a particular time block. For instance, during your 40-minute block where you intend to finish a sales pitch, don’t let yourself get distracted by phone calls, emails, or other unrelated tasks.
Not multitasking alone can take your productivity to the next level.
Schedule Time Blocks for Personal Activities
Just like you create time blocks for professional work, you should schedule time blocks for all your personal activities and follow them diligently. From time blocks for quick breaks and lunch to time blocks for managing everyday activities such as reading your favourite book, doing workouts in the evening, etc., all are equally important tasks.
You may also leave a time block open for your personal activities. You can instantly decide what to do during this block – meditate, call your friends, go on a walk, or just relax.
Use Time Blocking Templates
It may take time to block your time in a calendar, but you can expedite the process by creating a time blocking template. Start by creating empty blocks of time together with their start and end times, and fill them out with your tasks.
Given below is an example of a time blocking template from TemplateLAB.
Remember to reserve empty blocks for your daily activities. For instance, reserve the blocks when you will workout, take a shower, have your breakfast, etc.
You may also reserve some empty blocks to carry out your priority tasks. In case you have already figured out your most effective time window, you can easily keep them empty for your priority tasks.
You can use a time blocking app to make the process simpler and more efficient. Just do a quick search online, and you will get to know about the different types of time blocking apps.
Although you can use as many apps as you want, there are three types of apps that you must have. These include an organiser or planner (helps you focus on your priority tasks), a time tracker (helps you spend your time efficiently), and a calendar app (lets you visualise the time blocks and allow others to know of your free time).
Time is your most valuable resource, particularly when you try to meet your professional goals. The time blocking techniques will help you become better at managing your time, which essentially leads to increased productivity.
When harnessed properly, time blocking lets you concentrate better on the tasks, thus paving the way to optimal outputs. Start implementing it without any delay, and don’t forget to lets us know how it enhances your productivity.
If you already use time blocking, care to share what works for you?