Do you sometimes feel there aren’t enough hours in the day? There’s too much work to do, and there’s too little time? In the modern workplace, if you don’t control your schedule, it starts to control you! Time blocking is an essential, tried-and-tested strategy you could try out to take control of your schedule – to get more done in less time.
What is Time Blocking?
It’s a strategy to better manage your time by breaking your day into chunks or blocks. Each block is slotted with a particular task. So, instead of spending your day juggling multiple tasks, you can focus on the most essential work in the time block set aside before moving on to the next task on your list.
Types of Time Blocking
Time blocking isn’t complicated. It just means planning your workdays smartly and slotting tasks into blocks to ensure you have time to finish each one. Here are two types of time blocks you can slot for yourself:
1. Task Batching
This method relies on grouping similar small tasks and completing them in one bucket. It helps you focus on a group of similar tasks, and prevents the loss of productivity when you constantly switch between totally different types of tasks.
For instance, you could set aside 30 minutes at the start of every day to catch up with your emails and Slack messages. After that, you can move on to something else and avoid being distracted by messages and emails. To optimize the time blocking method, check out the best Slack apps for remote teams to help you manage your Slack notifications and messages.
2. Day Theming
Consider this strategy if you have many tasks requiring deep focus and plenty of time. Day theming means you devote an entire day of your week to a specific area of your work and focus only on that. For example, you could spend Monday dealing with marketing, Tuesday focusing on operations, Wednesday attending to finance, and so on. Many companies already set up specific days for meetings and no-meetings, which is key for getting more stuff done.
How Time Blocking Works
When you set aside time for a specific task, you protect yourself against many work-related distractions, whether you’re in a remote, hybrid, distributed setup, or a physical office.
Avoid Time Loss: Time blocking helps by reducing task-switching. A Wall Street Journal report says that it can take 23 minutes to refocus on your original task after switching to another task. So, when you switch between tasks multiple times a day, you can sense how much time you lose, which can impact productivity.
Focus on Every Single Task: Time blocks allow you to focus on every single task by setting aside time for it. You won’t be tempted to check emails and Slack notifications when you know you have dedicated time to do that later in the day. A team productivity app such as Pulse that allows automatic status updates on Slack can help you stay focused on your task by snoozing Slack notifications or others based on your calendar events.
Create Time Blocks in 5 Simple Steps
1. Prioritize Your Tasks
First, you need to figure out precisely how to spend your time. What are the most essential tasks you need to get done daily? It will help if you chalk it out. Knowing your priorities will help you slot and schedule time blocks appropriately.
2. Consider Non-Work Activities, Too
Your schedule involves more than just work time. So, consider using time blocks outside office hours as well. Set aside time for lifestyle activities such as exercising, cleaning the house, running errands, etc. Don’t forget to set aside some downtime to spend with your family or focus on your hobbies. A healthy work-life balance can eventually make you more productive.
3. Create Time Blocks for Deep and Shallow Work
Time blocking is a great way to set aside time for deep work — tasks that require intense focus and cognitive effort. But shallow work such as answering emails and messages and dealing with coworkers is equally essential. So, you must set aside time for that as well.
4. Prepare for Last-Minute, Reactive Tasks
Work is unpredictable. No matter how carefully you block your time, unforeseen scenarios can sometimes force a change in plans. You can slot a time block in the day to deal with issues that have just come in, whether they’re essential phone calls with clients or an urgent need to exchange emails with suppliers. Be flexible to be responsive without letting reactive tasks take you by surprise.
5. Slot Daily Tasks into Your Schedule
Once you’ve created a template for the day, think about the most essential tasks you need to get done. Note them down so that you can see them in front of you, then slot them into the time blocks you’ve created. You’ll probably need to change things a little as you go. But the result should be a schedule allowing maximum productivity through intelligent time management.
How is Time Blocking Different from Timeboxing?
Timeboxing is a time management strategy that focuses on individual tasks. While time blocking allows you to set aside time to deal with groups of tasks, timeboxing creates smaller boxes for each specific task, including a start and end time.
Timeboxing allows less flexibility than time blocking. However, it can be useful if your job requires meeting multiple deadlines since it will remind you to get everything done in a specific time.
How is Time Blocking Different from Time Tracking?
Time tracking is the method of recording how much time you spend on projects or tasks. It can give you an accurate picture of how long it takes to complete tasks. Before you start creating time blocks, it may be a good idea to track how much time you spend on the tasks concerned so that you have an idea of how much time to block for them.
Why Time Blocks Matter
If you’re perpetually swamped with a wide variety of tasks, this method is an effective way to reclaim your time. Here are some benefits of time blocking:
It encourages focused work: Dedicating a time block to a specific group of tasks helps you forget distractions and interruptions and focus on the job at hand. It’s a good way to get into a flow state, which will enable you to get more work done in less time and be more productive.
It helps control shallow work: Shallow work may seem less important, but it still needs to be done. By blocking time to respond to emails or colleagues, you can do justice to shallow work and ensure that it doesn’t spill over to your entire day’s schedule.
It lets you achieve your goals: Setting aside a specific time block makes it more likely that you’ll do the task you plan. There’s a big difference between saying, “I have to finish the report” and “I’m going to finish the report tomorrow at 5 pm.”
Vital Tips About Time Blocks (What Not to Do)
If you plan to try this time-management strategy, follow these don’ts:
- Don’t underestimate how much time some tasks take to be completed.
- Don’t forget to block time for breaks. They’re as essential as your tasks.
- Don’t try to stick to the schedule too rigidly. Be flexible.
- Don’t forget to schedule shallow work, reactive tasks, and other less essential tasks.
5 Essential Time Blocking Apps
There are helpful apps out there that you can try for time blocking. Here’s a list of five:
This calendar extension optimizes your schedule to create empty time blocks that you can use for essential tasks.
This easy-to-use app for your smartphone makes your calendar easier to see and navigate, making time blocking easier to plan.
This app syncs with other apps to help you organize your time. Marketed as a work concierge, it enables you to build a detailed schedule, so you can get everything done.
It integrates with Slack to cut down on interruptions. It automatically detects when you’re doing focused work and updates your Slack status to let your team know that you shouldn’t be interrupted. It also offers integrates with calendar so you can have Slack automatically snooze notifications or other based on your calendar events.
This to-do list can sync with your calendar and allow you to set priorities to different tasks, so that you’re aware of the most essential things and focus on them. It also helps you stay updated on the progress of each task.
Can Time Blocking Boost Productivity?
The answer is yes. When you create time blocks, you no longer need to invest time making various decisions. You already have your plan pre-determined similar to meal planning or how famously the CEO of Facebook, Mark Zucerkberg, wears the same t-shirt design every day as it becomes one less decision for him to think about. Time blocking saves you precious time to focus on work and hence, be more productive. Plus, by focusing on single tasks or batches of similar tasks, you’re spared from having to multitask and entertain interruptions. That, too, takes you a step closer to being more productive.
Bottom Line: Will Time Blocking Suit You?
It’s best suited for somewhat predictable jobs. If you know what tasks you’ll need to complete in a day or a week, drawing up time blocks will work well. But if your job is reactive and you have to respond to client requests or customer support in real-time, time blocks may not help.
Don’t take it lightly if you think your schedule is controlling you as this will lead to burnout.
A report about how Bill Gates and Elon Musk manage their busy schedules shows how closely linked time and productivity are. Try time blocking from today to control your schedule and increase your productivity.