Time blocking is a type of scheduling that can help you manage your time better. Instead of working by the clock, you focus on finishing big and small tasks one at a time. This will help you limit distractions, get things done faster, and leave you less overwhelmed by lengthy to-do lists. To time block effectively, you’ll need to figure out what sorts of things you need to do each day, month, and year. You can then put a schedule in place and stick to it.
Think about what’s most important for you to work on each day. This could be slowly completing a long-term project, or finishing something you have been procrastinating on for a while. Make a list of your top three work priorities.
Make a list of your typical workday tasks. Beyond the bigger stuff, you’ve probably got tons of other things going on that take up time every day. Write down these smaller tasks, noting about how long they usually take you to complete. This could be answering emails or phone calls, promoting your company on social media, or posting an online comment about a book you’re reading in a networking group.
Block time for your hardest tasks when you’re most productive. For most people, this will be right at the start of the workday. Dedicate a minimum of one hour to your highest-priority task. Start there, and then move through to the next time block in order of priority.
- For example, if you know you work best before noon, plan to spend the block before your lunch break on your toughest task
- Usually, time blocks aren’t effective if they last more than a few hours.
Make a list of your non-work activities. Think about what’s important to you that’s not work-related. This could be spending time with your family, going on a date with your special someone, or catching a movie every so often. Don’t forget to also note big vacations!
Plan to finish tasks, not work by the clock. Don’t think about your workday as revolving around a clock. Instead, you should have several tasks that you set aside blocks of time to finish. Once you finish the tasks, you’re done with work.
· So rather than having a random to-do list that you have to finish before five o’clock, you’ll have several blocks of time dedicated to completing individual projects one at a time.
· This doesn’t mean you won’t still be in a routine. Your blocks of time should be consistent from day to day.
Block time for your hardest tasks when you’re most productive. For most people, me included this will be right at the start of the workday. Dedicate a minimum of one hour to your highest-priority task. Start there, and then move through to the next time block in order of priority.
· For example, if you know you work best before noon, plan to spend the block before your lunch break on your toughest task
· Usually, time blocks aren’t effective if they last more than a few hours.
Block out the rest of the day by tasks. Schedule the rest of the day in shorter blocks dedicated to one task per block. These blocks should go in order of priority, since your energy level will probably go down over the course of the day. You’ll also feel better if you know the hard stuff is done as early as possible.
· If you’re the type of person whose energy increases as the day goes on, feel free to reverse the order of the tasks you’re tackling. Make the schedule work for you!
· So, for example, if you’ve handled the hardest task first thing in the morning, break the afternoon down into two, three, or four blocks of time (each lasting an hour or two).
· Everyone’s schedule will be different. You’ll need to decide what’s most important for your work on any given day.
Handle lowest priority items at the end of the day. Address less complicated issues late in the day, when you’re tired and probably not feeling particularly productive or creative. These should be tasks that are relatively mindless or monotonous, and don’t require a lot of critical thinking.
· Lower priority tasks could include answering emails and calls. You should plan to do this at the same time each day.
Add in blocks for planning. Since time blocking is all about scheduling and advanced planning, you need to make time for that too! Set aside one day each year for annual planning (for long-term projects), an hour each month for monthly planning, and an hour each week for weekly planning.
· This means that all your scheduling and writing of to-do lists should occur only in the blocks you’ve set aside for planning.
Don’t forget to reserve time off. Schedule in time to spend with your family and friends each week. Input a large block of time for a big vacation once or twice per year. Remember to also add blocks for working on your house or cleaning.
Schedule an empty block of time each day for flexibility. This doesn’t have to be a huge block. Try having a 30-minute block and increase it if you need to. This can be for tasks that overflow beyond their set blocks, or unexpected disasters you have to deal with right away.
Use a paper or digital calendar to keep track of your blocks. Especially when you first start out, it may be hard to keep track of your different blocks. Use a calendar app on your smartphone with timers and reminders. You can also buy a large desk calendar and label the days, months, and year with your block.
Color-code your calendar. Both paper and digital options give you the ability to color-code, and you should take advantage. Label different time blocks in set colors. You can even match this to priority level. Red can be high-priority tasks, yellow moderate, and green low.
· For paper, use different colored markers or highlighters. For digital, check the settings on the app or software you’re using and follow the instructions to color-code.
Be open about your schedule with coworkers and family. In order for your schedule to work, other people in your life need to learn to respect it. Consider sending an email to your coworkers about your time blocks so they know what to expect from your workday. You can also tell your family about your plans, and ask them to help you stick to it.
· Don’t expect everyone to mold their schedules to yours. Before you finalise your blocks, make sure your time blocking doesn’t cause scheduling problems for someone you work or live with.
Commit to the routine for at least a month. Like any routine, you need to commit to time blocking to make it effective. It’ll probably feel overly rigid at first, but give it at least thirty workdays. By the end of the month, you’ll be able to tell whether it’s helped you become more productive.
Avoid distractions when working. When you’re in the middle of your time blocks, it’s important to only focus on the task that’s in front of you. Put your phone on silent, minimize background noise, and turn off notifications for your social media and email – THIS IS A MUST!
Track your productivity to see if time blocking works for you. Time blocking may not be for everyone. Make sure it works for you by seeing if you become more productive once you organise your schedule this way. To track your productivity, note how long tasks usually take you at the beginning and the end of the first month after you put the new schedule in place.