Easy Guide to Time Blocking for Beginners
Learn the time blocking method along with time blocking benefits and time blocking best practices here.
Does time blocking work?
Many people ask this very question as we try to figure out whether or not the said time management technique is the real deal.
After all, with the world as it is now—filled with all kinds of distractions that can lure or tear us away from what we should focus on—can we really learn to set aside time to not only do deep work, but finally manage our increasingly busy schedules and calendars?
Yes, we can. Actually, more than a few of us have already pulled it off.
Take Richard Branson. An entrepreneur, business magnate, and billionaire, he wakes up at 5 AM to work out. According to him, it boosts his productivity significantly.
We doubt you have the same amenities as Richard that he uses to find the kind of focus time he works with in your workday. But that doesn’t mean your time management skills won’t greatly improve if you learn time blocking. And once you fully get a handle on it, your quality of life will surely improve as well.
To help you get started, here is the time blocking method itself defined, three of the best time blocking benefits, and seven of the most effective time blocking best practices.
Time Blocking Definition
Time blocking is the time management technique where you methodically plan out your day by dividing it into smaller blocks of time. During each one, you work on a single task or a group of similar tasks. You do away with any and all distractions as you focus. Doing so ensures you not only get the job done within the block of time you’ve set aside for it, but how well it turns out.
Time blocking isn’t just simply making a to-do list. It’s part of it, and an important part at that, but you can’t just list out the things you need to do and call it a day. You also need to figure out when best to work on each task in your schedule and how they all fit in your calendar. Having such a clearly defined schedule prevents others from infringing on your time and giving you more work than you can handle. The more confident you are that you can complete all the tasks on your plate, the higher the quality of your work.
Time Blocking Benefits
The advantages of time blocking aren’t just all about becoming better at work. As you’ll see from three of its benefits listed below, they extend even to the most important parts of our lives.
Master Your Schedule
No longer will you have to constantly switch between tasks just to make sure you meet the deadlines. Focusing on each one for a specific amount of time lets you spend 100% of your energy on getting them done, keeping you from wasting time on unrelated things. The better you get at it, the easier it will be for you to gauge how long you need to work on each task. By then, you’ll probably never mess up your schedule ever again.
Become More Efficient
Most people end up procrastinating rather than working when they’re overwhelmed by the sheer amount of work they have. Aside from being given too many tasks, that arises from not knowing how they’ll be able to fit them all into their tight schedules. Time blocking lets you find time to finish them, keeping you from ever becoming unproductive.
Have More Time for What Matters Most
Since time blocking essentially teaches you how to effectively manage your time, you’ll end up having time to enjoy yourself simply by always getting your work done on time. No more spending countless nights stuck in the office just to meet deadlines. You can now look at your calendar, not to simply schedule work, but to see when you can take time off to be with your loved ones.
Time Blocking Best Practices
Effective time blocking isn’t all about figuring how to neatly break down your work into the limited time you spend at the office. As it’s a method, there are ways to go about it that leads to the desired outcome—with some being better than others. Below are seven of the most effective.
Make a List
Start with your high-priority tasks, then work your way down. Make sure you specify each block of time (ex: “meetings” and “emails”) to avoid any confusion. Include personal time blocks (ex: “family time”). They serve as bookends to your work, keeping it from encroaching on your time for yourself and loved ones.
Become Good at Task Batching
Task batching refers to working on groups of similar tasks one at a time. It lets you get work done faster, making you more efficient.
Experiment with Day Theming
An advanced form of task blocking, day theming is where you not only do task batching, but spend an entire day working on tasks with a similar theme. For example, if you’re an executive, you can spend your Mondays focused just on tasks related to sales and marketing. Doing so lets you focus on a larger area of work, letting you handle it more effectively.
Timeboxing simply means blocking out a specific time on your calendar to work on a future task. Say you work in the accounts payable department. You can do timeboxing by boxing out time in the mornings of certain weekdays to focus on completing payment runs for the vendors of the company you work for. This gives your work days more structure.
Figure Out When You’re At Your Best
Some people are early risers while others start their day at night. The same goes at the office. Some are most productive in the morning, while others only get going in the afternoon. It’s dictated by our biorhythms. Find out what yours is so you can schedule your tasks when you’re most productive during the day.
Have a Contingency Plan for Emergencies
No matter how well you schedule the time you spend at work, it will all fall apart if you don’t have a plan for when urgent tasks suddenly crop up. Create time blocks to have time to address them so your whole schedule doesn’t get thrown out of whack.
Use the Tools Available to You
You don’t have to do time blocking all by yourself. There are plenty of tools out there that can make it easier. You can use a planner or calendar made specifically for time blocking, like the one well-known computer science professor and author Cal Newport made, which provides a grid that lets users block out every minute of their day.
Ready to Finally Take Control of Your Schedule and Calendar?
Our calendars filling up with work each and every year shows how we need to better manage our busy schedules. Good thing there’s time blocking to serve as a time management solution to our overwhelming work lives. The more control we have, the better our lives will be.
- “Ultimate guide to time blocking: tips and techniques” by Robert Carroll for BetterUp
- “The Complete Guide to Time Blocking” by Laura Scroggs for Todoist
- “14 time-management tricks from Richard Branson and other successful people” by Kathleen Elkins for Make It
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