What is Time Blocking & How to Use it to Boost Productivity

Have you ever wished that there just aren’t enough hours in a day? Do you usually find yourself falling short on time in completing assigned tasks? Do you usually juggle several different tasks and multi-task between them all the time? I used to be in the same boat.

No matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t focus on my work and was easily distracted. Pending tasks kept piling up towards the end every day and it became extremely difficult to stay productive. In spite of trying all kinds of free and paid to-do apps, nothing helped. That is until I discovered the time management technique called Time Blocking. Since then, I have been able to transform my daily schedule for the better with the help of Time Blocking.

As work environments have become more demanding in recent times and individuals are finding it difficult to maintain a work-life balance, time-blocking is slowly gaining popularity as an effective method of time management.

What is Time Blocking?

Time Blocking is a simple time management technique where you schedule your day such that it is split into time slots that are dedicated to specific tasks or groups of tasks.

Time Blocking is a concept through which you can better manage your time every day. It is a popular method of time-management that boosts your productivity and allows you to focus on your tasks in a much better way. This is accomplished by dividing and scheduling your day into blocks or sets of time slots. Each block of time or time slot is assigned & dedicated to a specific task or a group of similar tasks.

A simple way to understand what is time blocking is to look at it as a combination of a To-do list and a Calendar schedule. Of course, it’s a bit more complicated than that, but for now, let us first understand what time blocking actually means.

Imagine that you have a dozen or so tasks that you want to finish working on tomorrow. You’ve already read our guide to stay focused and work more efficiently, so you sit down to plan tomorrow’s day today itself. You open your To-do app of choice and neatly list down everything that you plan to do, and then plot some important meetings and reminders in your calendar app. For a majority of people, their daily plan and schedule looks like this.

Most people begin their day with the most important tasks and work their way down the priority list. While this sounds logical, it has a bunch of practical drawbacks. For starters, having a simple to-do list and a vague schedule makes you jump between different kinds of tasks, making it difficult to focus on one-thing at a time. You’re also far more prone to distractions from things around you when there’s no schedule in place to power you through the day.

Additionally, when you look at a To-do list to choose what to work on, and then look at any empty slot in your schedule to work on that task, you’re opening the doors to an haphazard management of time. This essentially makes you waste more time, as you are constantly going back and forth between your task list and actually working on the tasks.

Once you start Time Blocking, you’ll overcome all these shortcomings. With Time Blocking, here's a preview of how a typical week might look like in my calendar app, which is Calendars by Readdle:

In the example shown above, my day has been scheduled as follows:

  • The morning hours of 8 AM to 10 AM, where the mind is fresh and rejuvenated after a good night’s sleep, is dedicated to creative writing.
  • 10 AM to 11 AM is reserved for emailing, social media activity, etc. 
  • 11 AM to 1 PM is dedicated to content management and updates
  • 1 PM to 2 PM is assigned to daily standup meeting
  • 2 PM to 2:45 PM is lunch time
  • 2:45 PM to 3:30 PM is reserved for reading and/or podcasts
  • 3:30 PM to 4:00 PM is for emailing and social media
  • 4:00 PM to 6:00 PM is dedicated to [specific work tasks]

The example above only denotes the type of work. When you’re utilizing Time-Blocking to schedule your day, you’ll need to be very specific about what you’re planning to do in that time slot. For example, the 4 AM to 6 PM slot above could be dedicated to creating the landing page for Documents app on Monday, editing a promo video for an upcoming release of PDF Expert for Mac on Tuesday, while on Wednesday I could plan to edit articles submitted by our intern for review. The more specific you are about the task, the more focused you will be and thus, more productive.

Here are some benefits of Time-Blocking and why it is fast becoming a popular method of time management.

What are the Advantages of Time Blocking?

  1. Better than To-Do lists: A time-blocked schedule is far more effective than any form of to-do list. Instead of a simple list of tasks, when you have a properly organized calendar plan in front of you, you are less likely to be distracted by miscellaneous tasks and steer yourself off course.
  2. Increased Productivity: Time-Blocking directly makes you productive by sticking to a schedule that you yourself have planned. Each task or group of tasks in a day is a small-scale goal for you to achieve within that time-frame, so you are more determined to meet deadlines and reach your goals.
  3. Better Focus: A time-blocked schedule also tends to make you more focused, as you are only working on one specific task at a time. Instead of worrying about how you will complete all the tasks on your To-Do list, you can dedicate your 100% effort towards completing the task assigned to the current time slot in the day.
  4. Leaves Time to Relax: Time-Blocking allows you to spare some time for relaxing activities such as reading, listening to music or podcasts, or taking a walk with your pet. By having your entire day’s schedule in front of you, you are able to more easily figure out where your tasks are too hectic and purposefully plan a break or two when needed. This also enables you to more comfortably take a break as you know before-hand how much time needs to be allocated for your important tasks. All of this leads to increased productivity and focus.

How to Get Started & Use Time Blocking to Plan Your Schedule?

[via @freepik]

Time Blocking as a time management technique was essentially made popular by Cal Newport, renowned author of the book Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World. The technique is also used by people like Elon Musk and Bill Gates to manage their time and schedules.

But don’t let these big names deter you from starting off with time-blocking. Getting started with Time Blocking is fairly easy and anyone can start planning their daily schedules with the help of time-blocking. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Stick to the Schedule: The most important aspect of time-blocking is that you stick to the schedule that you have planned for yourself. No matter how complex or detailed your plan for the day is, if you’re going to procrastinate or steer off course, all the time that you devoted to time-blocking will be of no use.
  • Find out when you’re the Most and Least Productive: Our body clocks aren’t all built the same way, and different persons tend to work at different times. Just because someone is most productive in the early morning does not mean that you will be too. So it’s important to determine when you are the most productive, so that you can time-block the respective hours for your high priority or creative tasks. Similarly, schedule your low productivity hours for leisure activities and meetings.
  • Assign appropriate time for each task: When you’re scheduling the time-slot in the day, do not underestimate the time required for each task. Leave ample time to complete the task comfortably.
  • Schedule regular breaks: Taking regular breaks are essential to stay focused, so make sure you include them in your schedule.
  • Keep improving and revising your schedule: There’s no fixed formula for time-blocking, and you’re not going to get it right the first time. As you plan your schedule and complete your tasks, try to make changes and improvements to see what effect it has on your productivity. As you progress, you will learn to get better at planning your day.

Now that you’ve understood what is time-blocking and its advantages, you can get started with using time-blocking to plan your schedule and make yourself more productive. Calendars by Readdle is a beautifully designed calendar and planner app for iOS that is packed with lots of incredible features. Calendars has everything you need to get started with Time-Blocking.

Download Calendars for Free from the App Store for your iPhone and iPad.

Preshit Deorukhkar Preshit Deorukhkar

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