You have a planner. You have a digital calendar. You have 20 alarms set throughout the day. And yet you are still trying to figure out a way to be more productive and meet your deadlines. Well, time blocking may be another feather to add to your planner cap.
This system works for every aspect of your life. You can block time for work, exercise, personal time, and even sleep. It helps reduce context-switching and decision fatigue while retaining deep focus/deep work. Yay, yay, and yay!
What is Time Blocking?
Time blocking is a time management tool that groups like with like, and helps your brain multitask between similar tasks within a pre-determined timeframe. The magic sauce here is making sure those tasks all share the same context.
To visualize what this means, think about how you may be writing an email to HR discussing an employee concern while researching a book for your staff to read while trying to get Taylor Swift tickets. Yes, you are on the Internet for all three of these things, but the context is different for each one.
Within the confines of context, a block of time has you working on work emails and work phone calls–in other words, the context is work communication, even though the modes are typing and speaking. Your mind can’t be fully focused on wording a delicate email to HR if you are also analyzing sources for employee enrichment and buying your child’s love.
Time blocking is an uninterrupted spate of time that is dedicated to similar projects within the same context, such as:
- making phone calls and answering emails
- creating a new budget and researching next year’s budget
- researching your next car while also remembering to schedule maintenance for your current car
What Type of Person Will Benefit Most from This System?
This system is for the person who needs to stay focused when there’s a lot to get done. So, basically, it’s for most people. Especially for those who like to multi-task, reduce distractions, and use their time more wisely.
It is also a great way to understand how you use your time and what you are giving your priorities to. A quick glance at a time-blocked calendar lets you see that you spend one hour on Saturday using the orange-colored family time while using five hours of blue-coded time on work. This system is a very effective visual reminder of how you’re actually spending your limited time on Earth.
What Does Time Blocking Look Like?
A block of time is as personal as the person who is using it, so one-size-definitely-doesn’t-fit-all.
Here are some key pointers for making time blocks work for you visually:
- It can be anywhere from 15 minutes to hours-long. The key, however, is to keep the same type of tasks in these blocks. If you have only one phone call to return and no emails, then use a 15-minute block–and make sure you’re blocking off more time than you think it will take.
- You should loosely block your week ahead. I put in appointments and other scheduled blocks first. Feel free to block the whole week if this is your personality. However, this is not mine, and I block each day the day before.
- You should build into the time block system an end-of-day review of what you did and did not check off. Move what you did not get done into the next day, and work on the next set of tasks for the areas you did get done.
- Do not do anything that is not in that block that doesn’t fit that block! If you are in your “checking messages” block, sure, go and check that email. But if you are doing your monthly budget? Nope, no checking email. If you suffer from wanting to always know what’s happening, you can lock down your email on your phone and desktop with an app like Freedom.
What if Time Blocking Does Not Work for You?
Just because you block your day the way you want it to go doesn’t mean it will go that way. You underestimate how complex something will take and overestimate your energy levels. That’s okay. This is human.
And just like any human, you need to just start. Start, fail, rejigger the system, and try again. Let us know how it goes! (We’ll get back to you during our time block for emails.)
digit-ALL is a full-service marketing company that focuses on the people side of marketing. We focus on websites, social media, blogs, newsletters, and even corporate event planning. We’re here to help when you’re ready for it.
Are You Time Blocking Your Calendar? This is Why You Should Start Now, Julia Martins, Asana.com.
Context Switching is Killing Your Productivity, Alicia Raeburn, Asana.com.
How to Actually, Truly Focus on What You’re Doing, Tim Herrera, NYTimes.com.
How to Boost Your Productivity with Time Blocking, Rachel Hakoune, Monday.com.
Time Blocking, Todoist.com.
What Doctors Wish Patients Knew About Decision Fatigue, Sara Berg, AMA-ASSN.org.