You can probably count on your fingers how many times you've done work in an 8-hour day. Whether it's an important meeting, brainstorming or just responding to small talk from coworkers. Sometimes, your days pass without meaningful productivity.
When you design a to-do list for an 8-hour workday but end up with only 2-3 hours of productive time, it signals you're bad at time management. Unfortunately, just writing a to-do list isn't a guarantee that you'll be able to complete all of the tasks.
You need to balance the necessary evil of meetings, team chats, and endless brainstorming. Since becoming a digital hermit isn't an option for most people (or even yourself), you'll need a strategy to help focus. We all know that focusing on a world that distracts us is hard.
The answer to the things you need is the Time Blocking method. In short, time blocking is a simple and effective way to take control of the work day. Try time blocking if you:
- Juggle many different projects or responsibilities
- Find their day chopped up by meetings
- Struggle to find the time and mental space for big-picture thinking
This simple guide will give you an idea of what time blocking is, its variants and how to apply it.
Time blocking is a time management method that asks you to split your day into blocks of time. Every block has a specific task. You will begin to outline what you will do each day. And indirectly, it can eliminate distractions.
The critical point of time blocking is prioritising the to-do list. Take stock of what's coming up for the week ahead and sketch for the next day. And at the end of a workday, review any unfinished tasks, then adjust the block of time for tomorrow.
Time blocking lets you know the exact duration to complete a job. You can trace this idea to the concept of Parkinson's Law. In Parkinson's Law, the task will fit the time available to complete it. Here is an example of time blocking using Google Calendar.
Time Blocking Variant
Time blocking has several close relatives: task batching, day theming and time boxing. These three relatives are suitable when combined with time blocking. Let’s discuss the three of them.
1. Task Batching
Grouping similar tasks together and scheduling a specific time to finish them is called Task Batching. The goal is to limit context switching, saving valuable time and energy. For example, planning two 10-minute blocks to process job application emails in the morning is more efficient than checking your inbox every 5 minutes.
Just block out the daily or weekly chunks of time when you want to complete that set of tasks. Here's the example:
2. Day Theming
A more extreme version of Task Batching is Day Theming. Here's a simple example: an entrepreneur has run three businesses, such as a laundry business, food and beverage, and online courses. Instead of setting aside blocks for each effort in each day, day theming dedicates a whole day to one measure. Day Theming has a similar concept to time blocking but on a more specific path. Here's an example of day theming:
3. Time Boxing
There is a difference between time blocking and time boxing, where time blocking asks you to set aside time for a specific task, while time boxing limits how much time is for a particular task.
The benefits of the Time Blocking method
It may seem simple initially, but time blocking impacts your quality of life, including your capacity to get things done.
1. You will have a “deep work” session
When you schedule a time to work on a project, all of your attention will be on the project. All focus and resources will also be included in the “deep work” session that you have made. One of the biggest supporters of time blocking, Cal Newport, once wrote about Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World.
2. It helps you knock out “shallow work” more efficiently
Shallow work includes work that is urgent but not important for long-term goals. In the Eisenhower Matrix, this type of work is in the delegate box. When it's possible to delegate, try delegating. But if it's impossible, try to limit the time to do it.
3. You will be aware of how you spend your time
Time management is essential, but some people do not master it. Sometimes we are bad at estimating how much time a task will take, and we tend to push ourselves too much in the future. Time blocking will make us see priorities and commitments so that we will be more careful with time.
4. It helps you follow through on your goals
Time blocking requires you to make concrete plans. These plans will lead you to work towards your goals. Unimportant things will be eliminated by themselves.
Start time blocking your schedule in 5 Steps
Now is the time to start implementing time blocking in your daily schedule. You only need the following five steps:
1. Start with your high-level priorities
Start with the question: why do you need time blocking?
Is it because you want to have more focus time? Or reduce the wasted time because of the shallow session? Whatever the choice, there is nothing wrong. The critical point is that you must know your priorities and high-level goals. These two things will shape the schedule and how you block out your day.
2. Create a bookend template for your day
Start with a simple blocking scheme, such as the daily or personal schedule. After making time blocking for your morning routine, for example, you can immediately include it in your to-do list.
3. Divide time for deep and shallow sessions
Several types of people focus more on the evening and morning. With the priority you have set, it's time to execute it in time blocking. Set aside your prime time for in-depth sessions including doing priority things. After that, shallow sessions shall follow.
4. Add blocks for daily reactive tasks
Remember that the body needs rest. Time blocking won't work if you run too hard on in-depth sessions. You still have simple things waiting for you to finish. So don't skip reactive tasks.
5. Write down your daily to-do list
Now you have to execute all the tips above. Remember that finding the right blocking time requires trial and error.
In the end, time blocking is just one of many time management strategies. But an exciting thing that makes this special is using a calendar. We all look at our calendars almost every day. And the more you can control what's in there, the more you'll have control over your time, focus and productivity. This way you will have a general idea of what needs to be done and when. This productivity method can be a great way to organise your time and increase your productivity. Try it and be more productive!