Are you a busy leader who’s looking to take control of their working schedule? If so, time blocking could be a powerful tool in your productivity arsenal.
Time blocking is a productivity strategy used worldwide to keep leaders on track to a more successful schedule. It focuses on dividing your to-do list into time blocks, which you can then assign to a particular position in the week.
When you begin your working day, you won’t be affronted by a list of tasks, but rather a schedule of times and a corresponding task in that hour. Not only does this time blocking method help you cut down on code-switching, but you’ll also be able to get more done in a shorter time period.
In this article, we’ll be breaking down:
Let’s jump right in.
The art of time blocking is all about division. You’ll be dividing your working day into smaller blocks of time, be it 15 minute, 30 minute, or hourly chunks. Within these ‘blocks’ of time, you’ll then assign specific tasks, working on that particular task when the hour you’ve assigned rolls around.
Each block should focus on one specific task or a group of very similar tasks (like sending and drafting emails). When you do this ahead of time, you’ll never have to wonder what job you’re going to be working on next.
The power of the time blocking method lies in limiting your ability to procrastinate with choice. Instead of thinking about which task to begin next, you’ll already have a specific time in the day for everything.
You’ll also be able to schedule in a block for ‘emergency work,’ anything that comes up during the day - perhaps a meeting - that you’ll have to work on then and there.
On Sunday, or before you start work on Monday morning, you should take a look at your to-do list for the week. From this list, start breaking down your tasks into types of work. Are you going to be researching a project? What about writing up initiatives and content? Depending on your work, give that time block a specific color.
You’ll then want to group similar work. This strategy is commonly used by both Bill Gates and Elon Musk, allowing them to do what’s known as ‘deep work,’ focusing on one similar type of work to get more done in a small period of time.
Studies have shown that time blocking, which makes you focus on one task at a time, can be 80% more productive than multitasking. As you’re not wasting time deciding what to work on next, you can spend more time getting on with things.
Similarly, as you’re task batching and putting similar tasks together, you can get into the flow of things and continuously work for extended periods without changing the task style of what you’re doing.
Time blocking is all about streamlining your day and making sure you don’t have to juggle multiple tasks simultaneously. This way, you can get on with a concrete schedule.
Whether you’re a person who likes to plan weeks ahead, or more of a go-with-the-flow type of worker, time blocking has been shown to help a range of people. Do you relate to any of the following?
Time blocking can help all of the above people by cutting back on to-do lists and allowing you to work on single tasks in specific time blocks. Instead of jumping between new tasks, time-blocking forces you to complete tasks within certain periods. Without room to procrastinate, you’ll boost your productivity, get a better understanding of how long it takes to finish a job, and have a rigid system to follow throughout your day.
Alongside having a step-by-step guide to follow through your working day, time blockng can also allow you to take back your free time, getting more done in the day and allowing you to clock out at a reasonable time. Some of the main benefits you can expect from time blocking are:
Let’s break these down further.
When creating your time block schedule at the beginning of your working week, you’ll have to scan through all of the different tasks you’re expected to complete that week. You’ll then have to give tasks respective weight from your task list. Some may require focused work, while others fall into the shallow work category.
Once you start blocking time out for specific tasks, you’ll realize that you don’t have that many blocks to use. Due to this, you’ll have to work out which tasks are the most important for you. Depending on how you work, you can schedule your high-level priorities for the morning or the afternoon (whenever you work efficiently).
With a finite amount of time, you’ll quickly realize that some of those meetings, phone calls, or single task projects aren’t worth a whole hour. You’ll have to schedule them for a smaller amount of time and ensure everything can get done.
When you develop a time-blocking schedule, you’ll no longer be able to procrastinate between tasks. You can't spend time procrastinating because you have a set a start and end time for different tasks. When a job starts, you need to make sure that you’re taking control of your time, and you actually start at that moment.
This is where users of time blocking often stumble in the beginning. When you don’t accurately know how long a task will take you, you may be overly optimistic about how quickly you can finish a task. Equally, you may schedule long tasks into too small of a time frame. This is why we recommend giving this productivity method a few weeks of practice so you can tinker with it as you go.
Be sure not to lose sight of the clock, sticking to the times you’ve assigned, then moving through your dedicated blocks one by one. You can even pair these time blocks with a calendar app like Google Calendar to have a virtual chart to follow throughout the day.
There are few things worse than looking at the week ahead and seeing a schedule packed to the brim with meetings. Perhaps one thing that’s even more frustrating is when you sit down to complete a task and get a notification that someone has sent through a last-minute meeting request.
With time blocking, your team will know that you’ve scheduled out your week well in advance. Due to this, others will be less inclined to reach out to you for meetings on the same day, as they know you've already planned your entire day. Not only does this deter them from extending the invite to unnecessary meetings, but it means that you can get more deep work done as you won’t be disturbed.
Considering that the average worker spends 28% of their time replying to emails, many people waste a lot of their workweek fighting towards that 0. The main problem is that responding to infrequent emails may seem harmless but actually requires code-switching. By moving between simple tasks, you’re distracting yourself from the particular job you want to be working on.
You can attribute specific blocks to mass reply to emails throughout the week when you block time out. This designated time will allow you to focus on your other individual tasks throughout the week. Task batching also means that you can plow through more emails in that appointed hour.
We recommend setting a time block towards the end of the morning for emails.
When you first start time blocking, you should focus on task batching, which opens up your day for deep work. Instead of code-switching between many different tasks, you’ll be able to save massive amounts of time by doing similar jobs back-to-back. With the same approach to these tasks, you can generate more focus and speed through your to-do lists.
Be sure to incorporate a calendar app into your time blocking strategy, as this will allow you to get a visual representation of the blocks you’ll be moving through. Because this is a strategy that requires a level of trial and error, be sure to note down how long tasks are taking so you can more accurately set time limits in the future.
If you want to take control of your working week, task batching and creating time blocks are one of the very best ways of doing so.
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