An Introduction To Time Blocking

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Person holding a small alarm clock to represent the guide to time blocking

An essential time blocking guide to master your schedule

In the last few years, we have seen tremendous changes in the way we work. The pandemic has disrupted the idea of a “traditional office” work environment, and many of us are now working in a “Hybrid office,” combining remote work and office time. That’s not the only significant shift in the workspace; in fact, not only did work environments change but so did the very nature of people’s jobs. Knowledge workers nowadays spend a lot of time juggling various tasks, coming from everywhere – project management tools, email, chat apps, etc.

In a world where the boundaries between private life and work-life are thinner than ever, and the complexity of our jobs is higher than ever, effective planning has become an essential skill to help everyone use their time as efficiently as possible. I wrote this guide because I am a firm believer that time blocking is a very effective methodology for managing time and being productive in the modern work environment.

Time blocking can be a great help if you feel like you have no control over your time. As a knowledge worker, you are in full control of the tasks you do. Time blocking is one effective method to ensure that the most important tasks get done.

Time blocking will help you if you :

  • Spend the day between several projects
  • Struggle because of too much email and meetings
  • Can’t find mental space for leisure activities throughout the day
  • Feel overwhelmed

Of course, it’s extremely important while you’re learning how to effectively implement time blocking, to have in mind that to be flawlessly organized with your agenda, you should have clear goals and priorities and after you define them, be able to lock time in your calendar so your flow becomes smoothly but more importantly, have the constancy to follow your plan.

What is time blocking?

Time blocking is a great time management technique that consists of split every day into blocks of time. As a result, every block is related to a specific task. This “tool” will give you, each day, the foundation for a concrete and well-planned schedule.

In our increasingly busy lives, time blocking can be a great opportunity to optimize your schedule, whether at work or at home.

Time Blocking Example
Time Blocking in action with Akiflow calendar

Prioritizing tasks, in advance, is a must, as well as a dedicated weekly review. What’s coming up next week? And the next one?

Time blocking could get you ahead of annoying tasks, avoiding the typical struggle around choices on what is really important, to focus on the big picture.

It’s a “No Country for Disorganized Men”.

Time blocking drag and drop
Drag and drop your tasks directly on the calendar using Akiflow

Tips

If you feel distracted or simply not focused, look at your schedule and get back on track

To-dos list / tips about time blocking

  • Schedule time for emergencies/interrupts
  • Setting realistic timelines
  • Schedule time for recurring tasks. (email, etc..)
  • Schedule breaks as well (lunch, breaks, etc..)
  • Time blocking in advance to handle your work-life balance
  • Schedule activities according to your ability to concentrate and your physical and mental energy during the day.

Time blocking variations

Now that you have an idea of what time blocking stands for, you should consider deep diving into this powerful concept by looking at his relatives: task batching, day theming, and last but not least, time boxing.

Task batching

You perform smaller and similar tasks each day so in order to be more productive, scheduling time blocks to get things done at once should be the rule. This will limit the amount of your context switching throughout the day. Would you rather look at your emails every 5 minutes or schedule specific time blocks for an inbox review? If you go for the latter, you are Task batching.

Let me give you an example of what I mean by task batching. Imagine there are 4 emails from your inbox. Each of these emails requires 1 reply, so you have 4 tasks to get done. Now let’s say you have a call scheduled for 3 pm, then you would have limited time to get these replies done and still have time for your call. In that case, it would be a better idea to block an hour on your calendar later in the day for replying to emails and then move on with your call.
This is a powerful concept because it acknowledges the fact that we humans can’t be productive 100% of the time. Imagine if you finish replying to your 4 emails, then continue working on that new feature only to realize that the client just emailed you saying the feature needs some changes.

Day theming

Day theming is a time management strategy in which one devotes a day of the week to perform each responsibility. Unlike task batching, which involves performing all tasks associated with one responsibility on the same day, day theming splits up tasks among the week’s five days.
The idea behind the day theme is to make it easier to work on the less interesting or desirable responsibilities by spreading those tasks out over several days and allowing more time for each day to be spent on higher priority tasks.

The benefits of day theming are:

  • Increased energy – By tackling a single responsibility at a time and not switching between different tasks, we are able to focus on it more fully and expend more energy on the task at hand.
  • Better results – When we give one task our full attention, the results tend to be better. We’ve seen this phenomenon time and time again with day theming and we feel that there’s no better way to finish off a week than by getting a head start on tomorrow’s productivity before the workday even begins.

Time blocking can seem intimidating at first, but it’s truly not as difficult as it might seem. In the end, the benefits you can reap are well worth your effort. After all, if you’re willing to give up five minutes of your day to set your schedule for the next 24 or so hours, it could make a big difference in how well you manage your work and life balance. Time blocking takes some of the guesswork out of scheduling your days because you know exactly what you need to accomplish each time block. And with practice, you’ll get better and better at building schedules that respect the natural flow of your day and promote productivity.

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