If you’ve found yourself wondering where all of your time goes, then it’s time to start time blocking.
This simple time management technique can free you from distractions and force accountability that will soon see your output improve.
But if you’re not sure how to start time blocking, you’ve come to the right place. Below, we’ll show you how to better leverage the software you’re already using to take back those precious minutes and get more done in your day.
What is Time Blocking?
Time blocking is a straightforward method for managing your time and schedule. You’ll improve your daily productivity while driving away those common distractions that can derail your focus in the middle of a task.
In essence, time blocking involves literally blocking out your available work time to make sure that you have accountability and uninterrupted time for getting things done.
Rather than leaving your calendar to be consumed by meetings or ad-hoc tasks and events, you’ll use it to plan your days ahead of time. Essentially, you’re creating a daily itinerary so that you always know what’s coming next and what you should be working on from hour to hour.
Time blocking has shown a number of benefits, particularly if you:
- Are used to working too much, beyond your usual hours
- Work long hours but find that you’ve accomplished little
- Easily get distracted and deviate from the task at hand
- Find your schedule and calendar being occupied by endless meetings that come out of nowhere
The idea can be daunting at first, especially if you’re used to being reactive and jumping from task to task. However, like with any habit, you’ll quickly get used to time blocking and getting more out of your day.
How to Start Time Blocking in 5 Easy Steps
If you’ve bought into the idea of giving time blocking a try, we’ve got good news. It doesn’t take long to set up your first day or week and start reaping the benefits.
Below, we’ve highlighted how to start time blocking in 5 simple steps you can achieve with no more than an hour on a Monday morning (or any other time you like).
1. Give yourself time to plan your schedule
Your first task is to set aside time to set up your new time blocking routine. We mentioned how this approach involves segmenting your calendar to manage your time. So, you’ll want to set up a daily or weekly review session to get your calendar in order, depending on how far ahead you’re planning.
In other words, carve out some time every Monday morning – or every weekday morning – to plan for the day or days ahead. Set it as a recurring session so that you can follow up every week. You can give it an appropriate name; the point is, you’ll have time to plan for the day or week ahead, and none of your colleagues will be able to slip an early-morning meeting into your schedule, derailing you before you’ve even gotten started.
2. Check where tasks can be grouped
Every role is different; we all have various tasks on a day-to-day basis, which may involve writing or generating reports, reviewing email inboxes, catching up with team members under our guidance, and more.
Firstly, you should make a list of all of the tasks you complete regularly. For example:
- Reviewing customer service email inboxes
- Analyzing team performance against KPIs
- Reviewing error reports for a website, service, or app
Next, you’re going to want to work out where these activities can be grouped naturally. For example, running website analytics and generating usage reports are related. So, too, are reviewing team performance against KPIs and writing up performance review notes ahead of a meeting with a team member.
Spend some time working out the tasks that make up the majority of your time, then work out where they naturally fit together. Studies have found that trying to work on more than one thing at once can reduce your productivity by as much as 40%. So, try to make sure that similar tasks are blocked together. It could save you mental downtime as you try to acclimatize to a new task.
3. Figure out your optimal productivity windows
By now, you should have an idea of the tasks that you complete on a daily or weekly basis, as well as how those tasks link together.
The next best thing to do is to think about your own natural productivity. We all work best at different times of the day; some people deliver their best work first thing in the morning, while others take some time to get up to speed and may work late into the evening or even at night.
Understanding these productivity windows is crucial, as much like your productivity can determine your mental energy, each of your tasks requires a different level of dedication and focus.
Here are some tips for managing your productivity and optimal productivity windows:
- Night owls are often best at blocking out time for simple tasks in the morning. If your bursts of productivity come later in the day, focusing on a task that requires a lot of mental energy at 09:00 can be too much. Instead, complete “easier” tasks that can be completed quickly; the natural dopamine boost from completing these tasks could help you to focus and move on to bigger things.
- People who work best in the morning can benefit from scheduling larger tasks earlier in the day. Don’t burn out on smaller tasks that require little focus or effort; by the time afternoon comes, you could find it hard to tackle them. Instead, carve out some time in the morning with a coffee.
- Remember to schedule breaks for yourself. If your calendar is filled with tasks, as it should be, then you could find that colleagues schedule meetings during your downtime. Be sure to allow yourself time for natural breaks; otherwise, you could end up with back-to-back work from dawn until dusk, with no time for a mental reset.
- Allow time for winding down between tasks. If you can, try to leave a ten or fifteen-minute buffer on either side of tasks or groups of tasks. You might need time to close down cases, send out reports, or make notes. Even if you don’t, you might need a few minutes to review your schedule and remind you of what’s up next.
4. Apply what you’ve learned to your calendar
With the tips above in mind, it’s time to set up your calendar. You can start with a single day or a whole week, but it can’t hurt to give time blocking a try. You’ll still be achieving everything that you’d usually do.
- Open your usual calendar software, such as Google or Outlook.
- Consult your list of tasks and work out where’s best to schedule each of them. Remember to group tasks closely together if they’re related.
- To save time planning in the future, set frequent, repeated tasks as repeated events in your calendar. This’ll ensure that you don’t have to set up each week individually.
- Set an appropriate amount of time for each task, and remember to leave some buffer time if you need it.
- Give your task a title and save it to your calendar.
It’s straightforward and won’t take up much of your time. Remember, your first block of time should be a planning meeting in the morning that gives you time to set up everything else.
5. Consider taking time blocking a step further
Time blocking in your Google or Outlook calendar is just the start. If you’re already seeing productivity gains using time blocking – and we think you will – then you might be wondering what else you can do to further streamline your time.
We’re sure you’re used to juggling multiple software applications in your day-to-day role. Well, if you bring a tool like Akiflow on board, you can actually make your other tools and applications far more streamlined, integrating everything together.
With Akiflow, you can bridge the gaps between Google Calendar, Zoom, Slack, and other software apps. It won’t change how you inherently use the software, but you’ll be able to:
- Turn chats from colleagues into drag-and-drop tasks on your calendar
- Manage all of your emails from a single inbox
- Drag high-priority tasks directly into your calendar to save time
- Access everything from a universal command toolbar
Our users have reported saving as much as two hours in their workdays by using Akiflow to support their enhanced productivity. Don’t believe us? Try Akiflow for free.