My first impression of time blocking was that it was too rigid for me and was frustrating to use. However, I kept coming across articles talking about how great it was and thought – am I missing something? The answer was yes. Yes I was. I somehow overlooked all the details that discussed just how flexible the method actually is and how you you can design it to work for you. I also didn’t realize that you could use the method in so many different mediums!
What is Time Blocking?
From Bill Gates and Elon Musk to bullet journal and planning enthusiasts – time blocking is an effective time management method used in many professional communities.
Time blocking is also commonly called block scheduling or calendar blocking. They all refer to the same method – scheduling your entire day in a calendar-like format. Each chunk of time scheduled should be a single task or batch of tasks.
No one really knows who invented it or when it was invented. There is actually an old personal calendar of Benjamin Franklin’s that is set up using the method. The calendar lists no events, only tasks or types of tasks to complete. In recent years it has been made popular by Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, who shared how he successfully manages his time using this method.
Regardless of how long time blocking has been around, it’s important to point out that it is not only used by or intended for CEOs and inventors. The method is widely used by anyone and everyone whether they are an educator, creative entrepreneur, or mommy blogger. Time blocking can be used by anyone to improve time management.
Benefits of Time Blocking
There are probably many more benefits of time blocking than I can count! I’ve listed the ones that I’ve personally noticed as a result of using the method.
Improved focus & ability to stay on task
Improved ability to estimate time – how long things actually take
More committed to things because they’re scheduled
Feel more accountable when things aren’t completed
More easily see patterns in my life – how I spend my time
How to Time Block
1. Organize your tasks
Before you schedule anything it’s vital that you choose your tasks and organize them. You can organize them by areas in your life (like Personal Finance, Meal Planning etc.), by project, or theme. It’s really up to you. I personally like using Tiago Forte’s PARA method for organizing everything.
2. Decide on a medium
There are many mediums you can time block. The main 2 things to look for when choosing: an ability to lay out a schedule with times and ease of use for your workflow. Here are some medium ideas to get started:
Write it out:
Apps & platforms:
3. Lay Out your Blocks
After choosing a medium you next need to decide how you’re going to spend your time. Start adding your tasks, areas, projects, etc. to the blocks of time available.
You can be as detailed or general as you want when scheduling your tasks. I like to batch my tasks in my to-do list application. I organizing them by area and then refer to that list when it’s time to start on that block. I’ve seen that other people like to write out the specific tasks directly on their calendar. Do what works for you!
Example: time blocking with iCalendar by area of responsibility.
4. Get Things Done
Now that you’ve blocked out your day and planned all the things it’s time to do all the things! Although while you work keep in mind that:
Things almost never go as planned
It’s perfectly normal and expected that things don’t go as planned. That’s ok! You can edit the plan as needed.
Interruptions are a thing
Expect that they will happen. I’ve found that it helpful to anticipate what these might be and sketch out some ideas on how to best handle them in ways that won’t take me completely out of my workflow
You can plan it day by day
For some reason I thought I needed to block out times for the entire week when I first started. It was so stressful! Don’t make the same mistake – start out by time blocking one day at a time.
You will be bad at estimating time
Humans as a species struggle with accurately estimating how long things actually take. We tend to think more optimistically and imagine the best case scenario. It’s an interesting realization that you can read more about in this article by Zapier.
Experiment & Customize
You don’t have to be like Bill Gates and Elon Musk who have blocks of time as little as 5 minutes scheduled. You don’t have to have every single task on your calendar. Play around with different ways to time block, take it day by day, and adjust as needed.
This may seem like simple advice but I honestly felt this pressure to follow everything to a T when I first used this method. It was exhausting! It took me awhile to realize that I just needed to experiment with what works for me.
Enjoyed this article?
Share it on Pinterest!