Are you one of those people who tend to feel overwhelmed with the amount of things they want to get done? Me too! Everything around us is constantly buzzing and calling for our attention, we have more possibilities than ever, and yet, we don’t seem to get the things done that moves us forward.
Enter time blocking! This simply, but incredibly powerful concept can increase your productivity immensely, while taking the constant decision of what to do next off your mind. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Let’s talk first about what the time blocking method is and how you use it, and then we talk about the benefits and effectiveness of this time management technique. Deal? Let’s get started!
What is the time blocking method?
As you’ve probably already guessed, time blocking is a time management technique. It was made wildly popular when several outlets reported that Elon Musk, the extremely successful entrepreneur, uses it to achieve all the crazy things he does.
(After researching this a little bit, I’m not sure that’s actually true. I couldn’t find one single interview where Elon Musk actually said that. It might be just one of the things they say about him. The method is still great!)
Anyway, time blocking means to schedule out blocks of time for the various activities you’ll tackle in advance. This doesn’t only apply to tasks, but to everything that will take up any of your time, ie showering, meals, et cetera.
These time blocks are dedicated to the pre-decided topic, and that topic only!
Time blocking vs to-do list
On first glance, time blocking might sound just like a to-do list. But there are actually some key differences here.
Firstly, time blocking solves the common issue where your task list is just so much longer than the time you have to dedicate to it. (And you usually notice this at the end of the week, when there’s no more time, but still so many tasks left!)
This is because, with a to-do list, you simply focus on the things you need to get done. It’s useful but rather short-sighted. It also only solves half of the planning process: what to do. Then, you still have lots of micro-decisions to take for when to do each task.
Time blocking, on the other hand, takes a more wholesome look at your schedule and gives you time slots to dedicate to topics. During that time slot, you can work on as many tasks as you’ll manage.
Time blocking benefits
So other than getting a clear overview over how much time you can spend on something, what are some other benefits of the time blocking method?
Deciding ahead of time helps you be more intentional with how you spend your time instead of running after every distraction. If you’re one of those people who run after every email, you’ll really feel this benefit of time blocking! It will make an immense difference to your productivity!
Time blocks let you focus on one topic at a time. This again makes it easier to get to a flow state and really immerse yourself in a topic.
Time blocking helps you make sure you meet all of your priorities, not only the ones that scream the loudest. You decide ahead of time what a time slot will be dedicated to. This means distractions will not deter you from making time for what’s really important.
One of the most underrated productivity tips is to know your peak times. When you distribute your time blocks, you can easily account for those. Always feel more sharp in the mornings and creative in the afternoon? Distribute your time slots accordingly!
This will not only make a difference to your productivity but also to your work and life quality! No more working against your tendencies!
If you’re using a calendar app for blocking your time, you can also make it visible for others when you’re available or when you’re busy. (We’ll go over how to do this in a minute.) This will save you from countless meeting requests for times when you’re already blocked.
Using dedicated time slots can help you work towards long-term goals. As long as you make sure to have a regular slot dedicated to making progress on your goals, everyday life cannot interfere with them anymore.
How do you use the time blocking method?
To successfully use the time blocking method you need to follow three main steps:
Collect all of your activities, tasks, and plans. All of them. No matter if private or for work. Basically, anything that will take up chunks of your time.
Create time blocks in your planning tool of choice for each of these activities. Each block should take up as much time as the activity will. For example, for me, the time block “lunch” includes time for cooking a meal, eating it, and cleaning up the kitchen after. Be realistic and rather start out planning a little too much time than too little. You can adjust later.
- Review & adjust
Review and adjust regularly. You can do this process daily or weekly, depending on what your schedule looks like.
How you choose to implement these steps will be a matter of personal preference. I’ll just give you some examples of how you can do it, and then you can decide for yourself!
Time blocking calendar
The most common way to use time blocking is to do it in your calendar. This is the method that I personally use the most, and it works amazingly well for me!
How do I use calendar blocking?
So how do you get started with calendar blocking? Firstly, of course, you’ll need a calendar or calendar app.
The best free time blocking app, in my opinion, is Google calendar. Or any calendar app you’re using, for that matter. The advantage of using the calendar that holds all your other appointments, too, is, that you can clearly see which time slots are already filled.
And no, you cannot schedule a meeting in a time slot that’s blocked for deeply focused work. Thats the whole point!
Then you put in all your slots for the week ahead. Don’t worry if there are a few free slots left, they’ll usually fill up by themselves. If, instead, you notice that you have too many blocks and not enough week, prioritize! The Eisenhower matrix can help really well with that!
How to use google calendar for time blocking
Because it is much easier to show this rather than explaining it in writing, I’ve recorded a video with a step-by-step guide on how to use google calendar for time blocking. Have look below!
Time blocking bullet journal
Another option is to do the whole time blocking process in your bullet journal. (Don’t know what that is? I’ll teach you how to start a bullet journal and use it to maximize productivity here!)
Simply grab your journal and pens, and draft out a schedule. Just as with the Google calendar example above, color coding will really make a difference.
Considering how it takes some time to draw out your schedule every time, I would use at least weekly or maybe even monthly blocking in my bullet journal. But, if it works for you, by all means, do daily. It will look pretty, for sure!
Time blocking template (free printable)
Another way to do time blocking on paper is to use templates. You can print those whenever you are ready to make a new schedule.
Under the links below you’ll find some time blocking template printable PDFs, so you can try this method out!
Time blocking app
As I said above, to me, Google calendar is the most efficient time blocking app AND it’s free. Personally, I don’t really see the advantage of using another app on top of that, as it seems to create overhead. Not really what I want when trying to get more productive.
BUT, I can also easily acknowledge that people have different needs and operate differently. So if you are super interested in this, I can refer you to this article from the folks over at Zapier who looked at 5 time-blocking apps.
Is time blocking effective?
Okay, so I can easily tell you lots about the benefits of this method. But the question remains: Is it really effective?
The short answer is: yes! Time blocking is definitely an effective time management technique.
The longer answer is: If used correctly, it really helps you achieve focused work. It also does take you out of the frantic state where you jump after every notification or other distraction coming along.
As with any method though, your execution matters. Make sure you are planning the right things and keep refining your blocks and priorities according to your goals.
In summary: As long as you make sure to adapt the method to your needs, it definitely will help you increase your productivity!