Do you find yourself making endless to-do lists, only to find out you didn’t get everything checked off? Is your schedule all over the place where you spend most of your time in meetings? If you spend your days on the run, those days can be hectic. Luckily, there are effective ways to create your own schedule that fits best for you.
Create your own schedule with time blocking
If you want to give yourself the time to focus on real work, then the time blocking process might be the best approach. The time blocking method has been used by some notable people, including Elon Musk. Musk, the CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, uses time blocking to manage his daily schedule. With all his success and staying busy, he still manages to get more done each day.
In this post, I will discuss the time blocking method, including:
1.) What is the technique and it’s two components
2.) How to apply it (with my examples)
3) Best tips on using it effectively
4.) Pros & cons of time blocking
Create your own schedule
Time blocking method
Time blocking divides your day into blocks of time, or what I also call time chunks. Each block dedicates to a specific task or responsibility you plan on completing in a one or two hour period. The main goal of time blocking is to set aside time to work on your most important work. For instance, if you need to set aside time to write a report at work, schedule two-three hours for one day to work on the report. Of course, you’ll want to block time for other things, such as meetings or catching up on email.
Time blocking consists of two components: task batching and day theming.
When grouping smaller tasks and scheduling specific time boxes to complete at one time. By working on similar jobs together, more likely to avoid multi-tasking and able to get more done during the particular time frames. When it comes to simple tasks such as checking email, scheduling two 30-minute periods is much more efficient than checking email multiple times throughout the day.
Known as a detailed version of task batching for individuals who have a lot of areas of responsibilities. An entrepreneur, or someone starting their own business, likely will have to juggle between marketing, sales, administrative work, etc. So someone who overlooks these areas will have multiple time blocks on a given day; or, they’ll dedicate specific days to doing particular work. For example, one day can be content creation, while another day can be for administrative work.
How to time block your schedule
There are two ways you can block out time in your calendar.
The first approach is to get some scratch paper and divide it into two columns:
On the left column, separate every two lines for each hour.
Estimate how much time it takes to complete a specific task.
Then write those tasks on the left column with the time blocks you wrote down.
The right column can be used to add commentary notes.
In case unexpected things come up, leave the extra room to adjust your schedule.
Below is an illustration of what it would look like: (Note: Mine looks slightly different)
The second approach (which is much easier) is to add time blocks on a desktop calendar. I recommend using Google Calendar because it’s simple to use. Other calendars you can use include Mac or Outlook.
The following is a screenshot of what my time blocks look like in Google Calendar:
Best tips for time blocks
When plotting out your time blocks, there are some things to keep in mind for maximum success. Some of them include:
Set aside at least 10 minutes a day for planning
Usually, you can do it the day before you start working on your tasks. If there’s a project due the next day, utilize your time the day before to work out those time blocks.
Figure out how long it takes to complete a given task
Don’t fall for the “planning fallacy.” This bias is when we feel too optimistic about achieving a specific job. Afterward, we don’t follow-up on it as planned. So keep a timed record of your tasks.
Breakdown big tasks into smaller ones
More significant functions that require a more extended period to take are broken down into smaller sub-tasks. Make sure to slot them into your daily time blocks.
Be ready for the unexpected
As mentioned earlier, leave some extra space to revise your time blocks. Regarding “reactive” work, planning for the unexpected will help avoid overwhelming feelings, reduce stress, and remain focused.
Pros & cons of time blocks
The time-blocking method can be an excellent way to manage your time. But it does have its advantages and disadvantages.
Promotes “Deep Work”
As I illustrated in my Google Calendar screenshot, “deep work” is something people think as being the essential work to get done. Cal Newport, the author of Deep Work, uses time blocking in his daily routine. Newport puts aside 20 minutes daily to planning the next workday and says,
“Sometimes, people ask why I bother with such a detailed level of planning. My answer is simple: it generates a massive amount of productivity. A 40-hour time-blocked work week, I estimate, produces the same amount of output as a 60+ hour work week pursued without structure.”
Better awareness of how you spend your time
Many people aren’t the best at managing their time. Even I’m guilty of this fact and still struggle with it. However, using time blocks helps you prioritize your essential tasks while leaving time for smaller jobs as well. You can figure out how to spend your time better when you have a laid-out calendar in front of you.
Underestimating your time
There may be periods where you get tasks done sooner than later. On the other hand, there may be tasks that take you longer than expected. That’s a downside when starting with time blocking. Once you try it out for a while, you’ll get a better understanding of how time blocks work in your schedule.
Time blocks can change
Though your original plans might work at the beginning of your week, anything can change on a given day. Whether a task is taking longer, an interruption, or something else unexpected, things can happen all of a sudden. That’s why it’s vital to leave some space to change plans if necessary.
Overall, the time blocking method is a systematic approach to managing your time efficiently. If it works for successful people such as Musk, the technique can work for most people willing to make an effort. It’s a great alternative to making traditional to-do lists, along with generalized calendar layouts. I’ve tried out time blocking for some time, and I find my daily routine goes by much smoother and less stressful. I’m much more confident about what tasks I need to focus on each day.
Have you used time blocks in your daily schedule?
If so, share your thoughts by leaving a comment below. Also, please share this post with others.
Eric is a time management consultant and owner of the blog, quitkillingtime.com. He takes great pride in helping people manage their time, personally and professionally. Eric is a firm believer in time freedom, as he believes in taking ownership of time. “Time is your most important asset. It can be your best friend or worst enemy. How you use your time can shape the future you desire to have.” In his leisure time, Eric loves to write and read whenever possible. He likes to go for long walks out in nature and been taking Zumba classes every week at his local gym. You can follow Eric via Facebook and LinkedIn.