Create Your Own Schedule: Use Time Blocking

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.

Task batching

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.

Day theming

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)

Create Your Own Work Schedule- 1

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:

Create Your Own Work Schedule- 2

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

Create Your Own Work Schedule- 3

The time-blocking method can be an excellent way to manage your time. But it does have its advantages and disadvantages.

Pros

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.

Cons

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.

Wrap-Up

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.

Professional

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.

8 thoughts on “Create Your Own Schedule: Use Time Blocking”

  1. Hello Eric. Thank you for taking your time to share this helpful guide on how we can create work schedule. Do you know for some time now I have been considering setting time for every activities for each day? I have actually thought how I’d do it without knowing it’s called “Time Blocking”; interesting name. This would enhance productivity and promote healthy activities. Thanks for the tips, pros and cons. The pros are truly worth it.

    Kind regards?

    Reply
    • That’s great to hear! Setting some time aside for those activities is well worth it, and the right step forward. The pros are well worth it, a lot of good things to consider.

      Thanks for sharing your input!

      Reply
  2. This is a great idea, I’ve never heard of it before. I suffer from writing lots of To Do lists and usually they end up longer at the end of the day.  I’m actually going to attend a time management course next month as I need to utilise my time better and I wonder if this will be covered. 

    A very interesting read – thank you! 

    Reply
    • Of course, Alex! Great to hear you’re going to take part in the time management course. I hope it’ll work out well for you.

      Thanks for sharing your input!

      Reply
  3. Hello Eric, I must say that this article is very helpful and informative. I found really hard to develop my working schedule primarily because of a lack of time. I have a regular job and taking the time for my online business can be very hard sometimes. I am glad I stumbled upon your article because you shared some very useful tips for making the right schedule. I will definitely follow your advice.

    Reply
    • I’m glad to hear you enjoyed reading this post! Yeah, managing time is not easy for everybody. But taking some steps forward in the right direction will help a long way.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this topic!

      Reply
  4. This is a really practical article.  I used this method of daily planning somewhat, but you have added some of the details of how to set it up.  I noticed that you block for everything.  I have no done this previously for anything other than work.  Blocking personal time will ensure that I get that time use.  Thanks so much for this article.  I plan to adjust my planning using some of your tips. 

    Reply
    • I’m glad to hear about that! Yes, my google calendar (for the most part) is pretty much filled up. I like to make sure I have things planned initially. If something comes up or changes, then I can make some adjustments here and there. It makes it easier for me to work around my schedule.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the topic!

      Reply

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