I became familiar with the concept of time blocking in fifth grade. My therapist asked me to write a list of every single task I could possibly have to do. As a fifth grader, the list wasn’t long at all, even though it gave me endless anxiety.
She then asked me to write down the longest imaginable time the task would take while still being realistic. Again, fifth-grade homework more than likely took 15 minutes out of my otherwise ‘hectic’ days.
The therapist explained to me that this method, otherwise known as time blocking, would ease my anxiety and allow me to see the time I thought I’d spend on my tasks far exceeded the time I would actually spend on my tasks.
But as I grew up, my to-do list got longer and my time-blocking days got further and further away. I want to go back to that time and begin time blocking again.
What is Time Blocking?
If you’ve never heard of time blocking, it’s a time management method that many successful people swear by. The method is relatively simple: just block certain times of your day to finish a task. Though it’s simple, it works wonders.
The origin of time blocking began with Parkinson’s law, which states that work expands to fill the time available to complete it. So by implementing a certain amount of time for each of your daily tasks, you’re more likely to get more accomplished in the time you allot for them.
The Benefits of Time Blocking
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While I’ll never claim any method to be a silver bullet for productivity, time blocking has proven itself in a myriad of ways. The first benefit is creating a greater focus. Each block of time centers around one task, one focus, and one amount of time. The method eradicates any chance for you to multitask, get off task, or deviate. If you’re like me and often get caught up doing ten things at once, you might be familiar with how unhealthy, unsuccessful, and unproductive multitasking is. In fact, studies have shown that multitasking reduces productivity by 40%. If you’re time blocking properly, you won’t be able to multitask.
Because of the greater focus, time blocking also increases productivity. Because you’ve only allowed a certain chunk of time to be set aside to accomplish a task, you’re more than likely to get it done within that time frame, making you work faster and harder.
Finally, time blocking increases your motivation. If you thrive on ticking tasks off your to-do list, this method is absolutely for you. The act of time blocking creates a new goal and a new vision for your days and allows you to visually see and check off all you’ve accomplished throughout it.
How to Time Block
The act of time blocking is relatively easy. Whether you love Google Calendars, bullet journaling, or simply jotting something down on a little sticky note as you go about your day, you can time block.
1. Choose your goal.
The first step to time blocking is figuring out what you need to make time for in your schedule. Make a list of your to-do’s and goals for the day and try to stick to only the necessary ones. Take stock of what’s coming up for the week ahead and make a rough sketch of your time blocks for each day of the week. This way, you’ll know relatively what to expect for the week’s workload.
2. Map out how much time each will take.
Depending on your perception of time, this task will either be the easiest or the hardest to follow. Decide how much time you’re willing/able to give to each task and designate it to all of them. This way you’ll know which tasks should go where.
3. Make your schedule.
Finally, create your schedule. Put the highest-priority tasks at the beginning of your day and work your way through the list. More than likely, you’ll find that they go by faster when you’re in the zone.
Time Blocking Tips
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While the concept of time blocking is relatively easy to understand, it can get complicated. Remember that things might not always go according to plan and your schedule and to-do list may completely change by the end of the day. I suggest having an hour and a half of flex time within your schedule where you can tend to emergencies or anything that might pop up. Cal Newport, the author of Deep Work, says the best way to time block is to rework your time blocks throughout the day as circumstances change. He says, “The goal is to make sure you always have an intentional plan for the time that remains in the workday.” Updating your tasks also helps you become more motivated and more productive throughout your workday.
Also, understand that you’re not a robot, so don’t expect to work from the moment you wake up to the moment you go to bed. Schedule times for breaks, meals, and even the occasional walk outside to give your brain a break. While it may be exciting to get productive and get shit done, it won’t last if you burn out within the first three hours.
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I thought I was an expert on time blocking because I’ve done it for years now. But every day was different this week, and I was quickly humbled.
I don’t think there was one day that I didn’t alter my schedule, go overtime in a block, or completely forget some of the most important tasks of the day. Apparently, I’m not a time-blocking expert, and that’s okay.
That being said, I loved the sense of control time blocking gave me. Like I said before, I’ve never been great at measuring time and I’m a very worst-case-scenario person when it comes to scheduling out my day. I’ll usually over-prepare and over-plan my schedule to create wiggle room just in case the world comes crashing down and I need to fix everything in a day.
That didn’t happen this week, and I found myself sitting in front of Grey’s Anatomy more than I found myself adhering to my schedule.
For the first two days of the challenge, I wrote about three things that I needed to do and only allotted time for those things. While it’s important to prioritize your big tasks when making a schedule, I lacked any time to do anything else on paper, but I also got my to-do list over within the first hour of the day.
I approached my schedule differently after making that mistake on the first few days. I only scheduled work for a few hours and added more time to do the in-between tasks like going for a walk, doing laundry, and adopting another kitten (oops).
I think the biggest lesson I learned from this week was that it’s okay to change your schedule and it’s okay not to be as productive as you feel you should. I’d often finish my schedule and to-do list early and feel like a failure of some sort because I was done but I still had the whole day left.
If you’re planning on time blocking your schedule, be sure to add in time for fun and know that you might finish before the day is over. Take that as a sign to give yourself the day off!
I love order, getting things done, being productive, and checking things off my list. This week was one of the most satisfying weeks of my life. There’s something to be said about knowing exactly where your day is going to go and what it’s going to look like for you. While time blocking by no means makes you in control of everything, it helps more than you might think.
I’d recommend time blocking to anyone, especially people with busy schedules and anxiety. I loved my week and know I’ll be time-blocking my days from here on out.
Have you tried time blocking before? Do you love it? Comment below!
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