I’ve been using time blocking for over a year and it has been a real game-changer in helping me to more efficiently tackle my to-do list. Time blocking not only helps you organize your task list but it also helps you stay focused on what matters most and increase your productivity.
WHAT IS TIME BLOCKING?
The basic premise of time blocking is that you schedule blocks of time in which you are going to get specific tasks done. In this strategy, you break your day into clear blocks of time and then fit your task list into those windows. Actually, it’s a very simple concept that works great.
BENEFITS OF TIME BLOCKING
Time blocking gets you started and keeps you focused.
Sometimes when we stare at our lengthy task list, we face a sense of paralysis. This results in wasted time as we gaze blankly at our assignments, trying to decide which obstacle to tackle first. However, with time blocking your schedule is laid out right in front of you, that wasted time disappears and you can get right to work.
Occasionally, when I have a long list of tasks to complete, I struggle to focus on just one. Rather, I find myself bouncing from one thing to the next, convinced that “multitasking” is more efficient. Time blocking helps pull us out of this mentality.
By taking each task on our list and putting it into a designated time slot, we know we will get to each task. This prevents the urge to randomly jump from our current project to answer a few emails because we can tell ourselves, “I’ll get to those emails at 12:30; I need to focus on my current task now.”
HOW LONG SHOULD TIME BLOCKS BE?
It is up to you to decide how long you want each time block to be. Most research shows that time blocks of 30, 60, or 90 minutes work best, with 10-15 minute breaks between blocks.
Use 30-minute time blocks for quick tasks like answering email, social media, or returning phone calls. This shorter time block forces you to keep moving through the tasks and not spend too much time deliberating on the perfect response.
60-minute time periods should be used for most projects and longer/more involved tasks. It often takes us a bit of time to “get in the zone” when working on projects. If we use the 30-minute time blocks for these situations, we tend to get stuck in the transition period without ever hitting our stride.
Reserve the 90-minute blocks for things that require going somewhere else or moving around within your building, since the extra time is usually needed for travel. You can also use these blocks sparingly for projects that you need to really sink your teeth into.
IF I SKIP THE BREAKS, I CAN GET MORE ACCOMPLISHED
No, not really. Our brains need a chance to regroup on a regular basis throughout the day. If we skip the breaks, we will soon find ourselves working sluggishly and will end up wasting more time.
For the breaks, get up and go away from your desk or work station if possible. Go for a brisk walk, make a cup of tea, snuggle with your dog, whatever. Just make sure you don’t let that break extend past 15 minutes. Don’t spend this time checking email or social media. Give your brain a true break.
Make sure you’re correctly estimating your time. Just because you write a project into a 60-minute block doesn’t mean it can be done in 60-minutes. If a project is going to take more than 60-90 minutes, just schedule it into multiple blocks.
When you’re working in a time block format, it is critical that you turn off distractions. It is so easy to “quickly” check your email or scroll through your Facebook feed “only for a second.” We all know where that is going to end up. Before you know it, you’ve spent over half your block of time and accomplished nothing. Many operating systems have a “quiet time” or “do not disturb” that disables notifications and helps you focus.
Take into account your body/brain rhythm. Before you start slotting tasks into each block, think about how your energy and work flow. Some of us are morning people while others are night owls. If we all schedule the important goal project at 10:00 in the morning, the morning people are going to be successful and the night owls aren’t. Block schedule the tasks that take the most brain power for your peak time of day. Likewise, schedule other things (like running errands, checking social media, email, and phone calls) that require low brain power for when you’re a little slower.
You also need to have some flexibility. Some people think that with time-blocking their goal is to stick with the schedule no matter what. A better way is to rework your time blocks throughout the day as circumstances change. The goal is to make sure that you always have an intentional plan for the time that remains in the workday.
Try time blocking for a week or two and let me know how it goes. Comment below or send me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information on time and task management, check out these other posts.