Forget to-do lists and trying to cram as much as you can into a day, try a time blocking schedule instead. While a to-do list is an excellent start to understanding what it is you want to achieve, it doesn’t tell you when to do the tasks and when you should stop.
What is time blocking?
Time blocking is the process of blocking out specific times to do specific tasks; Bill Gates and Elon Musk swear by this process which makes sense because they’re both extremely busy billionaires.
Unlike a to-do list, time blocking helps you plan your day in a controlled way without tasks infringing on the time set for other tasks and without continually switching tasks and losing focus in the process.
Have you ever noticed that when you give yourself a big chunk of time to complete a task, it turns out to be harder than it should be?
You get anxious about getting it done, you procrastinate, and it eats into your time set for other tasks. This is called Parkinson’s Law – work expands to fill the time available for its completion. If you block your calendar into smaller time frames for a project, you’ll be ultra-focused and results-driven.
Benefits of time blocking
- It helps you stay on track
- You’ll experience fewer distractions like checking social media.
- It will help you prioritise
- It will help you learn how long tasks take and adjust
- It can reduce anxiety because you’ll worry less about what you haven’t done. Did you know that people worry more about the tasks they haven’t completed than the ones they have? It’s called the Zeigarnick Effect.
- It’ll give you increased confidence that everything is planned and in its rightful place.
- It encourages work at a more productive state of flow due to batch tasking.
- You’ll start to be more realistic with your time.
- You’ll complete more of your to-do list instead of having the usual 41% of tasks incomplete.
- How to do time blocking?
1. Define your tasks by looking at your:
1. To-do list
2. Create blocks of time
1. Block out the next day or block out the entire week and update it as you go.
2. Break larger tasks down into smaller subtasks
3. Schedule in tasks even if you’re unsure of them or they’re missing information.
4. Schedule tasks that require the most focus when you’re at your best.
5. Avoid scheduling back to back blocks. Give yourself time in between to take a break.
3. Follow the time blocks
1. Stick to the time blocks and the tasks set in them. Don’t do any other tasks.
2. Give yourself 10 to 15 minutes between each block to refocus.
1. How accurate were you with your time blocking?
2. Do you need to allocate more time for some tasks?
3. Remember, your day will never be 100% perfect.
Time blocking examples
Here are a couple of examples and ideas of how different days may look.
An example of a time blocked day for a working mum:
An example of a time blocked day for a stay at home mum:
Again, just a basic example – every mum’s day is so different.
As you can see in both schedules, I have used colour coding. Colour coding is often a good idea to break up the different tasks into different lengths of time so that you can see your short tasks versus your longer tasks. Remember too; you don’t necessarily need to complete a big task in one go. In fact, it’s best to split it up into several blocks, perhaps over a couple of days, to achieve the best productivity.
In the examples above, I’ve used the following colour coding:
- Orange for 15-minute tasks
- Pink for 30-minute tasks
- Blue for 45-minute tasks
- Green for one-hour tasks
- Purple for 2+ hours.
There are plenty of ways you can create your own time blocking schedule and the option you choose depends on what you like to use. If you’re a fan of the paper planner, you can use this to time block. If you prefer your planning to be online, Google Calendar is a great option for time blocking and sending reminders.
The trick to making a time blocking schedule work for you is based on a few things. Firstly, it’s best to overestimate the time you need instead of underestimating.
Secondly, it’s ok to feel overwhelmed at the idea of scheduling everything, every day of the week. The beauty of doing this is that you’re keeping yourself in check and, you’re calming the anxious you who usually worries when you don’t know what’s happening or how you’re going to get something done.
Having a time blocked schedule keeps you accountable, it forces you to monitor and improve your productivity and if you love having a checklist, time blocking can be even more satisfying.
Have you tried time-blocking? Grab your Hourly Planner here.
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Have you created a time blocking schedule? Originally published on Jan 6th 2020.