Imagine completing your work early most days and having more time with your family. It’s possible to improve efficiency, even for busy business founders. To get more done in less time, use time blocking.
What is time blocking? It’s the process of dividing your time into specific blocks to focus on a single task. The benefits range from increased productivity to better focus and less stress. Should you use time blocking? Read on to understand the benefits and how to implement it effectively.
What Is Time Blocking?
Time blocking is a productivity technique that involves dividing your schedule into dedicated time blocks for specific tasks or activities. With time blocking, you’ll take a longer time, such as a day or a week, and divide it into smaller segments.
For example, you may divide your day into 30-minute time blocks or 2-hour time blocks. Or, you might make various time blocks throughout the day depending on the expected length of the tasks. Or, you could use the Pomodoro Technique and set a timer for 25 minutes followed by a five-minute break.
How Does Time Blocking Work?
To implement time blocking, you allocate specific time slots for different tasks or activities throughout your day. During these time blocks, you commit to working solely on the designated task, minimizing interruptions and distractions. For time blocking, you’ll want to follow two key steps:
- Visually schedule time blocks on your calendar, so your work can’t be interrupted or scheduled over.
- Group like tasks into one concentrated block of time.
The advantages of this strategy center on increased productivity and focus. You can turn off your phone or silence notifications so you’re not distracted during the time block. Another advantage is prioritization, as you can work through the most important task or deep work early in the day before moving on to less pressing activities.
Our brains aren’t designed to maintain intense focus for eight to ten hours a day. Research suggests the brain can’t concentrate on high-focus tasks for more than four hours daily. Time blocking gets around this by requiring strong focus for a shorter period of time. At the end of each time block, you can take a short five-minute break before moving on to the next task, potentially leading to better focus.
Who Should Try Time Blocking?
Anyone easily distracted or wanting to improve productivity can try time blocking. It’s a practical tool to increase productivity. Whether you’re an entrepreneur, employee, or self-employed, time blocking can help you get more done quickly. If your calendar is mostly filled with meetings, you can still try time blocking in any free period, helping to prioritize key tasks.
Business teams can also benefit from time blocking as they focus on shared tasks during certain time blocks and move on to individual responsibilities at other times.
3 Time Blocking Variations
While the basic concept of time blocking, as the name implies, involves creating blocks of time, there are also variations you can try. Here’s how each works:
1. Time Boxing
Timeboxing is a variation of time blocking often used in tech, such as in agile environments. Timeboxing allocates a maximum time to a specific activity called the time box. The idea is that work expands to fill the time allocated. By creating a time box, you set a concrete limit on the activity. You can allocate the activity to another time box later if it isn’t completed.
For example, if you have to review and respond to emails, you could allocate 30 minutes to it. After the 30-minute review, if you haven’t finished all responses, you can allocate another 30-minute time block later. But you’ll move on to another task at the end of the 30 minutes.
Timeboxing works especially well with ongoing tasks that require continuous attention, like email responses, business performance reviews, or cleaning, management, and organizational tasks.
2. Task Batching
Task batching is another productivity strategy that requires you to group similar tasks together. This can reduce multitasking and increase focus on a specific task. Task batching can be an element of time blocking, although it doesn’t have to be.
For example, suppose you manage social media for your company in addition to many other responsibilities. With task-batching, you’d put all social media-related tasks together. In that case, on Monday during the allocated time, you’d research keywords, design, schedule posts, and write business blogs for the week rather than spreading those separate tasks out.
3. Day Theming
Day theming is an advanced form of time blocking. Not only are you batching similar tasks into shared or related time blocks, but you’re building themes for the day. Day theming works especially well at the executive level or when you’re an entrepreneur who wears many hats within the company.
For example, with day theming, you could make a schedule as follows:
- Monday: Sales and marketing
- Tuesday: Social media and outreach
- Wednesday: Company culture, productivity, HR, and employee satisfaction
- Thursday: New client acquisition and SWOT analysis
- Friday: Accounting and finance review
How to Get Started with Time Blocking?
To start with time blocking, think of when you’re typically the most productive in the day. For some people, that’s first thing in the morning. For others, it’s the two hours before lunch. And some people work better in the afternoons.
Once you know your personal efficient times, follow these steps to start time blocking:
- Identify the work you need to complete for the day or week and prioritize it.
- Open your calendar and block out any pre-scheduled meetings. Group them together if possible.
- Note your most productive times and schedule your priority tasks during those times.
- Block off time for personal activities, like lunch or the end of the workday.
- Create 30-60 minute blocks for the rest of the days and note the tasks you plan to complete, grouping similar or related tasks together.
- Allow time each day to deal with unexpected tasks or interruptions.
- Set an alarm or reminder at the start and finish of each time block to mark the time.
Each morning, look at your schedule for the day and the designated time blocks. After each time block, get up and stretch for a minute, or take a five-minute break to reset before starting the next time block.
Based on your first week of time blocking, keep adjusting your schedule to match your productive times and work needs. Time blocking isn’t supposed to be rigid, it’s supposed to adapt to your changing needs!
What Are the Advantages of Time Blocking?
We’ve all tried to do five things simultaneously and accomplished none. Time blocking is the opposite. The advantages of time blocking include improved productivity and focus. Here’s why you should try time blocking:
1. Enhanced Focus and Concentration
If you focus on one task at a time, then each task gets your full concentration. This is more restful for your brain and can increase creativity, innovation, and efficiency. You’ll finish the task quickly and get that satisfaction before moving on to the next task.
2. Improved Productivity
Related to concentration and focus, you can improve productivity by giving full attention to a task. During time blocks, turn off your phone and notifications to reduce distraction. This allows you to focus on the task until it’s completed or schedule time blocks to get it done.
3. Reduced Multitasking
Multitasking is the bane of the modern world. While we think of multitasking as more efficient, research has repeatedly shown that the extra time to shift mental gears between tasks reduces efficiency and focus. Time blocking reduces multitasking, thereby maximizing focus and productivity.
4. Increased Efficiency
When you focus on a single task, you can do it faster. Think you need an hour a day to reply to emails? Focus on that task exclusively without getting distracted by related issues, and you could have it done in half the time. By creating time blocks, you’re better able to prioritize and complete essential tasks.
5. Better Work-Life Balance
Time blocking can also account for downtime, rest, and family time. You can use a time block to schedule workouts, weekly meals with your extended family, or other important social activities. Time blocking helps you complete more work during working hours, leading to a better work-life balance.
Common Missteps to Remember with Time Blocking
Time blocking requires constant adjustment. As with so many businesses, time blocking is a process of continuous improvement rather than a final destination. Here are a few common time-blocking mistakes to avoid:
Trying to schedule too many tasks or activities in a limited amount of time will overwhelm your schedule and make it more difficult to stick to time blocks. Instead, try only scheduling priority tasks during the week, with extra time blocks for low-priority items.
While you’re getting a sense of your time block needs, allow an extra 15 to 30 minutes for tasks, and reduce that as your efficiency increases. You can also reduce meetings which may take up a significant portion of the work day.
2. Ignoring Flexibility
Unexpected events or changes in priorities may arise, and it is important to have the ability to adjust the schedule accordingly. Allow at least 30 minutes each day to address unexpected events or new priorities, and more time if they are a regular occurrence.
With time blocking, you can easily swap out one priority for another if you’re clear on current needs. Many people also allow another 30 minutes for interruptions during the day.
3. Lack of Prioritization
Lack of prioritization can mean you focus and complete low-priority tasks during your optimum focus times, leaving more important activities for later in the day or week. This can mean, for example, that you’ve responded to emails but failed to review an important business proposal. To avoid this mistake, make a task list of priorities and build your schedule around the most important milestones and your best focus times.
4. Not Accounting for Breaks
Our brains and bodies need regular breaks! It is essential to include breaks in the time-blocking schedule to rest and recharge. Plan for at least a one-minute break at the end of each time block, and a longer break after 2-4 time blocks, depending on the standard duration.
For example, if you use 30-minute time blocks, you can take a one-minute break between each session (which means you’ll have 29 minutes for the next task). Then after four blocks (two hours), take a 10-minute break to recharge, chat with a coworker, walk around the block, get a drink of water, or a cup of coffee. After the next group of time blocks, take a longer break for lunch.
With that schedule, at the end of the workday, you’ll have 7 ½ hours of productive time and 30 minutes total for breaks, plus lunch.
5. Underestimating Task Duration
It is important to realistically estimate the time needed for each task when time blocking. Think about how long a task typically takes to complete and add 10% to 20%. If you complete the task faster, give yourself an extra break or work on a low-priority task until the next time block starts.
You’re more likely to stick with time blocking if you can complete tasks within the allocated time than if you have to leave them unfinished or go over time.
Optimizing Efficiency with Time Blocking
Time blocking can improve focus, creativity, and productivity, so you have more time for expansion and rest. From planner businesses to DAOs, companies that optimize time can free up space for improvement. Likewise, Doola Books can help.
Doola Bookkeeping Services is designed for busy founders like you, so you don’t have to spend all day on accounting. Get doola books to improve accounting efficiency and focus more on your core business.
Do you have to follow the time blocks strictly?
No, you don’t have to follow time blocks strictly, but it helps improve productivity. If you allow enough time to complete each task, it’s easier to stick with time blocks.
Can time blocking be used for personal life as well?
Yes, time blocking can be used for personal life as well. You can block out time for preparing food, meals, exercise, family time, and even sleep. You can also integrate your personal and work-life calendars with balanced time blocks.
Should I time block every minute of my day?
You don’t want to time block every minute of the day because you need time for the unexpected! From extra traffic to an important business meeting, time blocking can become frustrating if you’re thrown off the schedule. Instead, time block the most important business and personal tasks each day and leave some time for flexibility.
Should you allocate buffer time between time blocks?
You can allocate buffer time between time blocks if you need a longer transition. Some people add a five-minute buffer between each time block, while others jump right from one task to the next. You can also build natural buffers into certain time blocks, like lunch or meeting transitions.
Can you combine time blocking with other productivity techniques?
Yes, you can combine time blocking with other productivity techniques to increase efficiency. A few of the techniques discussed above include day theming and task batching.