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How does time-blocking work?
Work Management
Last modified date

Apr 28, 2023

Achieve More and Stress Less with Time-Blocking

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Magnus Eriksen

Blog average read time

7 min

Last modified date

April 28, 2023


Instead of simply filling your agenda and getting stressed when tasks pile up, finding more creative and effective ways to manage time can be helpful.

One great tool is time-blocking, which may help you get more done because you are not trying to do multiple things at once during your day.

Instead, you set a time to invest your undivided attention in each of your specific tasks, which has been shown to boost overall efficiency. This article will discuss some of the top ways to create your time-blocking schedule so you feel less stressed and get more done.

Some popular time management tools include countdown timers, Pomodoro apps, stopwatches, and automatic time trackers.

Taking breaks, assigning tasks, emphasizing clarity amongst your work team, and tracking your progress are vital to boost motivation.

How does time-blocking work?

Time-blocking increases progress, momentum, and productivity by scheduling everything in your day into manageable chunks of time. That means absolutely everything—including meal prep, errands, and seemingly simple tasks like responding to emails.

Time-blocking is an effective strategy for managing your schedule, as it changes the way you view your day. Many of us tend to overcommit to daily activities, forgetting to account for the little tasks that can take up more time than expected.

With time-blocking, you will shift your perspective, learning to understand your day as a container with limited available time slots.

Once you develop a clearer sense of how your time is allotted and how much you can realistically accomplish in each time block, you can plan in advance, eliminating wasted time while allowing yourself more time to rest and relax.

The benefits of time-blocking

Increased focus and productivity are the main benefits of time-blocking, but this effective time management strategy also has other beneficial effects. Let’s look at a few benefits of implementing successful time-blocking strategies in your daily personal and professional life.

Time-blocking opens up your schedule

According to recent statistics, 90% of millennials highly value having a good work-life balance. Managing your time to maximize efficiency is essential to allow yourself more time for hobbies, rest, relaxation, family and friends time, and adventures.

While there may be a finite number of hours in the day, strengthening and tightening how you spend those hours can open up unexpected free time outside work.

Time-blocking reduces burnout

We expel a lot of energy during a typical workday by frequently swapping back and forth between tasks, trying to fit in as much as possible. This often looks like “squeezing in” small tasks, such as checking emails and updating spreadsheets, in between larger tasks. Cramming tasks comes at the expense of taking much-needed breaks to recuperate and rest.

More often than not, this leads to employee burnout, which can hurt productivity and negatively impact your overall health in the long run. As of 2020, a staggering 71% of knowledge workers reported having feelings of burnout.

The constant switching between tasks can cause high levels of underlying stress and daily fatigue that leads to burnout. Here’s how to lessen your cognitive load to reduce stress.

Eight tips for successful time-blocking

Time-blocking can reduce wasted minutes throughout the day and enhance our ability to complete difficult tasks. It can also help prevent procrastination and stress.

Let’s look at eight tips and steps to help you set up time-blocking strategies in your personal and professional life.

1. Refine your target outcomes

One of the benefits of time-blocking is that it helps you clarify exactly what you are trying to accomplish in the short and long term.

One of the first steps of time-blocking will be to refine your goals. Decide in advance what you hope to accomplish during a set amount of time, and then schedule accordingly.

Having a clear sense of your goal will help you determine how much time to allocate to that specific task or outcome and where to place this task in your order of priorities throughout each day.

2. Set deadlines

Any goal with an open-ended due date can easily lead to procrastination. With no sense of urgency, the task can be put off forever, frequently pushed to the back of the long To-do list where it can languish indefinitely.

One way to combat this? Assign deadlines to each task. If there are tasks—small and large—that you have been putting off for days, weeks, or months, setting a deadline is a great way to give yourself that final push and finish the project.

This will also help you determine when to set aside time for these projects, as the deadline provides a clear order of importance. You will have to allocate time in your time-blocking schedule for those lingering tasks if you can see that the deadline is coming up.

3. Schedule in advance on a calendar app

To create your time block schedule, determine how long each task will take you, and schedule that time into your calendar. Creating a visual representation of your time over each day, week, and month is a great way to ensure that you will stick to the time limits you have assigned yourself.

By blocking out visual sections of time, you can quickly and easily interact with your schedule, noticing where you have gaps in your schedule and where you may be over-committing yourself.

4. Use timers and time-tracking apps

Each task on your schedule should have a specific amount of time assigned. For example, you can schedule a one-hour block on Monday at 9 a.m. solely dedicated to answering emails. After this first time block, you can schedule a two-hour time block for working on a collaborative work project and then schedule a fifteen-minute break.

Sticking to these pre-assigned time limits will ensure you have enough time to reach all your intended tasks for the whole day. When you know that you only have that set amount of time to do a specific task, it will keep you focused and attentive to that task during the limited time window.

The best way to track your time and ensure you stay on task during each time block is to set an interval timer or use a time-tracking app. That way, you will not have to check the clock continuously; instead, the timer will alert you when it is time to move on to the next task—and the next time block.

pomodoro-habits

5. Take breaks

Scheduling breaks into your time block schedule in advance is a great way to free up that critical time to recharge and refresh. No one can work nonstop consistently, so scheduling reasonable and regular breaks for yourself throughout the day will allow you to prioritize self-care and maintain a healthy balance of work and rest throughout each workday.

When a break, even a short five-minute break, is visible on your calendar in advance, that will ensure you do not schedule over your break time. Rest time is vital to your overall well-being and productivity.

6. Group similar tasks into one focused time block

Rather than constantly switching between contexts and projects, identify and group together similar tasks. Group all your work communications into one focused time block, for example. Then you can focus on one specific project instead of swapping back and forth between thoughts and targets.

You will be able to focus better on each task and show up more prepared to address any challenges that arise in each context since that will take all your focused attention during that limited time window.

7. Break down big tasks

Breaking hauntingly large tasks into smaller, more manageable components gives you more achievable goals and helps specify and clarify your time blocks. Instead of assigning yourself a general two-hour window to work on a huge project, give yourself a specific task during a smaller window.

This will help you understand the full scope of the project in terms of how much available time you will need to assign to it and will help to prevent you from getting overwhelmed. Prioritize tasks in order of importance to accomplish critical steps toward your goal while meeting all your deadlines.

8. Give yourself incentives to start

Sometimes, getting started is the hardest part of completing a task. Once you start working on the task you have been procrastinating on, the resistance often fades away while working on the project. Give yourself an incentive to help get started on particularly daunting tasks.

For example, once you complete a specific goal, you can reward yourself with ten minutes of scrolling through Instagram posts. This is a great strategy to help improve productivity and release the grip of procrastination. Just make sure you don’t treat rest and relaxation as a treat once you have accomplished your tasks. Rest is vital even when you don’t meet your scheduled time block goals.

Time-Blocking with colleagues and clients

Of course, time-blocking is all well and good when working alone. But what happens when collaborating with colleagues, clients, or patients? Let’s look at some tips for maintaining your time block schedule even as you work to accommodate other people’s shifting schedules.

1. Set your schedule in advance

…and be ready to be flexible.

The best strategy to encompass unforeseen adjustments is to set your schedule far in advance and prepare to be flexible in case of last-minute cancellations or adjustments. If a colleague is running fifteen minutes late for a meeting, check your time block schedule for the day.

Is there an equivalent time block you had scheduled for later? Move that up to fill the unexpected gap in your schedule, shifting everything fifteen minutes later to accommodate your colleague.

A good strategy to follow is the time-slot scheduling method. Hospitals and medical clinics often use this method and must contend with patient delays and cancellations daily. Time-slot scheduling is where different time window slots are offered to patients and customers before reminders are sent via text or email. But they also often allow those same patients to change their time slots directly in case of other issues that would interrupt their appointment.

All the same, you can schedule your tasks in time window slots for your tasks and set up reminders for yourself, but you should also be willing to be flexible and reallocate tasks to different times if other tasks or issues come up.

2. Use scheduling software that updates your team

For daily time block scheduling with other people, the best approach is to start scheduling your time blocks from noon backward, towards your earliest time slot in the morning, and then again from noon forward to fill your afternoon slots.

Use scheduling software like Paymo’s Team Scheduler to book and schedule your work based on your projects and task lists.

Collaborative calendars such as Google Calendar allow others access to your work schedule to see your overall availability and request specific time windows for meetings, consultations, or collaborative work on team projects.

These good scheduling practices can integrate last-minute changes and adjustments with colleagues and collaborators into your time-blocking schedule.

3. Communicate clearly with your team or clients

If you have a big deadline coming up in one month, alert your colleagues and clients on your availability.

For instance, let them know that you will be more available for meetings and consultations during the first half of the month, and that your available time windows will be much more restricted as the deadline approaches.

This allows co-workers and clients the flexibility to match your schedule with their own and notifies them that you will not be very available during a certain time so that they can plan accordingly.

Final thoughts

By mapping out each hour of every day, you can give yourself an effective visual map of how full your time is each day. And this means you can hit your intended targets, staying focused for predetermined amounts of time on specific tasks.

Streamlining your work tasks in this way will help you more efficiently manage and prepare to accomplish your goals, both large and small.

Good time-blocking will help reduce stress, improve focus and productivity, open up more space in your schedule for relaxation and rest, and help you to avoid burnout and procrastination. It is a simple but effective method for realistically and effectively managing your time each and every day.

First published on April 28, 2023.

Magnus Eriksen

Author

Magnus Eriksen is a copywriter and an eCommerce SEO specialist with a degree in Marketing and Brand Management. Before embarking on his copywriting career, he was a content writer for digital marketing agencies such as Synlighet AS and Omega Media, where he mastered on-page and technical SEO.

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