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Let’s first examine what time blocking is and see how it operates. Remember that every single day has 24 hours? Usually, people like to schedule their days based on how they feel or what they must do. You might separate your day to include 8 hours of sleep, 8 hours of work, and 8 hours of free time. Now, that might sound like a comprehensive list…except it’s not. Apart from sleep, you have a wide range of options to work with during those 16 other hours.
Time blocking is a method that lets you dictate your time based on a specific task or goal. It’s a good way to use those 16 hours into good use. When you set aside time to focus solely on one thing, you block that time off. During that period, you train your mind to concentrate on what your objective is. Distractions have no space or meaning when you start time blocking. For example, if you dedicate twenty minutes of your day to writing an article, that block of time should only be about writing.
Now, it might sound like you’re just using a more restrictive to-do list. However, time blocking allows you to dictate how much time you spend on each task. Plus, it can go as far as covering your day-to-day routine. A person who uses time blocking might set aside 30 minutes for each meal, two hours for the most pressing work tasks, two hours to study new work skills, and so on. While you are listing things to do, you make sure to space your day according to those periods.
Now, while a full hour of work sounds like a lot of work, experts like Bill Gates divide their time into even shorter periods, such as five minutes. By crunching down all possible small tasks, they make sure their time is used as efficiently as possible. Of course, dividing your day into five-minute blocks can be quite a challenge. To start, try focusing on half-hour intervals. It’ll be easier to follow and short enough for you to do your tasks.
Now that you know what time blocking is, you might be wondering what its benefits are. After all, there are multiple types of time management methods in the world. You have to-do lists, time trackers, and the Eisenhower matrix, for instance. So, why should you consider time blocking? Here are three proven benefits that this method gives you.
One of the most well-known practitioners of time blocking is Cal Newport, the author of Deep Work. According to Newport, time blocking a work week of 40 hours can give the same amount of output as an unorganized work week that lasts 60+ hours. In other words, time blocking your day can make you more productive and effective at your job.
However, it’s not just about work. People who time block their day don’t simply focus on their office hours. Many of them go as far as time blocking their waking life. They dedicate time for meals, time for scheduling, time for gaming, and time for reading. Because of this, you can’t simply say that time blocking helps people work better. You could argue that time blocking helps people pace their life better.
By setting aside periods to focus on a specific task, you set the standard for how much work you do. You can set aside minutes for when you need to rest and when you need to finish a task. Like an athlete, you are responsible for how you finish the race. You can’t expect to go 100% for every task, especially small ones or ones for rest. By time blocking, you can guide your way to making each minute count. Speaking of guidance…
The best thing about time blocking is that it allows you to set a priority in your day. You could already have urgent tasks or objectives that need to be addressed. For example, you might have a presentation to give by 10 AM next Friday. In that sense, you know that Friday is the time to show your work. However, time blocking can help you make that presentation as good as possible.
For instance, if you start on Monday, you can set aside minutes to research and compile sources for your report. You can also set aside time to pick out and summarize the most relevant details, like statistics or predictions. By Tuesday, you can start arranging your presentation to follow a structured flow, one that helps your audience see your main point. Wednesday can be the day you build your presentation bit by bit, complete with slides and infographics. By Thursday, you can get this all reviewed to add any necessary changes to the final product. This way, Friday is the time you do your presentation and then assess how you did and what could be done better.
By setting aside task days or theme days, you give your mind an overall objective to follow. Plus, if you do time block in ten or twenty-minute intervals, you give yourself more structure on how you tackle that day. For example, you can set aside an hour on Monday to research your company’s performance. Minutes can be given for each department and their previous performances. Not only does that structure guide your day, but it also helps you process information faster!
One of the best things about time blocking is that it organizes your entire day. As much as possible, you leave little to no space for any unused time. You add enough tasks and goals to make each moment count. By doing so, you also overcome the issue of distractions.
As everyone knows, distractions can be a real pain in the neck. Imagine that you’re working hard on a piece of art, only to have your flow disrupted by an emergency or a request. Even if it’s necessary, distractions can cut your productivity in half and make you feel unsatisfied.
Part of the reason that distractions don’t work in time blocking is your schedule. Since you map out what you do, you give your mind little reason to change course. Mentally and psychologically, you train your mind to do something specific at this time. Because of that, you can’t see yourself accepting changes quickly. In addition, time blocking makes it easier for you to say no. It’s hard to ignore a request when you don’t have a set schedule. However, if you make your time so busy that you have to follow it? No one can fault you for being unavailable, especially if it’s not something that matters in the long run.
Now that you understand the reasons time blocking works, it’s time to help you get started. When you’re a beginner, time blocking can feel like a daunting and complicated problem. It might seem too hard or too confusing to do. To give you the advantage, here are eight effective tips for time blocking properly. By following these, you’ll master the art of scheduling and planning your day to be as productive as possible.
Before you even apply time blocking into your schedule, you need to plan it out beforehand. Like exercise or dieting, many people make the big mistake of doing before researching. They think that it’s easy or doable at first, so they simply give it a shot at the start. To truly maximize your time blocking schedule, set aside some time at night to plan the entire week. Remember that you’re going to be planning your waking life here. Planning that for a day, let alone dividing it into blocks, will need some effort.
For example, Cal Newport states that he sets aside twenty minutes each day to plan for his entire week. That way, he can get to the tasks at hand and know what goals to focus on each day.
When you start time blocking, you won’t get everything right. In many cases, you might find that some blocks are too short or restrictive for your day. You may also find times when your blocks run too long or take too much time for your other tasks. Don’t worry, no one is perfect, and making mistakes is normal. What you should do afterward is to take note of which ones are effective. Look at them and see what makes them perfect for your lifestyle.
Does it cover enough time for your mind’s attention? Are the tasks clear enough or specific enough to fit the block? By assessing what works, you can start to adjust your other time blocks accordingly. That way, you’ll eventually settle into a schedule that feels concise, consistent, and comprehensive.
While you can schedule different time blocks and periods for your work, you might not be fully aware of how busy you’ll get. In some cases, you might get so caught up in the task that you enter what is known as a “flow state”. This is when your mind is so immersed in an activity that you give that task your complete, undivided attention. It’s like an archer that aims at a bullseye. For that moment, you become so fixated on your errand that nothing else phases you.
So, when you review your time blocks, keep in mind the periods where you seem to be the most productive. Look at how much or how often you complete your tasks. By finding the periods where you do the most work, you can start to schedule your day around that. For example, if you work effectively from 8 to 10 in the morning, you can use that time to tackle the most demanding work challenges. After that, you can structure your day around menial tasks, like checking emails or doing research.
Aside from making periods, you should also consider arranging your tasks into batches. Different tasks can overlap based on how, why, and where they are done. For instance, a writer spends most of their time working on the computer. Their tasks could range from writing content for articles to making short descriptions or tags for products. If that writer arranges their tasks to cover all writing assignments in three hours, they’ll be more streamlined for the day. After all, they wouldn’t need to go back and forth while doing other things, like sorting letters or attending work meetings. So, if you want to start time blocking effectively, try grouping your tasks under a certain theme.
Most people assume that time blocking should be done for the most important tasks or concerns. If a surgeon knows they have two operations to prepare for the day, they will focus only on that. However, time blocking experts recommend that people also set aside time to do menial tasks. Think of the simple chores or errands that you might do at work, like punching in your time card or checking your work emails. If a surgeon has to focus on operations, they might not think that checking in for work or charging their beeper is as important.
However, if you start buffer tasking, which is setting aside an hour for menial tasks, you improve your efficiency. This is because you wrap up any unimportant concerns in a short amount of time, freeing up your schedule to do what is urgent. You can also add buffer blocks between the most important goals so that you don’t exhaust your mind at work.
When it comes to time blocking, you might think that it’s a good way to secure your schedule. However, even time blocking can’t overcome the unexpected. Whether you like it or not, there will be times when you need to adjust your schedule. The problem is that people often lose patience or get agitated because things don’t always go according to plan. While time blocking can help you, remember that you should be ready to adjust to any changes.
Sometimes, urgent things or emergencies need your utmost attention. Rather than lamenting what you can’t do, focus on getting your important tasks done instead. If you need to change your schedule for the day, make sure it’s for a good reason. Most importantly, don’t blame yourself if things change. The best you can do is to do what you can.
One of the most popular productivity books you’ll find in the world is Eat That Frog!: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time by Brian Tracy. In the book, Tracy talks about “eating the frog”, a tactic where you do the most challenging tasks for the day first. By focusing your attention on the toughest goals at the start of the day, you can gain a sense of accomplishment quickly. That way, even if you aren’t able to finish all your tasks, you still completed what you needed to.
For time blocking, you can plan your schedule to “eat the frog” at the most productive time. It could be the first part of your day or the first important task of your day. By planning, you can take care of the most pressing issue at work first. You can also do this to tackle any personal goals or challenges. For example, you could set a time to exercise every morning so that you stay fit and accomplish your workout routine. That way, you can rest your body for the remainder of the day!
Lastly, when it comes to time blocking, it’s better to overestimate your time. Most people try to limit themselves as much as possible in any task they do. They might try to write an article within 30 minutes, only to find that they needed over an hour to make it happen. The reason this happens is that people assume they are more efficient or that the task is much easier than it is.
If you want to start time blocking effectively, overestimate how much time you need. Once you discover many minutes are unneeded, you can start to cut down your blocks into more concise timeframes. Take a page from Shakespeare, who once wrote in his play The Merry Wives of Windsor that it’s better to be “three hours too soon than a minute too late”.
Like what you’ve seen? If you want to know how to become the best version of yourself, check out Munif Ali on Medium! I’ll be your trusted companion on the road to personal and professional success. Check out my previous blogs here to learn how to be more accountable, how to be more financially stable, and how to be more successful. Start your roadmap to victory today!
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