If you’re looking for a simple and easy way to improve your productivity, look no further! At Clockwise, we’re big fans of time blocking to create more sustainable workdays and smarter schedules.
What’s all the fuss about time blocking, you ask? This post will walk you through seven significant benefits of time blocking and tips on making this time management strategy work for your life and schedule.
What is time blocking?
The gist of time blocking is simple. All you have to do is choose what you need to work on (or grab your to-do list), determine when you need to work on your highest-priority tasks, and block chunks of time on your calendar for those tasks. You allocate a set number of hours to a single task or group of tasks. Think of it as a way to organize your to-do list in a meaningful, time-allocated way.
Say my to-do list includes:
- Responding to emails
- Drafting a blog post
- Finalizing a slide deck
- Attending two meetings
- Posting on social media
Before time blocking, I’m not sure when I will complete these items, but I know they are the ones I need to finish today. Here’s how my calendar might look after time blocking these to-dos:
It’s that simple! (If you need more help diving into the time-blocking method, read Time blocking 101: Your guide to getting started). Here’s another example of a fully time-blocked schedule from our friends at Fellow:
7 benefits of leveraging time blocking
Despite its surface-level simplicity, time blocking is a highly effective time management technique. Below are some of the greatest benefits of time blocking.
1. Better control of your to-do list
While to-do lists tell you what you need to accomplish, they don’t tell you when you will do those items. If you’ve ever experienced a lengthy to-do list with urgent tasks scattered from top to bottom, only to find your day derailed and critical items left unaccomplished—-you aren’t alone. To-do lists aren’t always effective on their own, but pairing them with time blocking will help you gain more control over your to-do list (and, most importantly, your time).
Adding your tasks to your calendar and giving them a dedicated time helps you hold yourself accountable and makes the tasks a little bit more non-negotiable. You can always shift your blocks around if needed, but having the items on your calendar helps prevent interruptions and distractions from getting in the way of your to-dos. (Yes, we’re talking about having the power to decline meetings right before a deadline.)
And finally, time blocking gives you better control of your to-do list by enabling you to break down larger tasks and deadlines into smaller to-dos over days or weeks. For example, freelancers who take on projects with an end-of-month due date can parse down the project into pieces throughout the month to ensure they hit the deadline.
Here’s an example of what a time-blocked calendar might look like after adding tasks from your to-do list:
2. More time for deep work
At Clockwise, we’re big fans of Cal Newport and his best-selling time management book, Deep Work. In it, Cal Newport introduces the concept of deep work versus shallow work. The former involves creative, focused, deeply human work, and unfortunately, deep work can be rare and hard to come by if we don’t create the space and make time for it.
That’s where time blocking comes in. Instead of hoping to find some time for deep work, with time blocking, we have the power to create more time for it. In one of the four rules for more deep work in his book, Newport recommends scheduling every minute of your day and using time blocking.
3. Less procrastination
We procrastinate at work for many reasons, from having trouble getting started to dragging out a task and refusing to bring it to the finish line. (Read more: The real reasons you procrastinate at work). Regardless of the reasons, procrastinating and wasting time can feel defeating and frustrating.
While time blocking may not be able to solve the root causes of your procrastination (like not wanting to complete a task because it feels invaluable, for example), what it can do is help you get your tasks over the finish line. Adding some structure to your day and reducing procrastination might be the cure to help you have a better workday and address some of those other root causes.
4. Healthier work-life balance
You can use time blocking for more than work-related tasks for better work-life balance. When we don’t control our days and to-do lists, it isn’t easy to prioritize time for life outside of work. In the same way we use time blocking to prioritize our to-do lists, we can block time on our calendar for self-care, physical activity, family time, friendships, date nights, and more.
To-do lists are often neverending, so it feels easy to keep working on a project when our calendars appear empty late into the evening or first thing in the early morning. However, spending time refilling our cups with loved ones, exercising, getting enough quality sleep, and taking plenty of breaks to recharge help us be more productive and effective at work.
Don’t overthink this one. For example, I needed to move my body and get some fresh air during the pandemic. Some days looked like doing yoga in my bedroom, and others looked like going on a walk at a nearby park. I blocked my calendar from 4:00 to 5:00 pm local time with the title, “Yoga/Walk/Move: Available via Phone,” to let my colleagues know that was an hour I planned to use for my physical health. Then, each day I could decide how I wanted to spend that time depending on the weather, how I felt like moving, etc. (The best part? I still have that block on my calendar, and no one has ever booked over it.)
5. Less context switching (and more Focus Time)
Context switching can ruin a workday in no time (read more: What context switching is and why it’s killing your productivity). When we don’t control our time, our time controls us. Everything feels urgent, notifications interrupt us left and right, last-minute meetings fill our calendar, and we struggle to complete tasks and get them over the finish line. (Pro-tip: To prevent and avoid unnecessary context switching, schedule Focus Time and stick to it).
One of the major perks of time blocking is that you should experience less context switching. What exactly does that mean? When blocking your calendar, you need to plan how you will spend your blocks of time, and you must be specific to experience the full benefits.
For example, I could block three hours on my calendar for administrative tasks. Let’s assume I group checking email, scheduling meetings, preparing meeting agendas, and responding to Slack messages as administrative tasks. If I plan to do all of these things, in any order, during my three-hour period, I have to bounce around between applications and shift my thinking to complete each task. Instead, I might block smaller periods and separate these tasks for better results.
6. Improved organization through task batching
When you block out specific times for tasks, you can better prioritize your projects and organize your workload more effectively. If meeting deadlines are non-negotiable, you can sort your tasks and work by the deadline. If you need to deliver results based on the importance of a project, you can task batch your work by project, ranking each by order of importance.
No matter what strategy you choose (Pro-tip: try the Eisenhower Matrix), task batching and blocking time for your tasks will help you get more organized and plan efficiently. You can spend more time doing the work instead of trying to plan when and how it will get done.
7. Better boundaries
When you fill your calendar intentionally with tasks and activities you have carefully curated for your day, it’s much easier to set boundaries and say “no” when needed to help you stay on track.
Suppose you’re sitting in a meeting over the scheduled time. You don’t need to be in the meeting, and you previously scheduled Focus Time following the call so you could wrap up a big project. Instead of sitting in the meeting, you could drop a note in the chat and let your colleagues know you have to hop for the most essential tasks on your to-do list and that they can follow up with you if they need anything from you.
The same holds for requests that interfere with scheduled personal plans. Maybe your teammates decide to pull together a happy hour at the end of a successful month. It was a last-minute idea, and you already have a date night with a friend on the calendar. You know that your friend is understanding and wouldn’t mind rescheduling, but instead, you let your coworkers know you’ll have to catch them next time because you already have plans that are a high priority to you.
Onward and upward
Time blocking involves choosing what you will work on and when you will do it. This time management technique helps you gain control over your to-do list, procrastinate less, and set better boundaries. Additionally, when you block your schedule, you can create more Focus Time in your workday. Clockwise can help!