Time blocking helps you:
- Prioritize your most important tasks
- Spend the right amount of time on each task
- Know what you’re supposed to be working on
- Move right to the next most important task
- Improve your estimates for how long a task will take
To do it, choose what to work on and when, and then block that time off on your calendar.
(For a more in-depth guide to time blocking, check out What is time blocking?)
While time blocking has many benefits, doing it manually is time-consuming. Luckily, there are free apps to help automate the process for you. Below I’ve compared the top three free time blocking apps. (Which are also some of the best time management apps.)
Some of them are freemium, but none only offer free trials. Below each block schedule app is compared based on features, ease of use, and price to upgrade. Listed in alphabetical order.
Clockwise is a free smart calendar assistant that streamlines your work calendar events, automatically resolves conflicts, manages time zones, and maximizes Focus Time for you and your team. Clockwise is a free Chrome extension that works in the background with your Google Calendar.
Plan and Planyway help you time blocks tasks in the gaps between meetings in your calendar. Only Clockwise works on top of your calendar app to schedule and shift your meetings to more convenient times. It's a way to automatically block time, opening up bigger chunks of free time for you and your team to get heads-down work done.
Want to plan your day and schedule your specific tasks without preventing teammates from being able to schedule meetings with you? Clockwise enables you to set your tasks move based on your scheduling needs, without requiring any more work on your part. If a teammate schedules over your task and it’s set to move, Clockwise will find another available slot on your calendar for the task. You can set it to find a slot in the same week or in the same day, depending on its priority.
Other powerful features include:
- Slack sync: Schedule meetings inside Slack, show your real-time availability, see a daily meeting forecast, and turn on automatic Do Not Disturb
- Zoom sync: Add a Zoom call to any meeting in one click
Teams: Set up and protect your no-meeting days, gain instant insight into your team's bandwidth, and automatically sync your team’s availability and OOO schedules to a shared calendar
- Personal calendar sync: Sync your work and personal calendars so you never accidentally double-book or miss an important personal event
- Color-coding: Differentiate your 1:1s, standups, and one-off meetings at a glance
Clockwise onboarding is simple and smooth. Just set your working hours and preferences around meetings and lunch and you’re up and running.
Clockwise currently doesn’t have built-in task management. However, you can use Plan or Planyway with Clockwise to get the best of both worlds.
Plan is a time blocking website with a built-in to-do list that integrates with your Google or Outlook calendar. In addition to making time-blocking dead-simple, it offers multiple workspaces and useful analytics, which they call “insights.”
Onboarding is a breeze, and the user interface is both beautiful and intuitive. I like that onboarding ends with a CTA to email firstname.lastname@example.org with questions or feature requests.
By default, the time blocks you add in Plan don’t show up on your calendar. To make that happen, you need to integrate Plan and your calendar using one of your three free integrations. To use more of the available integrations you need to upgrade. While upgrading is just $4 per month, and gets you unlimited support, feature input, and unlimited integrations. Integrations currently on offer: Box, Github, Google Calendar, Google Drive, Gmail, Outlook, JIRA, and Zendesk.
Planyway is a drag-and-drop tool for integrating a kanban board for task management with your Google, Microsoft, or Apple calendar. It’s available as a web app and a Mac, Windows, and Chrome app. You can also access Planyway through their mobile apps. Planyway offers push notification reminders you can set at any date or time of day for priority tasks. You can create tasks and subtasks, set priority and sort by priority, and label tasks to group them.
While the feature-set is impressive, onboarding was a bit confusing. The default option for onboarding is to sign in with Trello. If you choose to sign in with your Google, Microsoft, or Apple account, it takes you to a Trello authorization page at trello.com, which mysteriously includes the statement: “Planyway Calendar is not affiliated with Trello, and by permitting access to your content you assume all related risks and liabilities.” Then you’re asked to login to Trello with your Google, Microsoft, or Apple account.
The default user interface is also less-than-clear:
Once you create a board, you get a nice little onboarding slide deck.
One of the first things I tried to do was sync my calendar. But I was unable to do this as it required adding my calendar via URL and I found the process too confusing to finish. Two-way calendar sync requires upgrading, which starts at $3.50 per month if you pay annually, and $5 if you pay month-to-month.
There are certainly other ways to improve your time management. For example, many people like to use a pomodoro timer. But we find when it comes to deciding on a start time for important work and a way to track time you're spending on important tasks, time blocks work. These apps should help people who are just starting blocking schedule events.
If you already have a task manager that you like, time blocking with Clockwise can open up more Focus Time for you to get more done in less time. If not, I’d recommend using both Clockwise and Plan to automate time blocking as much as possible.