Maximizing your productivity can be one of the most challenging goals you set for yourself in the digital age we live in.
Staying on task and managing your time can be a lifelong struggle. Smartphones, household chores, or children are just a few of the many distractions you may face on a daily basis. Even if you are excellent at ignoring distractions and staying on task, there are an infinite number of benefits in applying time blocking to your life.
The importance of time management is not limited to this practice, however. There are many productivity tools at our disposal to maximize efficiency that can allow us more free time in the long run. Cal Newport, author of Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, estimates that using time blocking can produce as much work in a 40-hour workweek as you could in an unstructured 60-hour workweek. That’s a pretty big advantage! Imagine everything you could accomplish and the amount of free time you’d gain back if you utilized time blocking!
What Exactly Is Time Blocking?
Time blocking, also called calendar blocking, is a method of time management that allows you to divide your day into different blocks of time and focus on a specific task for the set amount of time you have given yourself. If you have ever felt overwhelmed by approaching deadlines or felt scatterbrained, this method may come as an enormous help.
Time blocking gives you detailed structure on which tasks to approach in your day and how much time to allocate to them. Instead of trying to tackle the day with a simple to-do list, you can intentionally carve out time on your calendar for specific tasks so you can accomplish them all in a timely fashion.
Even if you don’t consider yourself to be an organized person, time blocking can work wonders for you, and plus — it’s so simple!
Variations of Time Blocking
This process involves more than just making a schedule for your day. First of all, time blocking requires discipline. It is impossible to reap the benefits of this method without committing to a weekly review. At the start of each week, you need to set aside time for planning. Take a look at your workload for the week and any events that you may need to work around and prioritize things based on how much time you will need to complete each task. It is also essential to review any unfinished tasks at the end of the day and adjust your schedule for the next day accordingly.
One way to maximize efficiency with time blocking is to perform task batching. This term refers to the process of organizing your time block schedule with activities that are adjacent to one another as opposed to jumping back and forth from one task to the next. This way, you can accomplish a whole “batch” of tasks that may correspond to one another in succession. For example, if you have emails piling up in your inbox and also edits to make on a paper, you could task batch those two things together and get them done in one go.
Are you an entrepreneur, content creator, or in a job that involves several different types of tasks? If so, day-theming may be more beneficial for you!
You can think of day-theming as a more in-depth version of task batching in that you plan a “theme” for each day of the week, assigning what type of work you must accomplish. For instance, you may theme your week starting with a day for planning, second day for client communications, third day for creative work, fourth day for technical tasks, and fifth day for review. Day-theming will allow you to assign themes to the rest of your workweek and accomplish the tasks you need to do without getting distracted by any competing responsibilities.
The difference between time blocking and time boxing is essentially the deadline you give yourself for a task. You set aside a period to work on a specific task with time blocking; however, with time boxing, you decide that you will finish the task by the end of the time block. This deadline can push you to work more efficiently if you struggle with losing momentum while you work. For example, instead of saying “I will work on the project from 9:00-11:00,” it becomes “I will finish the project from 9:00-11:00.”
Are There Any Apps Available for Time Management?
YES! There are so many applications that can help you with time management, time blocking, and productivity.
Among many time management apps available for download on your devices is one of the oldest: Todoist. Developed in 2007, Todoist has grown into one of the most comprehensive tools out there to help manage your time and increase productivity. Not only does it integrate seamlessly with other popular apps you may use for work (Gmail, Slack), it also offers time blocking templates for you to use. This can save tons of time as you won’t have to make a spreadsheet to implement time blocking into your life from scratch.
Another excellent option for a time management app is TogglTrack. Perhaps a more approachable option to its competition, TogglTrack is essentially a time-tracking tool. Still, with the ability to integrate it into so many apps people already use for work, it can be a great tool to have at your disposal when creating a time block schedule for your week.
Widely accessible and easy-to-use, Google Calendar allows its users to utilize time blocking and task batching as much as they want. It’s loaded with tools to help you plan your workday how you want to, and best of all — it’s free!
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Why Is Time Management So Important?
If the prospect of being more efficient at your job doesn’t spark an interest in you, perhaps the idea of having more time away from your work, more time with family, or more time pursuing hobbies will!
And if that doesn’t motivate you, these aren’t the only positive outcomes. Research shows that incorporating time management into your life can greatly reduce stress too!
Another positive result of practicing time management is it causes you to spend time intentionally and create lasting habits. Your productivity can suffer for many reasons, but managing your time wisely and practicing time blocking is a concrete way to establish a structure for your work life. In a recent study, data showed that making concrete plans for something as simple as getting a flu shot, including scheduling a date, time, and place for yourself, greatly increases your chances of following through with said plans. In other words, if you put it on the calendar, you’re much more likely to do it.
It is all too easy to fall into the trap of assigning tasks to your never-ending to-do list. We are all guilty of thinking, “I have so much to do — I will get to this task when I get to it,” when we become overwhelmed. Can you guess what often happens when we do this?
You guessed it — the task never gets done. Practicing time management is more than just optimizing your productivity; it is reevaluating how you approach your work. Increased free time away from work will allow you to invest time into yourself or your loved ones, ultimately leading to a greatly improved quality of life.
How Else Can I Improve My Productivity?
Though one of the most efficient methods, time blocking is not the only way to maximize your productivity and strive toward greatness. There are many other habits worth developing to help you manage your time wisely and meet your goals.
This may seem like an obvious point to make, but you’d be surprised how many people neglect it (are you one of those people?). How can you expect to achieve anything if you are working nonstop? Even though our culture is very work-centered, it is vital to allow yourself a break and decompress. Whether you go for a walk or meditate, make sure you are scheduling breaks for yourself so you can recharge appropriately.
Focus on Yourself in the Mornings
Though you may be eager to check your email first thing in the morning to assess your day, try to refrain from getting started on your work until you have had breakfast, worked out, or engaged in whatever morning routine works best for you. This allows your brain to wake up properly and start the workday off well.
The important thing is that you avoid burnout by focusing on yourself first thing in the morning and catering to your own mental health above all else!
If possible, reduce any multitasking you do, as switching between tasks can cause you to lose focus. Luckily, implementing time blocking can keep you from switching tasks too many times throughout your workday.
What Should You Avoid in Time Management?
While the concept of time management is relatively simple, you can make several common mistakes when beginning your journey to better productivity. Avoiding these classic mistakes will keep you on track to maximizing your productive potential!
Underestimating Your Time
Before you gain your bearings with time tracking, it can be easy to underestimate how much time you will need to spend on a given task. This is why it is important to overestimate the time you allow yourself for tasks at the beginning of this process.
You can even pad your schedule with small breaks between tasks to keep you oriented and transition smoother to your next task. Better to schedule too much time for yourself than too little and stress yourself out further!
Overscheduling Free Time
Don’t see this as a contradiction — rest assured, it is still important to make time in your schedule for leisure! However, avoid scheduling free time down to the specific activity you plan to do. Planning your leisure activities in the same way you would for work tasks results in the opposite effect you wish to achieve with free time. For example, when time blocking, just label your leisure block with “free time” and allow yourself to spend that time in whatever way you see fit.
Are You Ready to Revolutionize Your Productivity with Time Blocking?
Of course you are! This process can be daunting at first, though — especially if you struggle with applying structure to your work life. It’s okay to stumble as you embark on this journey; the important thing is that you are striving for improvement in your life, and soon enough, you’ll start to see change!