If you work from home, are part of a project management team, or simply want to maximize your workday – you must have a time blocking method.
Time blocking is a buzzword synonymous with productivity; however, many people are still trying to figure out exactly how it works.
I mean, what makes spending an hour (or more!) creating pretty color-coded blocks in your iCalendar more productive than actually doing the work itself?
It begs the question: ‘Why not just open your computer and crush the tasks on your to-do list?’ Should you bother worrying about how each 60-minute block of your day is utilized?
Because there is more to time blocking than simply planning ahead.
Whether you use a calendar, planner, or app – each time blocking method not only preps you for the upcoming week but also keeps a record of where you spent your time the week prior. This helps you identify periods of efficiency, distraction, creativity, and much more.
Time blocking also holds you accountable. Using a time blocking template enables you to quickly identify your most productive hours of the day. You can arrange your higher priority tasks according to this information.
Therefore, time blocking can not only increase productivity, but enhance periods of creativity, capitalize on periods of focus, and allot for periods of rest.
5 Tactics to Perfecting Your Time Blocking Method
1. Record how you currently spend your time each day
I know this seems like a LOT of extra work, but there is no point in creating a beautifully time blocked calendar if it is completely unrealistic with your current schedule.
You might want to spend an hour at lunch doing yoga and 30 minutes meditating in the morning but, if you aren’t making time for it now, a time blocking calendar isn’t going to change that.
The solution: record everything you are currently doing each day. Use pen and paper, your iCalendar, a time blocking app, or anything else that enables you to keep track of how you are spending time. Do this for 2-3 days, or a week if you are ambitious.
- 6:00 – wake up
- 6:15 – check email /social media
- 6:45 – shower & get ready
- 7:30 – breakfast
- 7:45 – check social media
- 8:00 – commute to work
- 8:30 – get coffee, check email
- 9:00 – start work
- 9:45 – check texts/social media
You get the point.
BE HONEST with yourself. The only way we can create a useful time blocking template that increases productivity is if we can see where you are UNPRODUCTIVE each day.
In the example above, over 45 minutes was spent checking social media before work even started. Remove that (arguably bad) habit and replace it with a 30-minute block of meditation in your time blocking planner. Voila, we didn’t make more time in your schedule, you just changed what you were doing with the time you already had.
2. Choose your top 3-5 goals and break them down into action plans.
NOTE: action plans ≠ braindumps. Action plans are composed of short, well-defined steps that (when actually taken) lead you to achieve your larger end goal. Action plans enable you to complete a goal with less distraction, energy, and wasted time.
Why is having 3-5 goals important?
Because these goals will dictate your time blocking method and template. If you have 3 equally important goals, then your time should be split equally between them. How you decide this, is up to you.
For example, if you have 4 main goals and 8 hours a day to work on them, 2 hours are assigned to each of your goals per day.
Or, you could choose one day a week to work on each of your goals.
Choose the time blocking template that works best for you. Some people find it difficult to work on the same project all day, whereas others may perform best when they can focus on one thing without interruption.
I prefer to assign my morning hours to a high-priority task and leave the afternoon work session open. This allows me to work on what I am in the mood for, or on projects that have the closest deadline.
Why does this work for me? Because all 5 of my goals are massive projects that need to be completed at the same time. I feel better when I give myself flexibility in my schedule.
If you choose a time blocking method similar to mine, you must be ultra-organized with your task list. Otherwise, you are setting yourself up for the chaos and overwhelm.
If you need help getting your task list transformed into an action plan, go check out my Ebook: ‘A Beginners Guide to Action Planning’. For the price of an almond milk latte, you can create your ultimate goal-crushing task list that will make time blocking SO much easier!
3. Time-block your entire week.
Now that you’ve figured out what you do in a day (Tip 1) and you’ve decided what you’d like to accomplish (Tip 2), it’s time to see how we can create an effective time blocking calendar.
- Break each day into 3 sections: Morning, Afternoon, Evening
- Decide how many hours you want to work in a day (this might be in addition to required hours in your 9-5, or the ‘choose your own hours’ of a digital nomad).
- Look at your goals (e.g. meditate, yoga, gaming, etc.) and see where you could fit them into your day outside of work hours. TIP: Look at what you recorded for your current day and replace bad habits (i.e. checking social media) with the goal habits.
- Be realistic with your time blocking planner. You can create bigger changes as you go, but it’s best to not overwhelm yourself with a completely different schedule than you had before.
- Create a consistent weekly schedule that repeats for the entire month.
- 60 min: exercise
- 60 min: morning routine
- 60 min: commute
- 30 min: coffee & emails
- 60 min:: goal 1
- 60 min: goal 1
- 30 min: break
- 60 min: goal 2
- 60 min: goal 2
- 30 min: break
And so on.
4. Color Code your time blocks in a way that makes sense.
This is important! Do not simply select a random color. Doing so can be more confusing than not. For example, group your daily activities into a single color category.
I like to use:
Green shades: exercise & personal time
Blue shades: work blocks
Purple shades: activities (outdoor, reading, gaming, etc).
Yellow/oranges: deadlines, appointments, etc.
Here is my iCalendar one more time:
Sidebar: Time blocking iCalendar vs Time blocking google calendar. I find there is more freedom in the color blocks of an iCalendar and it is the calendar I am more familiar with, so that is what I use. Choose what works best for you.
5. Adjust your blocks as your day progresses (a.k.a – keep a record of your day!)
Record what you did each day. This will allow you to compare your current week to your previous time blocked week and identify times you struggled to stay on schedule and times where you nailed it. If your struggle was because of bad habits, set a goal to do better the following week.
If your struggle was because you didn’t give yourself enough time to complete a task, adjust your time blocking template to something more realistic.
In the example below, you can see that Monday/Tuesday did not go as planned when compared to Wed/Thurs. The missed hours on Monday were made up for on Tuesday, which meant skipping the gym in the morning (not ideal).
That’s it! Your turn to try it out.
Remember, the most important thing is to have fun! I know this sounds cliche, but like any self-proclaimed obsessive time blocking junkie will tell you – it is incredibly satisfying to scroll through your beautifully planned iCalendar and see what you’ve accomplished each week / what you have to look forward to next week.
PS. Let me know if you have any tips or tricks that you use when time blocking your day! Either comment below or DM @bymarisaalyse to chat!