Small Business

Time Blocking Guide: Plan and improve your productivity

What is time blocking, and how can you implement it successfully in your day?...
Sean QuinnPosted on Monday, October 2nd 2023

What is time blocking?

The basic premise of time blocking is what it says on the tin; you break up your time during the day into 'blocks', and assign a specific task or project work to that block.

Time blocking can be a useful productivity intervention for people who find they spend the whole work day flitting from task to task, responding to messages and distractions, without ever entering 'deep work' mode. Blocking out your time will allow you to focus on just one thing at a time, avoiding multitasking, which has been proven to have a negative effect on our attention span and memory.

By breaking the day up into chunks, you can dedicate enough time to each of your most important projects, and also gain some insight into how your day is split between them.

Ensuring you time block your calendar between meetings also reduces the chances that your day will be filled with back-to-back video calls, leading to so called 'Zoom fatigue'. This helps you reclaim your time, so you can get important projects over the line, rather than just spending time talking about them.

How to implement time blocking

Time blocking doesn't need to be another huge drain on your time - rather than deciding on exactly which tasks to work on with precise start and end times, you just need to begin by breaking your calendar into manageable chunks and decide on a 'theme' for each.

This is also known as 'task batching'. If you have many tasks to complete during the work day that are fairly similar in nature, you can easily batch these into one block, to get them all done in one go rather than allowing them to interrupt the rest of your day.

For example, if you are responsible for approving new campaigns before they go ahead across a few different projects, you might want to dedicate a chunk of time to 'approvals'. This can be helpful for your team, as they know exactly when you'll get round to looking at their ideas and give them the go ahead - so they can plan their day more effectively, too.

Your time blocking process may change as you begin learning what works for you and what doesn't - if you schedule in hour long blocks but consistently find that you're running over, you might want to dedicate longer blocks that allow more 'focus time'.

You can take this process a step further by 'time boxing' your day. Time boxing requires that you stick to your proposed times more closely, and force yourself to move onto the next task when the time is up. This adds a sense of urgency, which can be motivating for people who require tight deadlines to get things done.

Benefits to time blocking

The most important benefit to time blocking is that it allows you to reclaim your time, and choose where to spend it consciously. If your calendar is not blocked out, you can easily find that your time is taken up by external demands from others - whether that's odd tasks or 'quick' meetings, which derail your work for the day.

In the example above, every hour of the day is accounted for, but this doesn't just need to be work tasks. Time blocking in things like lunch, working out or meeting friends for coffee can ensure your day is balanced between your work and personal life (colour coding your calendar can give you a visual representation of this too).

You might notice we've scheduled in two blocks here for 'checking emails'. This is a task most people do continuously throughout the day, but it can have serious impacts on your productivity. Allowing yourself to be distracted constantly by notifications prevents you from focusing on the task at hand, and often you may find another email comes in as soon as you respond to the last one - causing you to lose hours of the day unexpectedly. It's best to set aside a time dedicated to reading and responding to your emails, as well as working out any follow-up action items.

Once you've planned your day...

You'll need to track your time too. A time blocked calendar allows for you to easily plan out your day, but it's no use for running payroll or billing your clients. You'll need to record your actual hours worked in a time tracking software, which can then total up your time spent on each project over the weeks or months in automated reports.

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