Use Time Blocking to Achieve More in Your Day – Birds on the Blog

Use Time Blocking to Achieve More in Your Day

clocks jugglingWhat is time blocking?

Time blocking is a method of managing your time by dividing-up your day into blocks of time. Each block of time is then dedicated to working on a specific activity or task with full concentration for a while. Most people struggle with their time management and this method will engender a greater understanding of how time is spent each day and on what. Time blocking helps to prevent work expanding to fill all available time for completion by allocating a specific period of time to undertake the work.

How does time blocking work?

Time blocking works because it flips time around! Instead of looking at what needs to be done, the method looks at what can actually be done. eg you may have a to-do list of 6 items, but just an hour spare to focus on these tasks. Realistically, you are not likely to complete all that work in the short hour you have available…

With Time blocking, you examine your to-do list and then choose the most essential tasks that you know you can complete within the time you have available. The rest will have to wait until another day, but at least you will have some sense of achievement from working through certain tasks.

Is Time Blocking the same as Time Boxing?

Time blocking is less specific than time boxing in which you allocate a limit to the time you want to spend on an activity which otherwise may take up too much time.

For example:

  • Time Blocking 9am – 10am – I will work on creating social media posts (is a little vague)
  • Time Boxing 9am – 10am – I will create 4 x Instagram posts and graphics (is very specific)

Which will work best for you?

Using your calendar for time blocking

I’ve used my online calendar for time blocking for a while now as I like to keep all information in the same place. Whether it’s an appointment I have to keep, a call or meeting to attend, a deadline or reminder to complete a task, all details are entered in my calendar, with both a phone alert and email as notification.

I’ve tried using other task management apps, but found I was adding and receiving information from more than one place. By keeping the details together in my diary, I can see what needs doing at a glance.

Will time blocking work for you?

It may if you:

  • often struggle to find time and headspace to focus
  • face many interruptions each day
  • are working reactively and never really catching-up
  • have lots of meetings and calls each week
  • are juggling different projects.

Even if you have a reactive job where much of your work is dependent upon external forces, there should still be periods when you can take control of what you do in particular blocks of time. Alternatively, you may only wish to block out part of your day to focus on essential tasks leaving the rest as fire-fighting reactive time.

So how do you manage your time using time blocking?

Some initial planning is necessary, then regular reviews are required to adjust your individual blocks of time-dependent upon overall progress and any new tasks arriving. However, time blocking should help to prevent those incidences when you have so much to do that you really don’t know what to begin first as you will have previously allocated the time to a particular piece of work.

  • First of all, ensure the calendar you wish to use is synchronised across all your devices and that appropriate reminder alert and notifications are set-up, mine default to 10 minutes before. If necessary, change the settings to display diary times in 30 minute intervals.
  • Work through your diary and enter all non-negotiable commitments, those regular meetings and calls that you have to attend. Remember to add time each side of the core commitment entry for travel, planning or any anticipated follow-up.
  • Enter any days-off, family holidays, bank holidays, training days etc or time to complete courses or online learning.
  • Add in any regular deadlines you need to adhere to, eg for submitting reports, or raising invoices etc, and the time required to complete these.
  • Decide the days and times that you want to work. If you have to commute, add this, but if you don’t, still consider entering your preferred, or absolute final finish time. It’s easy to lose track of time when you’re busy, so have a reminder that you should be packing-up work.
  • Make sure you block out time for lunch. Choose 30 minutes or an hour in your day and enter a recurring entry in your calendar. Don’t worry if the time coincides with some other commitments as these individual entries can be individually amended to an earlier or later lunch-time.
  • Consider when you’re most productive, alert or focused and use this time for the tasks that require the most concentration. You may want to allocate a particular day or part-day for a specific task or group of tasks eg blog writing on Tuesday mornings and general admin on a Friday afternoon.
  • Can you allocate a day or half-day for overflow tasks? A time that’s left flexible to catch-up on anything pressing or causing a feeling of stress or overwhelm?
  • List your usual weekly tasks and the anticipated time each will take (or the time you’re willing to allocate) ensuring you over-estimate slightly. Don’t forget to include checking emails or social media.
  • It’s also an idea to add a buffer either side of each block for a quick break, stretch, walk or meditation, to focus your eyes away from the screen for a few minutes.
  • Schedule these into your diary for a week and give it a try. See if following more structure in your day helps with your productivity, keeps you on track and, if you complete more tasks, are able to tick them off your to-do list. If not, tweak the system slightly to suit you and the way you work.
  • It may be easier to initially plan out on paper before entering the blocks into your calendar. Write down, cross out, add different things and play around with the options.
  • Colour code the calendar entries so you can see at a glance the different commitments, but don’t go overboard and cause more confusion! You’re trying to simplify your day, not add to the feeling of overwhelm.

 Ensure time blocking has the best opportunity to succeed for you by being aware of potential pitfalls:

Don’t underestimate your time – tasks often take longer than anticipated so ensure more time is allocated than you perhaps feel necessary.

Remain flexible – there will be incidences and emergencies that crop-up and ruin your carefully mapped-out day. Life happens. Remember that time blocking is a guide to assist productivity and sometimes the parameters need to be re-evaluated and adjusted.

Don’t be too specific with your leisure time – by all means block out time to go to the gym, but don’t be tempted to plan your leisure time to the nth degree. Being so structured may have a negative impact in your overall enjoyment of your free time.

Will you try time blocking? Go-on, give it a go and see how you get on.


Nancy Benn VA:

About the Author Nancy Benn

As a versatile Virtual Assistant with more than a decade of experience, I help overwhelmed business owners achieve more by assisting with those essential, but time-suck admin tasks that don't directly generate any income or bring in new sales. By providing flexible admin support, I assist and encourage entrepreneurs to focus on doing what they love in their business and what will generate new revenue by identifying tasks that can be delegated and outsourced. Operating virtually, I can work online from anywhere with good Wifi! Initially based on the Notts/Derbys border, since Autumn 2017 I’ve provided seamless assistance and support to entrepreneurs from 12 different homes in Portugal and Spain. After travelling for two years, hubby Rob and I now live next to the Med amongst the orange groves in Valencia, sharing our lives with two dogs and a parrot.