August 24, 2018
in Productivity

Life is moving faster than ever before and so are the demands on our time. We receive information speedier than we can process it. We are assigned duties quicker than we can deal with them. Communication itself is moving at lightning speed. At the end of the day, you realize there’s so much to do yet so little time to accomplish everything. Are days growing shorter than we can imagine? Definitely not, our fast-moving lifestyles need a new approach to doing things. That’s how time blocking has come to existence.

Time blocking is a tool that can help you increase your productivity. But how? Let’s dive into the basics.

Defining time blocking

Basically, time blocking is about allocating a period in your calendar for a specific task. This implies you can only focus on a particular task at any given time.

How to time block effectively

Time blocking is an easy process. How you do it may vary depending on the task, but make sure to keep Google Calendar close at all times.

  • Define your block with a specific name. For instance, “Saturday 3 p.m to 5 p.m – grocery shopping for meal prep” is more specific than just saying “shopping”. You can have a standard evening block for weekdays such as “6.30 p.m to 9.00 p.m – go home and relax”.
  • Be sure to define the date and time for a particular task. Some people have certain days when they can focus best. I know someone who negotiated a remote-working deal with his boss. He discovered that if he wanted to fully focus on his work assignments, then he had to work from a remote environment. So he proposed to have two days of the week working from home and his productivity increased drastically. Find your sweet spot and get on with it.
  • Define the location where you are going to do a task. Your time block may be wasted if you work in a distracted surrounding. Whether at home or in the office, perhaps somewhere outdoors, choose a place where you feel you’ll be productive enough.
  • Set your task reminders – pop-ups, alarm reminders, email or whichever works best for you. A timer will also come in handy when you start working.
  • Let others know your time blocks, especially your colleagues in the office. That way they won’t bother you while working.

Why should you time block?

The goal is to increase productivity but the reasons behind are many. Below are seven reasons why you should make time blocking a habit:

Become the master of your daily schedule

Let the calendar dictate your time. Most often we let other people take away our time that we would rather use for our important tasks. Those few minutes chatting in the office, 30-minute meetings and hour-long calls. You then end up working late or getting up too early to catch up with actual work, all because some of your time was sapped away during your standard workday. By blocking time on your calendar for different tasks, you can focus well without giving away a few precious hours. If something is on your calendar, then it’s sacrosanct.

Balance the important with the urgent

Some urgent tasks may come up unexpectedly and somehow interfere with a block. If you are intentional with your time, then it’s easy for you to know what’s important for the moment. In fact, always resist the urge of dropping what you are doing for an urgent unimportant task unless it’s a genuine crisis. Planning beforehand will force you to make conscious decisions rather than allowing urgent distractions to win always.

Actualize your priorities with actions

Do you want to research a new marketing strategy? Write a monthly sales report? Draft that big end of the year presentation? Just schedule it. Time blocking forces you to do a task as per your calendar. It’s like a commitment to show up for a meeting. Otherwise, you will always find yourself procrastinating tasks to unknown dates and times. And if you find yourself time blocking yet the task keeps missing your schedule, then most likely it’s not a priority. It’s better to time block tasks based on their priority level than have something in your schedule and fail to do it. It will be a waste of time.

Encourages depth in work

Problem-solving tasks need plenty of time and attention to detail. If you allow other people, multi-tasking or distractions take away small bits of your time, then it’s hard to find a solid hour for doing creative work. But, if you block time for one task, then you are able to concentrate and dig deep into the task alone.

Shuts open loops

Open loops are tasks that need to be done but lack the real next step. They use your thinking capacity and drain your mental processing power like several apps running in your PC’s background drain its processing power. Forcing one task for a specified period of time closes open loops and lets you work on concrete work that matters at that moment.

Promotes batching

Obviously, it’s difficult to work like a programmed machine all day long. Some tiny tasks do come up at some point, such as checking your emails. These tiny tasks don’t really fill your time but they may be distracting in a way that affects productivity.

This is where batching comes in. Set aside a few 15 to 30-minute blocks throughout your day for doing tiny tasks so you don’t interfere with your working schedule every other time you hear an email notification or any other small task comes calling. Tim Ferriss covers batching in depth in his book; The 4-Hour Workweek.

Be realistic with your time

It’s easy to put ten things on your to-do list but hard to accomplish them all. Not until you start scheduling every task is when you get an idea of how long every task can take. That means you can only do as much unlike lying to yourself that you can complete a whole lot. Time blocking makes you better at estimating how long tasks can take than simply guessing and failing to meet expectations.

In Conclusion

What I’ve covered here are simply time blocking basics that can get you started on boosting your productivity. Time blocking allows you enough time to handle important tasks throughout your day, improves focus and quality, and leads to improved results; your take-home points at the very least.

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