Have you ever gotten to the end of the day, only to wonder where all the hours went? As much as we may try to remain focused on our to-do lists, time inevitably slips through our fingers.
Though it’s OK to have some unstructured free time in your schedule, steadily losing time to interruptions and unimportant tasks could sap your productivity and hinder your progress.
If you need to wrangle your schedule back into shape, you’re not alone. Many people seek success through a time-management strategy called time blocking. If you try this method — joining figures like Elon Musk and Cal Newport — you may find you can fit a lot more into your day than you initially thought.
What Is Time Blocking?
Time blocking is a planning method that uses blocks on a calendar to manage all your daily activities. Imagine Bruce Wayne waking up in the morning and asking his butler Alfred about his plans for the day — he’d likely get a list of appointments and meetings down to the minute, followed by a long block at the end of the day to spend cleaning up the streets of Gotham. That’s time blocking.
Time blocking ensures every minute of every day has a predetermined purpose, even if that purpose is vague. It prevents unimportant interruptions from eating into your productivity. And it also allows you to make adequate time for the things that matter most to you, like pursuing creative work or going to the gym.
Though you may not be a millionaire superhero, your time is valuable — time blocking helps you give your time the respect it deserves. If you’re interested in trying this method, place all the items on your to-do list on your calendar, whether or not they’re work-related. Estimate the amount of time tasks will take and follow through, adjusting when needed.
How Do You Make Time Blocking Work for You?
Time blocking comes with a lot of advantages. But scheduling everything might sound scary at first. In actuality, you can adjust this time management strategy to meet your needs. You can start by only scheduling during work hours or only blocking time for your hobbies, for example.
Here are six tips you can use to make the most of time blocking.
1. Use Large Blocks to Promote Deep Work
The most important thing to remember when setting your schedule is that quality work takes time and focus. To make progress, schedule several hour blocks to work on your most challenging tasks uninterrupted.
Try to place deep work blocks during the time of day you’re most focused. For example, if you’re a night owl, you might schedule two hours of focused writing after dinner. Similarly, avoid switching between tasks too frequently, since this drains your concentration. By using this strategy, you maximize your working power.
2. Use Productivity Tools to Track Time Usage
When you first start time blocking, you may struggle to estimate the time you use on specific tasks accurately. People tend to underestimate the amount of time things take, in part because they imagine everything going perfectly.
To make better estimates, you’ll want to observe your time usage for a few weeks. When you start a task, set a timer. When you finish something, compare your estimate to the time the task took. You may also consider using productivity apps to track the time you spend on certain activities, which may be especially helpful if you do most of your work on a computer.
3. Allow Buffer Time Between Tasks
Adhering to a strict schedule might feel robotic. You can find flexibility in time blocking by allowing buffer time between tasks. These small gaps of free time let you take a breather and think when you finish a piece of work. They also allow you to reschedule things if you run overtime on a project. Try giving yourself five minutes to half an hour between every long work block.
4. Always Plan a Next Step
You won’t always finish all your work in one day. That’s OK. Use time blocking to dismiss unfinished tasks weighing on your mind by planning the next step every time you set aside a project in progress.
Even if you’re not sure what you need to do next, dedicating a specific time to figure it out can put your mind at ease.
5. Group Small Tasks Together
Tired of checking your email every hour, only to find nothing there? For some people, small tasks like managing email or checking social media may become fake work that doesn’t accomplish anything. Instead of sprinkling these tasks throughout the day and drawing attention away from larger projects, consider grouping small tasks together.
Place a block on your schedule for dealing with miscellaneous things that come up during the day. You can complete all your smaller pieces of work at the same time without worrying when you’ll fit them in.
6. Allow Time for Personal Pursuits
Time blocking helps people prioritize everything, not just work. When you schedule something crucial to you and treat it as a non-negotiable part of your day, you’re more likely to follow through with it.
Use time blocking to your advantage by scheduling time for the things you enjoy most. These could include a weekend to spend with friends and family, an afternoon pursuing a hobby or twice-weekly visits to the gym.
Master the Art of Time Management
Time is your most valuable resource. Effective time management can help you accomplish more in less time, saving you hours you need for the things you enjoy most. Try out these time-blocking tips and start mastering the art of time management today.
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