Running a business along with the responsibilities of also running a household and being present for your family and maintaining social obligations can create a to do list that feels overwhelming.
Layer in that you will have a million additional tasks and even projects thrown at you (courtesy of your constantly running brain or outside forces), and it can be a lot. Can you even handle anymore?
Time blocking can be a way to help you understand what time you do have and help you purposefully set up your days and weeks to focus on your priorities around your likely busy schedule.
What is time blocking?
Let’s start here. What is time blocking exactly beyond one of many productivity methods?
Time blocking is a time management technique where you schedule sections of your day into different elements as a way to prioritize and batch similar tasks.
Time blocking can be broken up in a variety of ways based on your needs. If you have a lot of 15 minute chunks of time or if your activities require half day chunks of time, you can set up time blocking to work for you. Additionally, you can time block by day of week which you may see referred to as themes.
When you’re just getting started, thinking of your day in hour chunks can feel less overwhelming.
It’s simply a time management method that utilizes task batching in a specific window of time to knock out all kinds of tasks – without too much context switching!
Who should try time blocking?
In general, time blocking is for those that need to build in some structure to their day, to prioritize, or add in blocks that allow for batching, creative work, or focus.
I personally began using time blocking when I was trying to add in another entrepreneurial project where I literally sat down to see if it fit. I quickly discovered that it did not fit with the goals in my head at least!
It was also great to use to help me figure out where my time was going. I was meeting all of my commitments, but I had let my workouts slide realizing it was because I had absorbed that time with writing. I mean, the writing is important but so is my health!
If you are here reading this post, I’d say YOU should give time blocking for your productivity a try.
Pros and Cons of Time Blocking for Productivity
Time blocking does not have to be difficult, but I understand the allure of yet another time management technique that you may abandon in a week or 2. Here some thoughts to understand the advantages and disadvantages to help you gauge how successful you’ll be in planning your days and weeks in chunks.
Setting up your day or week into themes or chunks of time is very flexible. You get to decide how you set up your system which leads me to benefits of time blocking:
- You can simply theme each day into different categories of focus. Perhaps you want to have all meetings on Tuesdays. This allows you to do prep and focus for those calls the day before. I’ll share some categories examples for time blocking below.
- You can chunk your days into times of varying lengths. I personally have 1 hour to write posts in the morning. Lunch is for photos for videos. After work is chunked into family needs with an occasional 2 hour chunks for me. Example here:
Time blocking helps plan your day without taking any additional mental effort from you the day of.
Have you heard the phrase, “Workout before your brain realizes what you are doing?” The idea is that if you just do the thing without thought, it gets done. Roll out of bed, into your shoes, and get it done.
Time blocking gives you that automated flow to your day to accomplish what you set out to accomplish!
Productivity is optimized when you can batch tasks, and that’s key if you are specifically looking to get into a flow. Batching tasks keeps your brain on one track for a period of time, and by blocking your time into a chunk for the task, you’ll find you’re using your time most effectively.
You’ll find that trying out time blocking will help focus and minimize those pesky distractions. This happens because you’ll find yourself getting into a flow of the task. If you truly block the time for the task you planned, that flow I know I personally desire is much easier to find, and this is where that deep work happens.
Lastly, if you spend the time looking at how you WANT to spend your day or week, you’ll find that you have a sense of control over how you spend your time. All sorts of tasks and snafus will still come at you, but as you hone in on what works, you’ll find you can manage them better – in the block you assign to them!
I really can not find a true disadvantage to using time blocking except if you find that you are too rigid in the pre-defined schedule. They are more missteps than true cons.
Overscheduling yourself can be a slippery yet tempting slope. White space is important for productivity and creativity, so do not fill your day to the brim.
I have also seen people become very rigid. Time blocking helps to create automated behaviors (habits), so moving away from your newly formed habits can add a layer of stress if something crops up. In this case, I like to recommend looking at your time blocks as flexible techniques that you should revisit anytime a bit of that anxiety from overwhelm creeps in!
I tend to underestimate how long a task will take, and I don’t think I’m alone here. On the flip side, I also believe we fill in the time that we have for the thing we are doing.
If I only have an hour to wash my car with a hard stop, you betcha that I get it done in the hour. In this case, maybe I only got the outside washed, and the inside got cleaned out but not wiped down or vacuumed.
However, if I only have an hour to work on larger projects like building a dashboard, I spend the hour & revisit it in the next chunk of time allocated. I can build in stages, but a half finished dashboard with an incomplete picture doesn’t cut it.
You can combat this by adding in a buffer of time into your time blocks OR allow white space. Don’t fill in every hour or chunk of time you are blocking to help manage your blocks of time.
What to Use to Time Block
The whole point of time blocking is to allow yourself dedicated time to do what you hope to accomplish. That’s it. How you do that has a lot of flexibility.
Here are some ideas on what to use to time block:
- Digital Calendars
- Paper Calendars
- Phone Apps
- Spreadsheet (Google Sheets/Excel)
How to Start Using Time Blocking for Productivity
You can use paper and pen or go the digital route with an app for your phone or even just a calendar (physical or even a calendar app). You can see how I use Google calendar to help me understand when I can or can not take on a new project here.
1. Think through what you’d like to accomplish
Are you looking to time block your entire day, or are you working on a time blocking schedule that is built around your 9 to 5 job with time blocks for your personal time?
2. Decide how granular you want to be
Will just thinking through a theme for each day work, or do you want to block pieces of your calendar. You can grab your favorite planner or sign up for a free template here.
The level of detail you want to plan down to is your call. Giant buckets or 1 hour chunks. What will work for you?
3. Start filling in your non-negotiable priorities
I like to start with my professional and personal calendar within reach. This is your weekly worship time, your work schedule, the Tuesdays from 6 – 8 PM when it’s your turn to tote your kiddo & their friends to practice. Whatever this looks like in your world.
You can revisit step 2 here if after looking at your priorities, you want to take a different path.
4. Write down all the items you think you need to do
‘Think’ is the key word here because you don’t actually need to do everything you likely have swirling in your brain. All of the individual tasks necessary need to find its way to your brain dump.
5. Categorize every item you wrote down
Some examples look like errands, household management, meetings, writing, business administration, health, self care, etc. There is no right or wrong way to do this. Just do it. You can change your mind on categories each time you go through this exercise, too.
6. Think about what an ideal day would look like
It needs to be able to also flow with the realities of your life.
Like I know I am way more likely to workout in the morning than I am after I get off of work. I go to bed early & wake up early. I am way more creative and full of ideas in the morning than I am after dinner. You know you. Just think through the ebbs and flows of your day.
7. Start filling in blocks of time
Around those non-negotiables from step 3, do you see some pockets that you can fill in with your categories? This is the next step is to start filling in the time blocks. Thinking through the flow you’d like, what MUST be done, what can you layer in?
Do not cram your whole day with engagements – required or self-prescribed!
If you start to notice that things don’t fit neatly, you may need to think about priorities.
Obviously, high priorities are key. I’m a huge fan of the 80/20 Pareto principle. 20% of what you do will create 80% of the results. Focus on those 20%. Like this blog post. Getting this out is more likely to contribute to my 80% results than worrying about my site theme that is working just fine. Content is more important to me than business administrative stuff (as long as we aren’t talking taxes, of course).
9. Try it out
Do not overthink the schedule you’ve put together. You’re more likely to benefit from putting the plan into action for a day or even a week, and see how it goes. I like to plan weekly on Sunday, so I consider each Sunday to be a fresh opportunity to look at what worked and what didn’t.
It’s basically all just data – not a penalty if it doesn’t work perfectly your first time or every week.
Using a To Do List with Your Block of Time
I find it helpful to have a to do list based on the time block categories to weave in the daily tasks that may or may not fit into your neatly lined up time blocking categories.
The time blocks form the daily schedule, but then the to-do list fill in the blocks of time with the true action items.
In an Errand category, the to do list might include ‘Pick up grocery order’, ‘Drop off library books’, and ‘Pick up paint samples’. You have a clear plan for how that time will be spent. Don’t forget to budget in extra time for driving in this example, though!
Just make sure you leave sufficient time for the tasks you write down. You’re more likely to stick to this if you don’t feel like you are constantly not getting everything done that you intend to!
I use ClickUp to manage my business and personal activities. Each task is a to-do, and I schedule those to-dos in my day as they approach. If it doesn’t get scheduled in, it doesn’t seem to get done!
Time Blocking Categories (Real-World Examples)
What categories you want to includes really needs to start with what you’re hoping to time block. Is it your work schedule? Are you balancing home and work life? What is it that has you wanting to take this under consideration to salvage your precious time?
Household & Life administration
- Meal Planning/Groceries
- Setting up appointments
- Managing kid activities
- Health appointments
- Time with friends (I block out 1 evening a week)
- Report building
- Data analysis
- Customer Support (internal or external)
My Current Setup
I have simplified mine so much lately. I have a content creation business, full-time job, & a family.
Now I fit in appointments where I need to, and I certainly don’t record at 5 am on a Saturday. I give myself some grace, but this has been working for me for the past 2 months.
Read more about using time-blocking with your Google calendar here to layer in your themes & batch sessions.
It’s All About What You Need!
The level of planning that you do is up to you. You can plan each hour, each day, whatever works for your life. I do caution you to take to heart that the fastest way to fail is fill in all of the time slots. You need space to just BE! Plus, we all know that the actual time that something takes tends to be more than you planned on!
Good luck! I can’t wait to see how you implement time blocking and how it grows with you!