Despite AI recently hitting the scene in a big way, many people still feel like they have more on their plates than they can deal with. If you’re looking for a tactic that can help with that, time blocking might be perfect for you.
What Is Time Blocking?
It is exactly what it sounds like: setting aside a specific period of time to work on a specific task. In a way, it’s the opposite of multitasking. By single-tasking for a time block, you can pay more attention to detail and are likely to make fewer errors. If the time block is long enough, you might get into flow, which is exactly where you want to be if you’re looking to get deep work done.
Time blocking also reduces mental switching costs. Just as a car shifts gears as it’s moving from one elevation to another or as it increases in speed, so too the mind has to switch from a mode of say, checking emails to building a slide deck. Those two activities are not similar and anyone who has switched back and forth between them can tell you that they probably didn’t feel great about the outcomes of either task and felt pretty fatigued at the end as well.
There’s also a subcategory of time blocking called day theming, in which people realize the power of batching for organization, for example, doing meetings only on Tuesday or doing deep work on Wednesdays.
How Can I Use Time Blocking?
One of the fundamentals of time blocking is to work when you’re most productive, not necessarily at a set time. This has a lot to do with circadian rhythms and whether you might do better in the mornings or afternoons, or maybe even in the evenings or nights.
Another is not to trust your own time estimates. For example if you’ve set a block to “clean out email inbox” or “compose difficult email to a colleague” you may set the wrong time. If your first instinct is an hour, add an additional 25%, in this case, another 15 minutes. As you practice time blocking more, your estimates are going to be better calibrated.
By blocking out time for a specific activity, you can increase your productivity across the board, while creating buffer and space, and ultimately, less stress in your schedule.
Finally, the blocks give you a guide to how you spent your day and you can track daily accomplishments simply and easily analyze trends you are seeing in your own work schedule and flow.
If you’ve never time blocked before, it will take some getting used to, and you’ll need to make adjustments in the early days not just for your own time estimates, which will take time to get accurate, but also for unexpected events. If the Internet goes out while you’re in an Internet-dependent block, you might have to stop your work in that block and swap with one that doesn’t need the Internet. Just be patient, give yourself space and grace, and “block on” when you can.
This content originally appeared in our monthly Open Calendar Club newsletter.