What is time blocking and how to do it

time blocking

Your guide to time blocking, the simplest way to improve productivity

The simplest and most obvious answer to getting more productive is effective time management. However, choosing the right time management technique and committing to it may sound challenging. It shouldn’t be—in this post, we’ll tell you about time blocking, an easy (in our opinion, the easiest) way to better organize your time, the benefits of time blocking, and some of the digital tools you can use for time blocking.

What time blocking is?

Time blocking is a method of time management that is based on dividing the daily schedule into blocks of time dedicated to specific tasks or activities. The concept has been widely popularized in the wake of the Pomodoro technique (which alternates focused work with short breaks) and is now experiencing a revival thanks to a plethora of digital planners and viral trends on social media

A to-do list, even when created for each particular day, leaves a lot of wiggle room: people can get to the planned tasks when they feel like it, which is often accompanied by procrastination. By contrast, time blocking lets you prioritize your to-dos in advance and put them on a timeline with regard to how much time they’re supposed to take. 

With a time-blocked schedule, you won’t need to choose what to focus on throughout the day, as this choice will already be predefined and visualized for you. This technique can help you combine the “necessary evils” of meetings and chores with the really important stuff, taking the stress out of planning.

Different approaches to the time blocking method

There are several noteworthy time blocking techniques people practice to organize their schedule:

  • Task batching. This technique means grouping similar tasks that you might do throughout the day into a single block. For instance, emails are a common productivity bottleneck, with workers checking their inbox 15 times per day on average. If you dedicate a particular time slot for emails and hold on to it, you’ll save tons of time and mental energy.
  • Day theming. You can build a weekly plan by centering each day around a particular activity (and dividing it into smaller blocks). This method can be especially relevant for people who juggle multiple projects or jobs, as well as for students that can dedicate each day to a different subject or studying activity.
  • Energy-based planning. Your mood and energy level heavily impacts how you follow your plan so it makes sense to place the most challenging tasks in the time slots when your energy is high (for instance, evenings, if you’re a night owl) and less tedious activities when you’re low on energy.

How exactly time blocking can boost your productivity and what other improvements it brings? Let’s see what people practicing time blocking mention among its top advantages. 

The 5 major benefits of time blocking for your productivity and wellbeing

People sharing their thoughts on the power of time blocking have said that it helps them: 

This list is endless, but it’s clear that time blocking brings people several major professional and emotional improvements. Let’s explore them a bit more.

1. Time blocking helps battle procrastination

When you don’t have a clear picture of your day (as well as week and month), you can easily succumb to scrolling your newsfeed or whatever else you do to get your quick dopamine hit. As simple a trick it is, time blocking can actually do wonders, especially if you create separate blocks not only for tasks and chores but also for leisure. 

Say you have a deadline for a work task and also plan to do laundry and want to do some reading for pleasure on that day. If you just hold all that in mind, without having it on paper or a digital daily planner, chances are you’ll procrastinate and by the time you do the work task, you won’t have the energy or time for anything else. By contrast, if you divide the task itself into manageable blocks and include laundry and reading as visible blocks on a daily timeline, you’ll be able to stick to the blocks without the pressure of storing all you need to do in your mind.

2. It helps set realistic task estimates

Putting an activity on a visual timeline makes it more achievable right away because it shows you how much time it should take. Surely, you can over- or underestimate, but here’s the beauty of time blocking: the more you use this strategy, the better you set your estimates. If you follow your schedule and adjust the time blocks that don’t go according to the plan, you get a sharp understanding of how much it takes for you to perform certain things.

Don’t try to schedule your day down to every minute and don’t forget about the risk of planning fallacy. Leave some room in each block so that you don’t feel too pressured and overworked. (You can check out this jam-packed schedule example, which became a meme-inducing tweet, and decide for yourself whether it scares or inspires you.)

3. It helps maintain focused work instead of multitasking

Multitasking is not effective, and has never been. Numerous studies show that multitasking decreases learning capacity and worsens memory performance among other things. Research on media multitasking (consuming several media sources at the same time) also shows its detrimental effect on attention. Stanford professor Clifford Nass says that non-stop multitasking deteriorates our concentration, control over emotions, and creativity.

While the fact remains that we are susceptible to many distractions, time blocking can be the answer here. If you stick to the blocks you’ve created and allocate specific blocks for leisure, you’ll increase the chances of going all in on your tasks and not letting distractions interfere. As Rachel Dalrymple has aptly pointed out, people turn to time blocking “to gain back the time they’ve previously lost to distractions.”

4. It helps get more things done

Ultimately, time blocking is aimed to make you more productive and achieve more. And it successfully does so, which is supported by many testimonials. For example, 73% respondents in a 2020 survey claimed time blocking helped them be more productive. Cal Newport, the author of Deep Work, gets more specific and claims that 40 hours of time-blocked week gives the same output as over 60 hours in an unstructured weekly schedule.

Kevin Kruse, who interviewed successful people about their productivity secrets, mentions that straight-A students and ultra-productive businessmen plan with a calendar instead of a to-do list, which essentially means they use time blocking. Students he interviewed shared that time blocking helped them stay motivated and focused and mentioned that its additional trick—color-coded blocks—helped distinguish different responsibilities and therefore accomplish them.

5. It helps balance work and personal life

Multiple surveys demonstrate that the majority of workers put work-life balance higher than pay and benefits. Yet, 29% of remote workers and 23% of office employees admit to struggling with setting boundaries and keeping the balance. Having your work tasks and personal activities combined on a single visual timeline can help break the vicious circle of overcommitting and feeling guilty for free time. 

Even though some people might feel pressured when scheduling leisure for particular time slots, it adds structure to the day and, more importantly, a higher potential for enjoyment. As Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi puts it, scheduled jobs are easier to enjoy than unstructured free time because they encourage “to concentrate and lose oneself in it.” If this makes sense to you, adding personal events and allocating time for hobbies in a time blocking planner will definitely improve your focus and wellbeing.

The 4 best time blocking practices

While the concept of dividing a daily schedule into separate chunks is easy to understand and the benefits are telling, the question is, can you stick to this practice and what tools can help you time block the calendar? Let’s discover some of the proven tips to schedule the heck out of your day.

1. Prioritize beforehand

Essentially, time blocking starts with a to-do list. Write down everything you need to do and then set the priorities for each day. What is absolutely necessary to finish this week and what can wait? What tasks depend on other people and can affect your timeline regardless of your input? Are your time estimates realistic for each planned activity? Do you leave time slots for rest, hobbies, and family and friends? These are the kind of questions to ask yourself when crafting a time-blocked schedule. 

The number of priorities also matters. Authors of productivity bestsellers Timothy Pychyl and Laura Vanderkam both agree on the rule of three: they suggest choosing three absolute musts for each day and resisting the temptation to add more to those three unless after you finish them.

In Arcush, you have the Inbox to put any ideas and things to do, without having to prioritize or schedule them right away. You can use it as an open-ended to-do list and get back to it every time it makes sense to you.

Task prioritization
2. Update your plan as needed and declutter to reduce mental load

The more you practice time blocking, the more accurate your estimates can be on how long certain tasks take. Apart from adjusting the duration, update your blocks based on new priorities and your energy levels. Allow yourself some flexibility and swap or reschedule the tasks when you’re exhausted or, on the contrary, feel over-energized to have more things done.

When building a habit of time blocking, also make sure that your schedule doesn’t get cluttered. For example, when you have back-to-back meetings with no time between them, you’re likely to be late to one of them. Any activities that overlap can result in frustration, and piling up tons of small tasks instead of batching them together can lead to visual clutter and a more stressful picture of your day.

3. Block off time to not get distracted

If you’re using a shared calendar at work or with someone, add your time blocks for the deep-focus work or other important activities there. This way, you’ll eliminate the distractions that might come from other people and avoid communication issues with people waiting for your reply during your focus time.

Blocked-off activities shouldn’t be limited to something productive—you can block off the time to dedicate to yourself and unwind.

With Arcush, you can easily sync your schedule with any calendar you’re using and enjoy peaceful and productive periods of time.

4. Set up recurring tasks

Every person has repeating activities and commitments: lunch breaks and dinners, weekly work meetings, monthly purchases, yearly doctor check-ups, and so on. When you set up a recurring task that will automatically reappear in your schedule, you save a lot of mental energy on remembering this task every next occasion. 

Add your daily rituals as repeating time blocks as well. Many people have experienced that simple routines help them maintain motivation, boost creativity, and get more productive. Whether it’s power naps, bubble baths, meditations, or journaling, having a ritual that works for you and adding it to the time-blocked schedule can strengthen your sense of structure and accomplishment every day. 

With a daily planner tool like Arcush, you can create any number of recurring events of different frequencies.

Recurring task

Accomplish more with time blocking

Time blocking is a productivity method that can structure your life and bring numerous benefits at no cost: it doesn’t take long to familiarize with the concept and it’s free to use. Apps can charge you a fee for advanced features, but the core functionality is available in many time blocking apps for free. 

Our app Arcush can help you get started time-blocking your schedule in a flash. Try it out, and you’ll see the difference time blocking makes in the organization of your daily life and responsibilities.

Want to request a feature to make time blocking in Arcush more effective or convenient? Contact us: support@arcush.com

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