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Time Blocking

Productivity
Oct 18, 2022

Some activities get naturally attached to your routine as you climb the success ladder. Activities like attending meetings, answering email, team chat, and “busy work” begin to dominate your 24 hours, so you have to figure out how to use your time effectively.

However, according to Cal Newport, author of “Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World” — “Three to four hours a day, five days a week, of uninterrupted and carefully directed concentration, it turns out, can produce a lot of valuable output.”

Therefore, for the sake of having a carefully directed concentration, the idea of time blocking was conceived. You should use time blocking when -

  • You find it hard to make time for important yet non urgent tasks.
  • You’re not getting much done.
  • You juggle many different tasks or projects.
  • You spend a lot of time on unimportant things like answering messages and emails.
  • You find that meetings take too much of your time.
  • You fight interruptions all day long.

Successful entrepreneurs of our time, like Elon Musk and Bill Gates, have used time blocking to great success (hear more about their approach later in this article). Let’s see how time blocking can help you make the most of your time.

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Table of Contents

What is Time Blocking?

Time blocking is a way to manage your time by breaking up your day into blocks of time, with each block assigned to a specific task or set of tasks.

Why is Time Blocking Effective?

  • It makes you more focused on achieving the task for each time block.
  • It ensures you consciously set out task priorities.
  • It allows you to be more accountable for time spent.
  • It reduces time wastage.
  • It kills procrastination.
  • It helps you have a balanced life.

Time blocking is an exciting topic, and someone new to it may encounter some pitfalls or go overboard at some point.

Initially, you may struggle with estimating how long a task will take to complete, but after a bit of trial and error, you’ll become an estimating wizard. Another issue you may encounter is becoming a prisoner of your time block, keeping on working on a task for the whole time block even though you realise five minutes in that there’s no point continuing. Time blocking is a tool to achieve increased productivity and it’s definitely ok to change your plans if you realise that there’s something else that’s more important to do. That said, another anti-pattern is breaking the time block without a good reason (aka shiny object syndrome). If you struggle with that, a focus augmentation tool like Focus Bear could be useful.

Finally, you may end up planning out your whole day so you don’t have any time for leisure. It’s essential to block out time for rest, relationships and relaxation otherwise life will start feeling pretty glum! You probably don’t want to be too prescriptive about what you do during these RRR blocks (that would ruin the spontaneity!) but you definitely want to stay away from work.

Fortunately there are some good methods that help avoid these pitfalls.

Time Blocking Methods

Task Batching

Task batching is when you group related tasks into the same time block. By doing similar tasks together, you’ll reduce switching between tasks, have fewer distractions, save time, and be more productive.

For example, it’s better to schedule a few 20-minute time blocks during the day to deal with emails or messages than to respond to each one of them as they come.

Day Theming

Day theming is a more advanced version of task batching for people with many responsibilities. Here, you assign a theme to each day, which will be further broken down into similar tasks.

For example, if the theme for Monday is Board Meeting, you can decide to have tasks like a board meeting with Company A (7 a.m. — 10 a.m.), preparing for next week’s board meeting with Company B (11 a.m. — 2 p.m.), and reviewing the minutes from last week’s board meeting with Company C for the rest of the day.

Day theming is excellent if you have similar tasks that can be grouped to fill up the whole day.

Timeboxing

It’s common to think of time blocking and time boxing as the same thing, but they are not. The difference between the two is small but important.

Time blocking allows you to set aside time to work on a specific task. It does not mention anything about completing the task within the time frame. For example, “I’ll work on my new novel from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. tomorrow.”

On the other hand, time boxing asks you to set a limit on how much time you will spend on a specific task. Here’s an example of timeboxing: “I’ll finish the introduction part of my novel between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. tomorrow.”

This forces you to work quickly because you only have so much time to finish the task. If the task seems too large to accomplish within the timeblock, you’ll have to reduce the scope.

Elon Musk’s Approach to Time Blocking

Elon Musk is a billionaire, the founder and CEO of Tesla and SpaceX. He has a family and needs time to work out and do things he enjoys. How does he do them all?

He uses the 5-minute rule to keep track of his time.

Musk’s “5-minute rule” is one of the best ways to use your time well. It forces you to break up your day into blocks. Each block is for doing one or more tasks, so there is no time for random interruptions because there is no free time.

Time Blocking Planner/Templates and App

You can use a planner to block off chunks of time — the planner is a physical book you can download and use to make schedules. Also, apps like Focus Bear — software you can download on your phone or computer — help with time blocking.

Note: Giving each task its time block can be impractical as it becomes hard to keep up with over time. It is, therefore, reasonable to combine time blocking and task batching to make the system run more smoothly.

Time Blocking App — focusbear.io

Focus Bear is a productivity app that has powerful time blocking features. Tell the app what you want to achieve and it will help you stay on task.

If you open up an unrelated app or website, it will block the distraction immediately:

To make sure you don’t end up neck strain and screen headaches, the app regularly reminds you to take active breaks.

At the end of the day, Focus Bear gives you a summary of all the time blocks you’ve completed.

The app also helps you improve your morning routine by guiding you through each of your habits.

If the activity would benefit from following along to a video, you can embed a Youtube video (without the distractions of the Youtube algorithm).

How to get started using the Focus Bear App

  1. Download the desktop and mobile apps from focusbear.io
  2. Set your computer use hours, create a custom morning and night routine, and customize your focus modes for different activities
Productivity
Oct 18, 2022

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