Time Blocking is an effective time management technique not explored by many. If you have not heard of Time Blocking before or find it difficult to follow. This post is just for you.
I have been following Time Blocking in a crude way for quite a long time without even knowing it’s called Time Blocking.
So, when I got to know about it, I tried to read and search more on it to get better at it.
In this post, I’m going to explain:
- Time Blocking at work and its benefits.
- Common mistakes in Time Blocking at work.
- Practicing Time Blocking at work.
- Tips for effective Time Blocking at work.
Let’s dive deep into it.
What is Time Blocking?
Time Blocking is a time management technique that involves assigning a certain amount of time to a task and ensuring it completes the task within the assigned time. Hence Time Blocking involves focused work for the assigned block of time.
The intent of time blocking is to make sure you complete the task within the block of time you have planned. It revolves around the Parkinson law that states work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion. Thus by assigning a fair amount of time to work by blocking time, you do not spend more than the required time to work on it.
Advantages of Time Blocking at Work
Time Blocking offers several advantages.
1) Reduce decision fatigue:
Since you plan your work in advance for Time Blocking and assign a definite time to complete it you avoid decision fatigue. You do not spend your time and energy to find what work you need to do and when.
2) You spend the optimum time on the task
Since Time Blocking is a focused work session intending to complete work in the defined block of time you don’t stretch the work. It allows you to complete the work without overspending time.
3) Prevent procrastination
The most common problem with procrastination is getting started. Since with Time Blocking, you preplan the time for a task with the intention to complete the same you develop a mindset to complete the work at a defined time and do not procrastinate.
To know more about reasons to procrastinate and the way to beat it read Understanding Procrastination And Effective Solution To Stop Procrastinating.
4) Help overcome perfectionism
Many fall for perfecting a work and spend way more time on completing work or never even completing the work. Perfectionism negatively impacts your productivity. The greatest advantage of Time Blocking is you are setting a timeline of completion for yourself, thus preventing the hamster wheel of perfectionism.
5) Help to predict work status and schedule
Since you preplan your work and assign a defined time for it, you are in a better position to commit to various tasks. You are aware of when the work will be done and when you will be able to take on other work. This lets you predict the status of work completion and your schedule.
Why does Time Blocking at work fail?
When you start with Time Blocking you find it challenging or you may have used time blocking in the past and might have found it not very effective. The reason for time blocking to fail at work is mistakes in planning to Time Blocking at work. Some of the common mistakes are discussed below.
1) Planning fallacy
The planning fallacy is one of the most common reasons for failure with Time Blocking at work.
When you plan the amount of time required for the completion of work you tend to get optimistic and underestimate the amount of time and effort that will be required for completion of work this is called a planning fallacy.
You may even tend to ignore some of the hurdles and prerequisites that may be required for the completion of work and assign a less amount while planning to Time Blocking.
Since this planning is unrealistic you fail to follow it and eventually give up on Time Blocking.
For time Time Blocking to be effective you need to work with focus during the time that you have allotted for a particular task.
With constant distractions, you are not able to focus on the work and eventually will not be able to complete the task in the stipulated time even if you have planned a sufficient amount of time for the task.
Hence it is very important to consider distractions when you are working with time blocking.
3) time blocking big task
Another common mistake with time blocking is planning big tasks.
When you plan a big task you will be underestimating the amount of time that will be required for the completion of the work.
Also, it is not possible for a person to work for a very long period of time with high focus and concentration. This will eventually exhaust you or you will not be able to complete the work in the defined time.
4) No buffer time
When you are at work there are things that are beyond your control.
You may have an unavoidable circumstance or urgent work to take care of. When such a situation arises you may have to drop the work at hand and address the situation or you may need to attend to it later in the day. This is where buffer time comes to the rescue.
If you do not have any buffer time you will not be able to deal with such a situation and may fail at time blocking.
Planning time blocking at Work
For time blocking to really work. You much plan your time blocking in the right way. Some of the suggestions for effective planning of time blocking at work are below.
- Always have your To-Do list ready with you so that you can plan your task effectively.
- Initially, you may find it difficult to determine the right amount of time to complete a work a simple solution for this is to measure your time as you perform this task routinely. You can use toggle or a mobile timer for this. By measuring the time you will be able to get a fair idea of the amount of time required for the completion of different work and then you can consider it in your planning effectively.
- Break your tasks into smaller tasks with work to work on them for a small amount of time. This will not only help you determine the right amount of time for the completion of work but also help you work effectively.
- While planning time blocking batch similar task together. This will make your work easier as you need not refocus and align your thoughts among various tasks.
How to practice time blocking at work?
Now that you have a fair understanding of time blocking. Let’s get into the details of how to perform time blocking.
1) Prepare a To-Do list
The first and foremost step to start with time blocking is to have a To-Do list. You can start with brain dumping to have a fair understanding of all the things you need to take care of and prepare your To-Do list.
It is very important to have a running To-Do list of all the various activities that you need to perform.
A To-Do list is the most essential and basic requirement for any time management technique and often is not prepared the right way.
You can read 10 Ways To Make An Effective To-Do List to make your To-Do list.
2) Prioritize work
Based on the importance and urgency of work prioritize your task from the To-Do list.
The most important and urgent work should be your highest priority followed by important work but non-urgent work, followed by urgent but not important work, followed by neither urgent nor important (these can be delegated to others if possible. Read How to prioritize work tasks to know more about prioritizing tasks effectively.
Based on this you can plan your entire week or maybe more. For effective weekly planning read Weekly planning secrets for work life balance
3) Daily time blocking
I personally prefer to plan for 1 day of time blocking and do it the previous day evening. When you do daily timeboxing, you are more realistic and can take the unavoidable situation into consideration better.
I follow the Ivy Lee method and just simply write 1, or 2,3 on the task in my daily To-Do list and take them in the order of priority or the schedule during the day. These tasks will be my focus for the day.
Once you have your task for the day decided go ahead and time blocking them. This means determining the amount of time required to perform the work and the time of the day you will perform the work.
For example, if I have to make a report for the annual customer feedback. I will determine the amount of time required to make it, let’s say I need 2 hrs to make the report. Since this is going to be deep-focused work I will choose the afternoon from 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm to do work since I have observed that post-lunch time is with least distraction from colleagues for me, so I keep deep focus work during this time.
4) Keep buffer time
Always keep a buffer of a minimum of 15 min before and after time blocking a task. This allows you to relax in between tasks, giving you a few extra minutes in case your task is not completed within the time. In case you have a meeting, it gives you time to prepare and compose yourself for the meeting or doesn’t make you run in case your meeting extends the time.
5) Perform weekly review
Always perform a weekly review of the work, to find a way to make time blocking more effective for you.
The way time blocking needs to be done varies for everyone depending on their work, schedule, style of working, productive time of the day, etc. Hence it is important to review your time blocking schedule.
This will help you determine tasks that were not completed and need to be planned for the coming week. Find if the time allotted was insufficient for some tasks and, the times you face the most distraction, etc.
Tips for Effective Time Blocking at Work
Now that you know all about time blocking and the way you need to perform it. I would like to share some tips to make time blocking more effective at work.
1) Do time blocking on daily
Perform time blocking on a daily basis. If you do it for more than one day you may not make it realistic and may not include Mood and uncertainties for the day.
P.S. You may like the post How to have a productive day
2) Time block important task first
Always assign time for your most important task first. This doesn’t mean that you have to take on the important task sequentially. But, while planning gives priority to the important task first and schedule the other activities around it.
Continuing with my previous example making a customer feedback report is my priority but that does not mean I need to take it first in the morning. I will take it at a time that will have the least amount of distraction and focus on it better. However, planning it first allows me to give it the most suitable time.
3) Plan around your most productive hour
You may be a morning person or someone who works best at night. Everyone has a different productive time throughout the day.
You need to time block your most essential work during these hours. In a conventional work schedule, you typically have a workday around 9:00 am to 6:00 pm so you cannot work very early in the morning or late at night but you need to find the most productive and least distracting hour through the day and use that for important tasks.
P.S. You may like the post 12 tips to boost your productivity at work
4) Deep work v/s shallow work
In a typical workday, you may have some tasks which will involve deep focus but there will be certain tasks that do not require a lot of concentration.
When planning try to avoid deep work sessions back to back. In fact, I find it useful to always have deep work followed by shallow work.
For example, deep work of preparing a report for customers should not be followed up by another intense task like review meeting presentation preparation. Instead, you should plan a deep task followed by a shallow task such as responding to emails or other administrative activities like updating records.
5) Take breaks
Always break in between intense sessions of time blocks at work to relax, regenerate your energy and avoid fatigue. You may find taking breaks is a waste of time but it is very important to keep up with your productivity. Ensure to practice wellness at work with 10 self-care at work tips for your wellness at the workplace
6) Create a focused work environment
In order to focus better, it is very much required to have a focused environment at work. Try to have a minimal work desk setup to avoid distraction and not waste time searching for things. Keep your work essentials such as your stationery, calculator, or any other prerequisite for your work handy and organized.
P.S. You may like the post 14 Tips to organize your work desk
7) Keep flexibility
Time blocking is a tool to help you work better it is in no way a rigid system that cannot be altered. If at any point in time, you feel that you should move from one task to another timing you should not hesitate.
Also, if an unexpected work or situation comes up you should be able to address it and move your planned task to another block of time. Also at times, you may not be able to complete work in the set amount of time, in that case, you can always extend but rather stop the work at the defined time and take it up later, as this will break the flow of thoughts and you may later spend more time, refocusing your attention to the same activity again.
8) Avoid distractions
For time blocking to work effectively, you should be able to focus on the work in the given time period. To do this best we should avoid all possible distractions.
Some simple ways to avoid distractions are putting your mobile phone in silent mode or turning off notifications. You can also close your email inbox to avoid distractions. Most of the time we also get distracted by co-workers, a simple trick to try is to put on headphones this will reduce the noise around us. Also, just by seeing you wearing headphones, your coworker’s main limit reaching out to you.
Frequently Asked Questions
Now that you know all about this amazing time management technique go ahead and start time blocking. You need not have a never-ending task list with the overwhelm and anxious of getting things done anymore. With the steps shared in this post for practicing time blocking at work and the tips for effective time blocking at work, you will be able to slay your task list.
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