How often do you glance at your to-do list with no idea where to start? Or feel overwhelmed because you’re sure there’s no way you can get it all done?
That was me every day for literally years! I was a recent college grad, trying to balance my fairly new full-time job, my blog, and planning a wedding. And if I’m being honest, I was doing pretty terrible at it.
I knew I needed to figure out a better way, so I threw myself into learning every productivity hack I could. The #1 trick I hack I learned to help me be more productive every single day? Time blocking.
In this post, I’m sharing all about how I use time blocking to plan my week, and why it’s the most productive time management method there is.
How to Use Time Blocking to Be More Productive Every Day
What is Time Blocking?
Time blocking is simply a method of time management where you schedule your day into set blocks of time, each of which is dedicated to specific tasks. During each time block, you focus only on those tasks assigned to that time block. Once that block of time is over, you move onto the tasks for the next block of time.
Essentially, time blocking is a way of marrying your to-do list with your calendar.
When you’re applying time blocking to your day, you account for everything. Seriously, everything. This includes time for getting ready in the morning, your commute to work, meals, and personal time.
Related Article: 25 Time Management Tips to Help You Get More Done
What is the Benefit of Time Blocking?
You Always Know What You Should be Working on
A time blocking schedule provides structure to your to-do list. It’s easy to look at a long to-do list and become overwhelmed because you aren’t sure where to start.
When you plan your day with time blocking, you always know what you should be working on at a certain time. This means spending a lot less time figuring out what to work on and a lot more time actually working.
Time Blocking Helps Cut Down on Procrastination
In school, I was always someone who would wait until the last minute to write an entire paper or finish homework. This works in some cases.
However, when it comes to going after my own goals that have no deadline imposed by someone else, I would often have a hard time forcing myself to get started.
Using time blocking to plan my day creates self-imposed deadlines throughout the day, so I’m always making sure to finish my current task so I’m done by the end of the designated time block.
Time Blocking Increases Focus and Discipline
We live in a time where it seems we’re all just inherently easily distracted. And it’s not surprising, considering the number of distractions available on our phones.
When you block your time, you’re making a commitment to yourself to focus only on the task at hand.
Time blocking also allows you to schedule in breaks specifically meant for indulging in distractions, so you’re hopefully less likely to seek them out when you should be working on something else.
Time Blocking Helps You to Prioritize Your Goals
When you don’t plan your day ahead of time, it can be difficult to protect your time. If someone asks for a favor or invites you to an event, you might look at your calendar and see that nothing is scheduled. But really that’s the time you would have liked to use to work on your goals.
By having that time blocked off on your calendar already, you can easily see that when you glance at your calendar, and then politely decline by saying you already have a commitment at that time.
Related Articles: How to Prioritize Tasks (When Everything is Important)
How to Use Time Blocking to Plan Your Day
Block Off the Non-Negotiables and Personal Commitments
The first thing I like to do when I’m planning my time blocks is block off non-negotiables and personal commitments.
Non-negotiables, for me, refers to my day job. From the hours of 9 AM to 5 PM (and sometimes longer, depending on the time of year) I am at work. Those hours are non-negotiable and I can’t plan something else during that time.
I also block off personal commitments, which includes appointments, plans with friends, plans with my significant other, etc.
Here’s an example of what that might look like:
Block Off Recurring Tasks and Routines
After I’ve blocked those nonnegotiable time slots, I block off my recurring tasks and routines.
First of all, this means blocking off my morning routine. I don’t need to schedule out each specific task for my morning such as waking up, washing my face, and brushing my teeth. I just block off the time to complete my morning routine.
I also block off recurring activities that happen after work such as working out.
Another recurring task for me happens on Sundays. This is when I do laundry, we clean the apartment, and do our grocery shopping and other errands.
Finally, I leave some blank space at the end of the day for my nighttime routine, which includes getting my things ready for the next day, washing my face, brushing my teeth, etc.
Here’s an example of what that calendar looks like:
List Everything You Want to Get Done During the Week
This is when we really dive into all of the tasks we’re going to make time throughout the week.
I use Asana to plan all of my projects and tasks in advance. So when it comes time to plan out my tasks for a given week, I just pull up my Asana dashboard and start putting together my list for the week. Even if you don’t use a task management tool like Asana, you probably have a master to-do list of some kind that you can pull tasks from!
When I’m making my to-do list for the week, I get as specific as possible to make sure nothing falls through the cracks.
Being extra specific also helps to reduce overwhelm every day because I never have to wonder what I’m supposed to be working on, or worry that I’m missing something.
This also prevents me from being easily distracted from new projects. I’m focused on the task at hand.
Related Articles: How to Use the 80/20 Rule to Change Your Life
Fill in Your Time Blocks Using Your To-Do List
Once I’ve gathered a list of everything I want to get done during the week, I start adding blocks to my calendar.
I try to group similar tasks together as often as possible. For example, if I have a handful of tasks to do for my blog, I would group all of those tasks together into one time block.
Similarly, I try to knock out all of my content creation for my blog, email list, and social media in one time block.
I also write down my daily to-do list in my planner every day. I find it easier when I’m working to have an actual pen and paper planner in front of me. To see which planner I use, visit my blog post where I compare the best planners of 2019.
Here’s what the calendar looks like with my to-do list added:
Account for “In Between” Time
Make sure you aren’t scheduling tasks for every minute of every day. That’s just not realistic! This is in-between time is especially important if you’re traveling from one location to another! I schedule a half hour of buffer time before and after work to account for my daily commute.
In-between also refers to breaks in between time blocks and the time it takes you to transition from one task to the next.
Finally, make sure to schedule free time. Sometimes we forget this surprisingly obvious piece in our schedules, and then we eventually reach burn-out. For me free includes reading, watching TV, and spending time with my significant other.
Here’s what the final calendar looks like after accounting for in-between time and free time:
Related Article: How to Stop Overplanning and Start Doing
Stay Committed to Your Schedule
Time blocking only actually works if you stay committed to your schedule. You wouldn’t blow off an appointment with anyone else, and you need to learn to show that same level of respect to yourself. Treat a commitment to yourself just as seriously as you would a commitment to anyone else.
This is important for a number of reasons. First of all, you’ll obviously only finish your scheduled tasks if you actually commit the time to work on them.
But more than that, it’s about the precedent you set for yourself. Once you start breaking commitments to yourself, you’re more likely to do so again and again.
But by sticking to your schedule, you’re proving to yourself that you are someone who honors commitments to yourself.
Time management is just one of those things where you can never master it completely. You’ll always have unproductive days or weeks where you just don’t get through your to-do list.
But for me, time blocking has made a huge difference in making sure I get everything crossed off my life most of the time.
If you haven’t found the perfect time management strategy for you yet, definitely give time blocking a try! And if you have any questions about my schedule or time blocking in general, don’t hesitate to leave a comment or shoot me a message.