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Published on July 22, 2020

Time Blocking for Productivity (A Complete Guide)

Time Blocking for Productivity (A Complete Guide)

Time is our most precious resource, especially when trying to achieve our professional goals. But most of us are bad at managing our time—or at the very least, we could be better.

Fortunately, there are potential solutions. Time blocking is a strategy that forces us to think more critically about the time we spend and how we’re spending it, and if harnessed properly, it can greatly improve your productivity—both within and outside of your professional life.

Time Blocking: The Basics

Time blocking is a strategy in which you’ll break your time down into discrete “blocks” or set increments wherein you’ll accomplish specific tasks.

For example, in an 8-hour day, you might work with 16 30-minute time blocks, assigning tasks like “email catch-up,” “daily meeting,” or “project B” to each 30-minute block.

Here’s how to be successful with time blocking:

1. Understand the Philosophy Behind Time Blocking

First, understand why time blocking is so popular (despite so many other time management strategies in use). The task of time blocking is relatively simple, but the thinking behind it is more multifaceted.

Time blocking helps you achieve several goals simultaneously. It helps you treat your time like a resource, budgeting it the same way you would your income. It helps you track your time and identify sources of waste.

It forces you to dedicate your attention to concrete intervals and therefore, helps you prioritize. It also gives you a consistent system you can apply to any task.

2. Commit to Single-Tasking

The science has been clear for decades now: multitasking simply doesn’t work.[1] No matter how good you think you are at multitasking, chances are, you’d be much better off focusing on one task at a time.

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In fact, studies have shown that multitasking reduces productivity by 40%.[2] Time blocking forces you to do this if you’re implementing it properly.

For a given time block, set one (and only one) task; for example, during your 30-minute “finish sales proposal” task, don’t allow yourself to get distracted by emails, phone calls, or other unrelated tasks. This change alone can make a massive difference in your productivity.

3. Decide on Your Chosen Increments

So far, we’ve used the example of a 30-minute time block, but this isn’t a requirement. Time blocking can work no matter what kind of increments you’re working with. In fact, billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk is notorious for his ability to block his days down to 5-minute intervals.[3]

Different people function well in different systems, so consider your options carefully; smaller time intervals allow you to be more precise and controlling with your schedule, but they can also be more stressful to manage. If you’re not sure, start with something broader, like 45-minute or 1-hour intervals.

4. Decide Which Parts of Your Day to Time Block

You don’t have to block out your entire day, especially if you’re just starting out, so think about which times of your day you’d like to block off.

For most newcomers, this means blocking out the “core” of your day—something like 10 am to 4 pm—after your morning routine is over, but before your daily wrap-up. For more advanced time blockers, it’s better to block your entire day, from start to finish—even your personal life.

5. Choose the Right Documentation Strategy

Even if you have a photographic memory, you’ll find it hard to keep your time blocking schedule clear in your head. Instead, you’ll need to rely on some kind of documentation system.

The exact system isn’t important, so long as it works well for you. A good calendar app should be able to help you block off your time in regular intervals and set alarms so you know when one time period is up.

But if you’re old fashioned, you may use a written planner or even a series of sticky notes to help you keep track of your day. In any case, some kind of automated timer is a good way to keep yourself aware of time’s passing.

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6. Provide Yourself a Buffer

Before and after each block of time, give yourself a small buffer. For example, if you’re working with 30-minute blocks, give yourself 5 additional minutes to serve as empty space between tasks. If you want to keep your schedule tidy, work for 25 minutes, and leave 5 minutes to spare.

This will help you finish tasks that don’t fit neatly into your original time blocking plans since most incoming work isn’t so naturally organized.

7. Block Time for Warmups and Cooldowns

If you’re like most people, you don’t begin the workday at peak productivity. It takes you time to start up your devices, get coffee, read emails, and just “settle in” overall. At the end of the day, you’ll be interested in finishing things up and preparing to leave.

Don’t be too harsh with blocking these time periods; instead, treat them as a unique, open-ended block. For example, you can block most of your day in 15-minute intervals, but leave yourself a 1-hour “warmup” and 30-minute “cooldown.”

8. Block Time for “Deep” Tasks

Deep tasks are tasks that require your total focus or tasks that serve as major projects rather than individual, small responsibilities. They should be blocked in a way that allows you to focus on them exclusively; any block assigned to a deep task should include no other tasks or allowances. Even so, a single block may not be enough; don’t hesitate to assign multiple blocks to the same deep task.

9. Block Time for “Shallow” Tasks

Blocking shallow tasks works a little differently. Shallow tasks are tasks that don’t require much time or attention, and they tend to accumulate throughout the day. You won’t need a full block to work on any single shallow task, so instead, consider blocking shallow tasks in groups.

For example, you could dedicate a block for checking “email, social media, and project management platforms,” or “catching up on communications.”

10. Block Time for “Reactive” tasks

Reactive tasks are informal tasks that are hard to predict and even harder to prioritize. They often come in the form of interaction.

For example, you may need to manage an ongoing dialogue with your employees to coordinate work on a specific project. Again, you’ll want to consolidate these tasks in a block for the entire category.

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11. Block Time for Breaks

In a strategy that’s all about productivity, it’s easy to lose sight of the importance of breaks. But you’ll need to block time for breaks the same way you would any other task—or else you’ll run the risk of burnout.[4] This includes not just lunch, but also smaller breaks throughout the day.

Small interval time blocking, like intervals of 10 or 15 minutes, works best here. If you’re working with 30-minute blocks, consider hybridizing individual blocks with both breaks and work.

12. Create a Replicable Formula

After you’ve blocked time for a few shifts, try to create a template you can use for all your future time blocking needs. Assign blocks for all your predictable, routine tasks, then leave room in the rest of your schedule for less predictable priorities or those that are determined on a per-day basis.

13. Be Prepared to Estimate Poorly (at First)

Most people are terrible at naturally tracking their own time and even worse at estimating how long tasks take.

When you write out your first draft for time blocking, be prepared to feel embarrassed at how wrong you were about the true length of even your most common tasks. To compensate for this, try to overestimate the time it takes to do a given task, giving it more block space than you think it needs. This may interfere with your productivity slightly the first few days you try it, but once you get a feel for how long each type of task takes, you can gauge your time blocking much more accurately.

Better yet, use a time tracking app to get an accurate calculation of how long you actually spend on routine tasks so you can improve your estimates and cut down on the learning curve!

14. Notify Others That You’re Time Blocking

Give a heads-up to your bosses, coworkers, and partners that you’re going to be time blocking. When you start blocking time, your habits are going to change.

You might take longer to respond to certain emails, you might be more cutthroat when it comes to meeting timing, and you’ll almost certainly be more regimented in how you work throughout the day. People will be far more understanding if they know the reason why.

15. Schedule a “Catch up” Day

Even with time blocking, things will slip through the cracks. You’ll miss a handful of tasks, or you’ll need another hour or two to finish up that important project.

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To avoid stressing yourself out, fitting the remaining tasks into block form, simply give yourself a free catch-up day that’s at least somewhat block-free. It’s beneficial to give yourself the extra flexibility as you finish your priorities.

16. Be Prepared to Revise Your Approach

Studies suggest the “best” time blocking strategy for an average person is working for 52 minutes, then breaking for 17.[5] But this won’t necessarily work for you. Everyone has unique preferences and working styles, which will be more conducive to alternate time structures.

Some people need longer, less frequent breaks, while others need shorter, more frequent ones. Be ready to revise your approach as you learn more about yourself.

17. Expand Time Blocking to Other Areas of Your Life (If It Works for You)

Spend a few weeks blocking time in your professional life and evaluate how it works for you.

Does it seem to be making you more productive? Does it make you feel more stressed?

If time blocking makes you more productive and doesn’t increase your stress, consider applying it to other areas of your life. Block out time for home chores and socializing the same way you do with projects and tasks at works.

However, if blocking time is too regimented or simply isn’t effective for you, don’t be afraid to keep it restricted to work, or abandon it entirely.

Conclusion

Time blocking isn’t the right strategy for every professional or every situation, but if considered and executed properly, it can save you a ton of time—and directly boost your productivity.

Use it to get a better understanding of how you’re spending time throughout the day, improve your focus, and effectively prioritize simultaneously.

More Tips for Better Time Management

Featured photo credit: Emma Matthews Digital Content Production via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Jayson DeMers

Entrepreneur and Productivity Expert

How to Stay on Task And Be Laser Focused 13 Visualization Techniques to Help You Reach Your Goals Time Blocking for Productivity (A Complete Guide) Why Am I Lazy? 15 Ways to Stop Being Lazy and Unmotivated How to Be Committed to Your Goals Even During Hard Times

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Last Updated on October 5, 2020

10 Best Calendar Apps to Stay on Track in 2020

10 Best Calendar Apps to Stay on Track in 2020

The success of our day is largely dependent on the quality of our planning. Not to miss out anything in their to-dos, some people prefer to make a list of upcoming tasks in a notebook, while others have long started using digital technology solutions.

Calendar applications are some of the main tools that are worth using to organize our life and plan your time carefully.

Many people have switched to specific tools; however, there are still some who do not use calendars on a daily basis. They may find some applications uncomfortable to use, non-functional, or expensive.

In this article, we are going to check out the best calendars apps to help you stay organized.

Before You Download

As you are no doubt aware, there are all kinds of calendar apps available. Instead of you sifting through the hundreds of them, we’ve handpicked 10 of the best calendar apps you can get. On top of glowing reviews from each one, we’ve considered the following aspects when creating this list:

  • User Interface – How you navigate the app should be smooth and simple. The buttons on the app should be clear, obvious and easy to move through.
  • Synchronization – Whether it’s with other calendar apps or with other apps, syncing apps should be easy and enhance your overall experience with the app.
  • Additional features – Since there are so many options for calendars, many of these apps offer additional features. These features make the apps stand out from the other apps and provide unique experiences to you.

1. Any.do Calendar

    This calendar has direct integration with Any.Do To-Do List, which gives you a unique tandem of two applications.

    Apart from its extended functionality, Cal Calendar is easy to use. The creation of events is very simple and fast.

    What is more, depending on the name of the event, the application automatically adds contacts and geolocation data to the entry description. You can even import your lists and entries from Any.do.

    Any.do Calendar is a great option for any type of user. It is very convenient and doesn’t overcomplicate the mode of display.

    Another good thing is that this tool is available for free, so you can use it without spending a dime for the software.

    Download Any.do Calendar here!

    2. Google Calendar

      Google Calendar is the official calendar for Android devices that has been tested out by many users around the globe. If you are right now trying to get away from it, consider changing your mind.

      Since this application is installed on most Android devices by default, many users think that there is nothing special in this program. They are wrong.

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      Google has been updating its calendar for quite a few years, and now it comes in Material Design with advanced event features, direct integration into other Google services (for example, supports reminders and Google Now), and comes with Exchange support.

      The program is super easy and will not cost a dime for you. It is a good thing, right?

      Download Google Calendar here.

      3. IRL Event Social Network

         

        One of the most unique apps on this list is the IRL Event Social Network app. As you can guess from the name, the core focus of this app is social networking. Unlike other social media platforms, you can consider this platform to function similar to Meetup.com. It’s a site where you can connect with other people within your area that share a similar interest.

        IRL is that while also providing a convenient calendar for you to schedule events and plan out your day. Though due to it being a secondary focus, you’re lacking a lot of the syncing aspects that other apps have on this list. Regardless, because of this huge social feature, it’s worth considering for those who want to make more connections.

        Download IRL Event Social Network here.

        4. Business Calendar

          Business Calendar is geared towards people who use their calendar for work purposes and business task planning. It offers different modes with wide configuration capabilities.

          The application gives a default view mode by months, and events can be marked in different colors. Display modes/ sorting can be adjusted to your needs (by month, day, year, or events).

          You can also set a multi-day viewing mode to see how things look for the next few days. Scrolling up and down moves you by month, and if you check a few days, they will be shown in a more detailed form.

          The day display mode offers hourly scheduling, and the schedule mode provides a detailed schedule for a single event.

          Business Calendar is a great tool for planning/ scheduling cases, tasks, and events. There is a support for recurring events, which can be set up in just a few clicks.

          Having purchased software, you can use it to import and export other calendars, delete, copy, or move several events at the same time.

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          Android Business Calendar application may seem somewhat chaotic, but it works fine and is easy to work with if you play with it for a while.

          A full version of the application is available for $4.99, but you can also find a free version for the app test drive.

          Download Business Calendar here.

          5. Calendar

            Calendar is a relatively new app. It works as a web app and for both iOS and Android devices. It is an intelligent app that learns your contacts, schedule and tasks. It also helps you schedule and arrange meetings according to your available time slots.

            A good thing about Calendar is that it allows you to sync up with other calendars you use such as Apple Calendar and Google Calendar. And so you can manage all the calendars you have in one place.

            Calendar also gives you analytics of your meetings, giving you a clear picture on how you can improve your time management.

            Download Calendar: Meeting & Scheduling here.

            6. aCalendar

              aCalendar opens our collection of top 10 calendar applications available on the market today. With its appealing design, easy navigation, and great functionality, it is one of the most popular calendar apps in our list.

              Some of extra functions include color schemes for each case type (48 colors to choose from), different types of demonstrations, different widgets, moon phases, and much more.

              Taking into account it functionality, aCalendar is a reliable calendar application that has an easy-to-navigate interface with three display options. Scrolling from side to side allows you to switch between the display modes of the month, week and day.

              When scrolling down and up, you are moving through the calendar at intervals in accordance with the selected display mode.

              Apart from its time planning feature, aCalendar synchronizes photos from contact lists or social networks to remind you about birthdays, anniversaries, or any other special dates.

              The program also supports data transfer through NFC and full-screen widgets, which eases your work with any data.

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              The program is available for free, but you can also get even more features if you buy the extended version of software for $4.99.

              Download aCalendar here.

              7. DigiCal Calendar

                DigiCal Calendar is very similar to Cal Calendar in the fact that the application focuses on design more than on its functionality. However, this doesn’t mean that the application doesn’t serve the purpose.

                With this calendar application, you can synchronize all your calendars and view them in different ways.

                Along with the basic functions, this program comes with support for Google Calendar, Outlook, and includes some unique and interesting features. You can match keywords to the image or set up a dark theme.

                The app can even show you the weather forecast for three days. There are many other features that deserve the attention of people who really like to use calendar applications.

                Download DigiCal Calendar here.

                8. SolCalendar

                  SolCalendar can be called a universal application. It claims to be an all-in-one digital solution having a basic calendar functionality combined with some other advanced features, such as weather forecast for a specific day.

                  The application supports Google Calendar, as well as tasks, widgets, lunar calendar and even Foursquare.

                  Those searching for a calendar application to cover just everything in its functionality, SolCalendar is a program to consider. There are a lot of interesting things in this application; the program does an excellent job working in “all-in-one” mode.

                  Test SolCalendar – the application is available for free. You can test it out without purchasing the service.

                  Download SolCalendar here.

                  9. Today Calendar

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                    Today Calendar is one of the most hip and edgy calendars in our list. The solution was one of the first ones that really embraced Material Design and remains one of the few that adhere to the neat style.

                    The calendar application offers bold colors, simple controls, and great functionality. This is not as heavy an application as many others; it will not eat all the memory of your device.

                    If you are not searching for something complicated and over-functional, Today Calendar is what you need. You can always test the application before paying for it – the program is available for free.

                    Download Today Calendar here.

                    10. Timepage

                      Timepage is an intuitive calendar app that will manage your time in a way that other calendar apps can’t. It offers the same sort of functions that you’d expect from other calendar apps: opportunities to record events, notifications and reminders, weather, and driving duration to a particular event. However, the app goes beyond those functionalities in two ways.

                      The first way is that while the app sends you notifications, it also has reminders for you for what is coming up next. That bit of extra time can allow you to prepare and make adjustments to your day if need be.

                      The second function – which is more important – is the heat map when you go to see the full view of your calendar. This heat map indicates what days you are most busy and other days where you are freer. This heat map provides a quick glance to determine broadly what days are good to add more events and other tasks.

                      Download Timepage here.

                      Our Verdict

                      Searching for the right application to manage your various calendars and plan your busy day can sometimes turn into a streak of obstacles.

                      Most of us need flexible applications that can be easily used to manage our tough schedule. The application should have all necessary time planning functions and be intuitive.

                      Stylish design and limitless compatibility also matter. It is not always easy to find such a program.

                      The above digital calendar solutions fall under the category “worth” of being used. They are modern, multifunctional, easy, and easy. Pick the one you like!

                      More Productivity Apps for Better Time Management

                      Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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