A lot of people are working from home these days. And because of this, they’re facing unique challenges when it comes to structure and focus. I’m no stranger to these challenges—I’ve been a remote worker since 2010. For the past decade, I’ve been on the lookout for habits and routines that will help keep me organized and productive.
A few years ago I stumbled upon a technique called time blocking. And without question, it changed the way I work and quickly became the foundation of my daily structure. Below I’ll show you how I use time blocking to maximize my time and work at a high level every day.
What is time blocking?
Time blocking is a time management technique that allows you to be intentional about how you spend your time. It’s a strategy to organize and plan specific, actionable blocks of work throughout the day.
To get started, you simply need a list of your typical daily tasks and a digital calendar (I use Calendar from Apple). I’ve seen people time block with pencil and paper, but when you need to move things around (which is inevitable), it’s much easier to do so in a digital format. I highly recommend digital over analog here.
Now that you have your tasks and calendar in hand, the next step is to recognize and organize your routine.
Getting started with time blocking
Everyone has a morning routine. You wake up, brush your teeth, make coffee, take the dog out, maybe you meditate or exercise. If you’re not paying attention, you might not notice how much time these mundane rituals take up.
Time blocking helps you become more aware of your time and how you spend it. For instance, on my calendar, I classify the 30 minutes it takes me to get going in the morning as my “Wake up routine”.
Other things are more obvious in the time they take away from your day. Calls, meetings, email, appointments, writing, coding, designing, social media, workouts, and a slew of other daily must-dos. When you’re time blocking, you’ll need to account for each of these activities on your calendar.
Say you like to check emails in the morning and evening. Schedule a 30-minute time slot at 9:00 AM and 5:30 PM to go through your inbox. If you like to exercise after lunch, block in 45 minutes at 1:00 PM to get your steps in for the day.
Time blocking only works when everything you do on a daily basis has a spot on your calendar. Here’s what my calendar looks like at the moment.
I’ve created separate calendars for the main blocks that make up my day. My calendars include Wake up routine, Workout, Email, SEO/Writing, Website, Lunch, Newsletter, Outreach, Calls & 1:1s, Strategy & Planning, and Family Time.
The times I’ve chosen to do these tasks might seem random at first glance. But they’re actually intentional. Over the past few years, I learned to hone in on performance and schedule certain tasks at certain times.
I like to do my creative work in the morning after my work out, as I feel the most alert and mentally available. I do my strategic planning at the end of the day when I can look back over the day’s accomplishments and plan for the future.
One thing to note here—the time I’ve allotted for each task is dependent on my current workload. The duration of each block can (and likely will) change as priorities shift. For instance, when I’m working on launching a new web initiative, that will likely take priority over outreach or writing. I simply move things around and update my time blocks to account for the change.
Time blocking is better when you can batch tasks
One time blocking hack I find particularly useful is batching similar tasks. If you’ve have a calendar block for “things outside the office”, try to group those individual tasks so you’re efficient with your time.
Grab gas on your way to the coffee shop. Hit up the grocery store after you get your haircut. Mail that letter before grabbing a bite to eat. These are simple examples, but with a little planning, you can be a lot more efficient with your time and save yourself a few trips.
When you batch creative tasks, you have a better chance of high output because your brain is already primed for creative flow state.
Another place batching is particularly helpful is if you need some ramp-up time to perform a particular type of task. We all have the one thing on our calendar we’re dreading. When you batch tasks, you can schedule a few quick wins before you have to spend some hard time on a cumbersome chore.
Finally, batching helps when doing creative tasks like writing, designing, or coding. It’s hard enough finding the focus and attention to produce your best work each day. But when you batch these types of tasks, you have a better chance of high output because your brain is already primed for creative flow state. This will be a game-changer for you, trust me.
Before time blocking, my day would consist of jumping from one task to another on my to-do list without much thought or preparation. I called it “juggle-tasking”.
Now I know that each day I’ll have a prioritized chunk of time to move through my task list and do deep work. And since my tasks are on my calendar, I treat them like appointments and feel an obligation to follow through. It’s a subtle mindset shift, but it works for me and has changed the way I approach my daily work for the better.
I hope you give time blocking a try. If you do, hit me up on Twitter and let me know if it helps your productivity. To your success!