Complete Guide to Time Blocking & 3 Best Time Blocking Apps
Time blocking is a productivity technique that could change the way you live and work. Ready to supercharge your days? Read on for the best time blocking apps.
There are some staples of the productivity world that really help us as business owners reach the next level. Time blocking is a time management technique that many professionals use to great effect.
The principle involves dissecting your calendar day into chunks and allocating each chunk to a task or theme. It sounds simple, doesn’t it? It is simple in theory. But there are a few tricks and tips that can help you succeed in implementing time blocking into your life.
Here’s What We’ll Cover:
Who Is Time Blocking For?
Time blocking is perfect for you if:
- You work well with deadlines
- Your weekly tasks aren’t too changeable
- You work well with an online calendar app like Google calendar
- You have a lot of control over your weekly schedule
- You are quite disciplined when it comes to work
- You can batch certain work tasks together
- You have time tracked work for clients
The Benefits of Time Blocking
Time blocking works incredibly well for so many professionals. It helps to segment your day into sizable blocks of time so your to-do list is less overwhelming.
You can organize your time effectively when you know exactly what you’ll be doing minute by minute.
Time blocking helps you to be more realistic about what you can achieve on a given day. When you are forced to schedule in time for each task, you can be more confident that you’ll get things done. You can also make judgments of how long things will take.
Scheduling your time like this uses Parkinson’s Law. Coined by C. Northcote Parkinson in the 20th Century, this old scholar suggested that tasks will expand to fill the time you give them.
Have you ever had a task due in a week but rushed to finish it the night before?
Time blocking eliminates that procrastination, while still applying some time pressure.
Lastly, one of the best benefits for me when it comes to this time management technique is scheduling rest. As a clinical workaholic, I can often work for weeks in long stretches without meaningful breaks. Time blocking calendars force you to think logically or when you are going to fit in life stuff. Cooking, cleaning, shopping, family time - block in your non-negotiables just as you would for work tasks. Managing your time this way creates a better work-life balance.
The Drawbacks of Time Blocking
If your brain is even a little bit rebellious, time blocking can be tricky to implement. I didn’t get on with it at first because I struggled to stick to the given task for the allocated time block. Sometimes I had scheduled expenses when I felt more creative at that moment.
This isn’t a problem for more disciplined folks but for me, I had to take a broader view of each block.
Instead of allocating a specific task to a certain block, I would allocate a general theme.
For example, the specific task could be “do expenses for the previous month”. The theme could be “accounting”. Whatever tasks you decide to do during that time block is a success as long as it pertains to accounting. That could be expenses, or planning out your budget, or researching a new accountant because you’re outgrowing your old one.
For me, that has been the most efficient way to implement time blocking, rather than task to task.
Quick Guide to Time Blocking
So how do you set up your own time blocking calendar?
Step 1. Brain dump
There is nothing like writing out your entire to-do list to offload the task lists from your brain. Using a sheet of paper is better I find as it lets your brain run free. Get it all out! Include personal tasks too.
Step 2. Decide what needs to be done this week
Are you guilty of overloading your week with tasks? I certainly am. Be ruthless about exactly what is plausible for you to do during the week ahead.
Step 3. Decide on your time blocking format
This could be a paper diary, a time blocking app or simply Google Calendar. Whatever works best for you. The important thing is that you trust the system fully. If you don’t trust the system and use it to its full potential, it is pretty useless.
Step 4. Create blocks for your leisure time
Lunch breaks, family time, hobbies, chores. Create a block for each one before you input your work tasks.
Step 5. Schedule time for tasks
For time blocking to work, you need to break your week into chunks of time. These need to fit around your leisure time and scheduled meetings. If you like granular task management, then create a block per task. If you have a rebellious brain like mine, you may prefer to allocate a theme to each block. For example, every Saturday morning I do CEO organization for my business. That could be checking social media metrics, reviewing employee performance, creating paychecks etc.
Top 3 Time Blocking Apps
Before we dive into these task management apps, remember that you can use your regular calendar. Simply schedule your tasks as calendar events in your favorite calendar app. Apps for time blocking are helping to separate calendars and learn the technique of time blocking.
Plan - Best for simple time blocking
Available on: Web, iOS
If you are new to time blocking, Plan is the to-do list app for you. The simple interface is great because of its calendar integration. You can drag and drop your tasks around the calendar and it will sync back to Google Cal and Google Drive. After playing with it for a week, I find this would be best suited for solo use rather than team organization.
Fantastical - Best for experts
Available on: iOS, macOS
Fantastical is the perfect advanced time blocking app for productivity masters. The system is flexible and intuitive. You can set granular settings when you plug in each task. The drawback is that Fantastical has no integrations at all and it is only available on Apple devices.
Planyway - Best for teams
Available on: Web, Android, iOS
Planyway is a great project management app for teams. Not only can you set granular tasks, but you can also visualize the overall project timeline. You have the basic calendar feature but also a Gantt chart. Gantt charts are ideal for seeing your overall project progress that the whole team can access.
Time blocking is a wonderful productivity tool if it works for you and your style of working. It certainly isn’t for everyone. So the best thing to do to get started is to choose one of the free time blocking apps and try it out for a couple of weeks.
Has your productivity improved? Is task management with your team easier?
Finding the productivity technique for you is all about trial and error.
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