Time Block Basics to Boost Your Productivity

We are all given the same 24 hours each day.   It’s not how much time you have, it’s how you use it.

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We are all given the same 24 hours each day.   It’s not how much time you have, it’s how you use it.

Let that sink in for a minute.

Do you ever find yourself saying things like “I just don’t have time to….” or “I wish I had more time so I could….”  or “How do you have so much time?” You’re not the only one. I’m right there with you. Or at least I was. 

We all have so much going on in this busy life of ours.  We are trying to do ‘all the things’ and put the expectation on ourselves that we are supposed to be able to do them all.  Perfectly. No wonder we wish we had more time!!

Let’s revisit the statement from the beginning of the post. 

We are all given the same 24 hours each day. It’s not how much time you have, it’s how you use it.

When I heard this for the first time a few years ago, it was a total lightbulb moment for me.  I always had the mindset of, “Why does she have more time than I do?”. After hearing this statement and really thinking, it sank in.   “She” doesn’t have more time than me, “she” just uses it differently than me! 

Thinking about it this way, totally put the responsibility back on me and I was then left saying, “How can I be like her?”.  And my search for better productivity began.


I’ve listened to countless podcasts, taken courses, read blogs, and listened to audiobooks (oh so many!)  in the search of how I can be like “her”. Through all of my research and trying things out, I have increasingly become more productive with my time.  Now, am I perfect? No. Am I a productivity master? Not yet! I have, however, learned and implemented many strategies to be more focused in what I do and I want to share it with you!  

In this post I want to share one strategy that has been really helpful answering my “How can I be like her?” question.  It has enabled me to be more efficient with my time and allowed me to focus on what needs to get done; time blocking.

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time blocking - The definition

Time blocking is setting blocks of time in your day/on your calendar to focus on certain tasks.   These blocks give you uninterrupted intentional focus for each task which in turn allows you to get more done is less time.  

For Example:  

Rather than saying, I’m going to pay bills tomorrow, I have to go to Target and Costco this week, and I have 3 phone calls to make, you would instead go to your calendar,  decide specifically when you are going to these tasks then block the amount of time it will take to do them.  

Pay bills Monday from 9:00am-10:00am., Errands to Target and Costco Tuesday from 11:00am-2:00pm, etc.

In the image below, you can see what time blocking looks like on a calendar.  This particular image is my personal Google Calendar. I use colors for different block categories to visually see at a glance what is happening and what I need to do.


Why Should You Use Time Blocking?

“Does creating a bunch of colored blocks on my calendar really make me more productive?” you might ask. Why, yes!! At a glance, time blocking may seem like more time than what it’s worth or a way to make your calendar look Pinterest worthy, but here’s what it can do for you.

  1. Increase Focus

  2. Provide Visual Time Availability

  3. Boost Productivity

  4. Reduce context switching

When you use the time blocking strategy, you are segmenting your time and assigning it to specific tasks.  In doing this, you create dedicated time to get each of your tasks complete allowing you to focus more on each task.   In addition, the blocks give you the ability to visualize how much time you have in the day to accomplish everything you want to get done.  A visual roadmap if you will.

See that white space in the calendar image?  That is time I can fill in with the tasks I need to get done that week.  As you can see, the blocks show a realistic representation of the time you have available to accomplish your tasks.  Hello productivity boost!

Multitasking and context switching are huge time suckers.  Time blocking increases your productivity because you are focusing on one thing at a time.  

Let’s talk about context switching for a moment. Did you know that context switching can eat up to 80% of your productive time?! (Gerald Weinberg)


According to Gloria Mark (a researcher from the Department of Informatics University of California), “the average knowledge worker switches tasks every three minutes, and, once distracted, a worker can take nearly a half-hour to resume the original task”.  Crazy, right?! (How much time do you think this mama is spending?)

Here is a neat exercise for you to play with to see how multitasking and context switching can cost you a ton of time.  It’s a modified version of Dave Crenshaw’s exercise called “The Myth of Multitasking Exercise”. https://davecrenshaw.com/multitasking-example/

 The Exercise

 Grab some paper and pen and write the following 3 exercises (timing each one) noting your finish times of each.

  1. Time yourself on how long it takes you to write the phrase “Multitasking is worse than a lie.”  Note your finish time.

  2. Time yourself on how long it takes you to write down the numbers 1 through 27.  Note your finish time.

  3. Now do the exercise again but with combining the two.   For every letter that you write from the phrase “Multitasking is worse than a lie.”, you’re going to write a number after it.  Example: M1U2L3 etc… Note your finish time.


So, how did you do?  Did it take you a lot longer to do the third exercise than the first two?  Hopefully this was a fun way to visualize why time blocking can be such a game changer with your productivity.  


Time Block Basics

You now know that focusing on one task at a time will allow you to accomplish more in less time.  Time blocking is a way to help you do just that. Here are some helpful tips to get you on your way to blocking your time and being more productive.

Time Block Basic Tip #1 - Have A Planning Session

Use my Time & Calendar Planning Guide to get your calendar in order first. You can read more about how to plan your calendar here and grab the guide here. These will give you the tools you need to plan your calendar as a foundation for your weekly time blocking.

Yes, you need to plan to create a plan!

Use the bonus Time Blocking template to map out your blocks. You can print a new template each week or laminate one and reuse it using dry erase markers.  Download it here if you haven’t yet.

Time Block Basic Tip #2 - Establish Block Categories

Establish your blocks by considering the following criteria:  

  1. Things you want to accomplish each day of the week

  2. Things you do on a consistent basis (everyday/every week) such as grocery shopping, working out, etc.

  3. Set hours.  Times that are predetermined such as soccer practice, physical therapy, school pick up, sleep, etc.

  4. Morning Routine

  5. Evening Routine

Assign the items considered above to segmented blocks on your Time Blocking Template.   While doing this you will notice categories beginning to form such as errands and appointments, drive time, etc. Once you’ve done so, you can continue to create other categories for tasks such as home office time (when you would get your bills paid, phone calls made, etc.), volunteering, self care, etc.

Time Block Basic Tip #3 - Utilize Color

Using color to delineate categories will allow for easy visual reference.  It’s a great way to see at a glance who the task belongs to or what the task type it.

Time Block Basic Tip #4 - Non Negotiables Come First

Mark down and block everything that is non negotiable and predetermined first.  These tasks are going to (or have to) happen no matter what, so it’s best to set aside the time to do them before anything else. Once you have all of these in place, you will then be able to see what time is left for varying tasks. Fill in accordingly. 

Time Block Basic Tip #5 - Time Consideration

Give consideration to how long a task will take and make allowance for that time. 

You can say, “I’m going to make 3 phone calls this afternoon.” and mark it down for 3:00pm, but if the proper amount of time isn’t allocated for the calls, they won’t be completed and you’ll find yourself with more on your To Do list without the time to tackle it.

If it takes you 20 minutes to drive to the grocery store, build in 40 minutes of drive time in addition to the hour you will spend at the store.

Time Block Basic Tip #6 - Do Hard Tasks When You Are Productive

Schedule your hardest tasks when you are most productive during the day.

Everyone has times during the day where they are more alert and productive. Some are morning people where they can get way more done with their morning coffee while others may have more energy in the afternoon or evening.

If you have tasks that you want to avoid but they need to get done, it is best to schedule them during your “up” time to give you an extra boost.

Time Block Basic Tip #7 - Consistent Review

Time block for the week (or longer) and review each day. 

Consistency is key. By reviewing your calendar each day, you will be intentional with your tasks rather than reacting to them. Set aside time each day to give a quick review of what is coming the next day. In fact, you can time block it!


Hang in there and be consistent

Once you begin to use this strategy on a regular basis, it will come more naturally to you and become habit. Hang in there. Use the planning guide I’ve created for you and be consistent with your planning and reviews. You’ve got this!

Happy Blocking!

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