If you aim to find a way to manage your tasks better and improve your overall productivity, you've come to the right place. In this article, we'll cover what time blocking is, its variations, how to implement it in your daily life, why it's so effective, and more.
There are ten frequently asked questions related to time blocking — a simple but yet powerful time management technique used by highly productive professionals like Elon Musk, Cal Newport, and Nir Eyal.
Time blocking will not be a secret any longer. Let’s dive in!
Time blocking consists of planning your week by blocking time for your tasks in your calendar. As opposed to a traditional to-do list, time blocking is the action of securing a specific day and time to work on specific tasks and ensuring their completion.
In other words, time blocking is about splitting each day into blocks of time. And each block is dedicated to accomplishing a specific single task.
Here is an example of a day planned according to the time blocking technique:
You may have encountered other types of time blocking. Here are the most common expressions with their own twist:
📅 Calendar Blocking: It’s a synonym and it’s basically the same method as time blocking, as defined above.
📚 Task Batching: It consists of grouping tasks of the same context together. For example, you plan to respond to your emails twice a day, from 8-9 a.m. and 2-3 p.m. This way, you avoid context switching and spend your entire attention on your emails during this block of time only.
⏰ Timeboxing: Very similar to time blocking but with a slight difference. Here, you block time to work on a task, and you challenge yourself to complete it within that time frame. It may sound strict (or competitive), but it actually forces you to remain ultra-focused during that self-imposed time.
For example, say you’ve blocked two hours in your calendar to finish and send that report to your client before the weekend. It’s a way of holding yourself accountable for final completion and for meeting a deadline.
🗒 Day Theming: Comparable to task batching, day theming consists of focusing on one single area of tasks each day. Depending on your profession, this may or may not be applicable. Below is an example of someone’s schedule who is in a marketing role. A Monday-Friday schedule could look like:
Time blocking is the right technique for you if:
You aim to improve your overall productivity and prioritizing.
You come to the realization that multi-tasking does not help you achieve more.
You live with ADHD and struggle with time management.
Your weekly schedule is often stormed by back-to-back meetings and you can’t find the time to work on your tasks.You tend to panic at the sight of your endless to-do list each Monday morning.
You get frustrated with your uncompleted to-do list each Friday afternoon.
You already use productivity tools on a daily basis, but they do not seem to have improved your productivity.
You are often overwhelmed and feel like you do not have ownership of your own time and schedule.
Let’s list out the main benefits of time blocking in three categories:
It gives you clear visibility of your workload.
If you’re a visual person and want to see an overview of your week, you will adapt to time blocking right away. The calendar is the primary tool of time blocking (more of that later on) all your commitments live in your calendar. Having clear visibility of your schedule also helps you distribute your tasks in a more realistic and achievable way.
It protects your time from others.
Another benefit of time blocking is that you take ownership of your time. By securing time in your calendar for your tasks, you make this time yours. Pro-tip: Share your calendar with others so they’ll see what your schedule is like. For instance, by blocking two hours each morning for a task named “Focus Mode: Writing,” you make it clear that this time should be exempted from team or client meetings.
It helps you get better at planning.
With practice, time blocking will make you better at planning and evaluating your productivity pace. Soon you’ll realize how much you can actually accomplish in an hour, a day, or a week. When you fall into the to-do list trap, you tend to add dozens of tasks one after the other. Way too often, this is unrealistic and overwhelming! With time blocking though, you learn about your pace, focus ability, and capacity for accomplishment.
If you’re completely new to time blocking, you can start to implement the method a few hours a day, or a couple of days a week, and for certain tasks only. For instance, start by blocking time in your calendar in the mornings only, and for tasks that you qualify as “Urgent’. Then, evaluate how this rhythm goes for you, and adapt accordingly to your needs and comfort.
Once you progress in your time blocking journey, you should be able to fully organize your schedule. Here are a few tips to time block every day and make it part of your daily routine:
Prioritize your tasks: Tag your tasks as Not urgent, Urgent, Very urgent, and go from there. You may want to bring your entire focus to the important tasks first and work on the non-urgent ones toward the end of the week.
Identify your productivity peak: This is different for everyone. Maybe it's first thing in the morning for a couple of hours, maybe it’s the first three days of the week. Allocate time for the most demanding tasks when you feel the most efficient.
Observe the repetition and create habits: We all have recurring tasks. For example, a client report to share each week, a spreadsheet to update daily, etc. Once these tasks have been identified, create recurrences in your calendar.
Here are the three common mistakes to be aware of when you start implementing the time blocking technique:
Under-estimating time: At first, we tend to allocate not enough time for a task from start to finish. Be quite generous at the beginning and over time, with practice, you’ll become more accurate with your planning. It’s better to secure too much time at first than not enough.
No breathing space: It's always better if your schedule does not look like a series of back-to-back tasks and events. Be honest and realistic with the tone you want to give your day. Even to the busiest professionals out there: Try and give yourself five-minute breaks between each long task or meeting. Five minutes are enough to make a coffee, stretch, or relax before the next obligation.
Lacking flexibility: Time blocking is by no means some kind of a calendar prison. Certainly, it gives you a frame, a roadmap to follow, but be prepared to get out of it — when necessary.
Unexpected events will consistently challenge your initial schedule. An important meeting gets canceled, a client presentation is now due two days earlier than expected, new requirements have been requested. Because personal and professional lives are in constant flux, your original plan will have to be adapted accordingly.
Good news: Everyone!
Time blocking is quite easy to implement. If you wish to get better at time and task management in your personal and/or professional life, you can benefit from it. Whether you are a 24/7 busy CEO, an engineer remote-worker, a stay-at-home dad, a Ph.D. student, or a brand-new business owner, the time blocking technique can guide you.
If you’re more of a pen and paper type of person, I invite you to download and print your preferred version of our time blocking template.
Otherwise, I recommend you to start right away with a digital version of it. All you need to start with is your calendar. I personally use Google Calendar, both for work and personal use. Simply create blocks of time in your calendar where time is available, make recurrences when relevant, and make sure you give yourself enough breathing space between your tasks and events.
If possible, share your calendar with the people you interact with the most, so that they’ll know when you are available for them or not.
With the productivity and time management market growing fast, you’ll start seeing time blocking apps flourishing, some offering different types of plans, and some others that are completely free, like our app KosmoTime.
Admittedly, it's not entirely objective coming from me, but I do claim KosmoTime as the best time blocking app on the market.
If you wonder why, I invite you to read Why You Need A Time Blocking App In Your Life.
KosmoTime is by far the best time blocking app because you can benefit from powerful features … for free! With it, you can:
Create tasks and schedule them directly in your calendar
Sync as many Google and Outlook calendars as you need
Mute all distractions so you can focus on your work and find your state of flow
Track time and consult Time Reports whenever you need.
Integrate with Asana and Slack
If you’d like to give KosmoTime a try, follow the steps here and let us know on Friends of Kosmo — our dedicated Slack channel — how your time blocking journey with us is going.
Here are three categories of features that can make your time blocking experience even more powerful:
Focus Features that help you find and keep your focus are a big plus. It’s one thing to block time for a task, and it’s another to be able to maintain concentration during this time. Nowadays, as we’re constantly being distracted by social media, news, and all sorts of notifications, it is a challenge to find the zone and stay in it. That is why it was fundamental at KosmoTime to offer the Mute Mode to our users: Once toggled on, it blocks Slack notifications and new tabs (or tabs that are unrelated to the current task you’re working on).
As mentioned earlier, at the start of your time blocking journey, you may find it tricky to allocate the exact amount of time for a task. Therefore, a time tracker coupled with the ability to consult time reports is a huge help in the long run.
If you’re already a KosmoTime user, you must be familiar with the Time Reports section, in which you can review your previous sessions and filter by Project, Tag, and Period.
Collaboration That’s another point I wanted to stress: time blocking is certainly a personal way of working, but some bonus tools can make it an extraordinary way to improve your collaboration with others. If you use multiple calendars, you might want to be able for your colleagues, friends, and family to be aware of your availability before they book time with you. Recently, we implemented the possibility to connect and sync multiple Google and Outlook calendars within KosmoTime. Two major benefits: I can view all my calendars in a single place and consult my personal and work tasks/events at a glance. And, I don’t struggle anymore with the risk of forgetting a work or personal meeting, or of being double-booked.
Now that you know everything about time blocking, all you have to do is try it out and see the results for yourself. At first, blocking time for your tasks in your calendar may seem like a waste of time, but soon you’ll realize that’s how you take control back of your own schedule.