Get productive: time blocking
Do you struggle to achieve productivity? If that’s you, perhaps you’re looking for a method to increase your output and be more in charge of achieving your priorities.
You might have heard of time blocking before – it’s the process of segmenting your day into defined blocks of time. In each block, you tackle a single task for a set period of time (for example, checking emails only 8-8.30am and 12-12.30pm, rather than throughout the day). The key to unlocking the productivity within this tool is prioritising which tasks should go in the scheduled blocks of time.
How to time block
If you fancy trying this productivity tool, here are our tips on how to use the technique.
Block your priorities
This is often the hardest part of time blocking – deciding what are your highest priorities. If everything needs to get done, then surely everything is a priority?
Fortunately, that’s not the case.
Take a few minutes and write out a brain dump of all the tasks that you need to complete. Next, rank all the jobs in order of importance. Importance could include the impact the job will make, whether it unlocks other tasks on the to-do list (for example, if you have to write a report that needs input from 5 other people, your most important task on that project is to request input from those people – without that step, you can’t unlock the ‘write report’ action), whether someone else is waiting on your input to start their task, etc.
Then, take your ranked list and block out the most important and urgent thing first thing in the morning, following on with your second priority, third, etc. If you don’t get to the tasks that ranked further down your list of importance, it is likely that these were neither important nor urgent and you can get to them tomorrow.
When are you most productive?
If COVID has brought one good thing, it has been increased flexibility for most of us in our working set up. Many of us are working hybrid or solely remotely still, which offers us the opportunity to focus our days around the times that we are naturally most productive.
Take the time to notice when in your usual working day you feel most alert, and when you get sluggish. Use the alert periods to take on work which is of most importance to you.
Theme your days
If you look down your to-do list, are there clear categories you can segment your work into? For example, writing content, meeting with people, website improvements, etc.
Instead of attempting to do 10 different things in one day, can you create theme days? Mondays you might focus on recruiting and Tuesdays are when you schedule all of your meetings.
This creates flow, prevents multitasking, and ensures that you have all of the tools and resources needed for that specific day.
Block out breaks and time off
It’s tempting to block out every hour of the day. But that’s actually counterproductive.
Aim for 10-20% of your day as unscheduled time, giving you the flexibility to adapt to changing circumstances or clear your head with a walk outside to boost your productivity if needed.
In each block, the topic you’ve chosen to work on is the only thing you’re focused on – no emails, phone calls, answering the door, or checking the company Slack channel.
Establish a system to let others know that you’re engaged in focused work – if you’re working from home, a note on the door you’re working in and an automatic email response letting people know when to expect a reply are both good places to start.
Use the blocking technique for life too
You can extend the time blocking technique to the rest of your life too, prioritising things like:
- Reflection and review time.
- Life admin.
- Personal development time.
- Self-care time, such as exercise, yoga, and meditation.
- Quality time with your friends and family.
- Me time to do whatever it is that makes you happy.
Method of tracking your blocks
If you choose to use this productivity method for the longer term, you’ll need a calendar system to lay out your days in blocks. This is entirely down to your preferences: I like to write out my day in blocks on a piece of paper, others like to organise their online calendar as blocks so they always have it with them, still others go for a paper diary.
Evolve your blocking method
As you use this method, over time you’ll get better at judging the length of time each type of task will need. Keep reviewing your progress and productivity and tweak your plan to reflect what you’ve learned.