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Time-Blocking: The Ultimate Productivity Tool

"I do not accept unscheduled calls or meetings. My schedule is non-negotiable."

--A Paradise Company

Founder/CEO

Paradise Rodriguez-Bordeaux


 

timeblocking header

Time-blocking is a simple yet powerful technique for boosting productivity and managing time more effectively. This method involves dividing your day into blocks of time and dedicating each block to a specific task or activity. By scheduling your time in this way, you can focus on one thing at a time, avoid multitasking, and get more done in less time. In this article, we will discuss time-blocking techniques and how to enforce those boundaries for your mental health.


 

** PODCAST COMING SOON **


 

“Where your attention goes, your time goes” –

(Koyenikan, I. (2016)) 1


What is Time-Blocking?

Time management is the process of planning and organizing how much time you spend on different activities. It's a critical skill for anyone looking to achieve their goals, whether personal or professional; time blocking is one of the tools used in that management process. The time-blocking technique involves dividing your day into blocks of time and assigning specific tasks to each block. This technique has become increasingly popular in recent years, as people search for ways to increase their productivity and manage their time more effectively. The time-blocking method draws inspiration from the concept of "deep work," a term popularized by author Cal Newport in his book "Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World" (2016) 2 . In summary, Newport defines "deep work" as the state of profound concentration on a single task for extended periods, devoid of distractions. While time blocking is a tool that can help individuals get things done more effectively, it is not a one-size-fits-all magic wand. Its effectiveness depends on how and where it's used, making it especially useful in certain situations.


When you block off time for high-priority responsibilities, you gain control of your schedule and can work deliberately on what matters most. Time blocking allows you to minimize wasted time and make progress on long-term goals by establishing boundaries. For example, you might block off two hours each morning to work on a key project before addressing emails or meetings. Businesses can benefit from time blocking by setting a precedent for business etiquette and improving time management skills. Day theming is an efficient time-blocking method that can be effective for those with multiple areas of responsibility, as it helps leaders prioritize tasks and manage their time effectively. Standard work, such as emails or phone calls, requires less focused time blocking, while deep work should be scheduled for a few hours, but blocking an entire day for these tasks can be counterproductive.


"Overall, results suggest that time management enhances job performance, academic achievement, and wellbeing. "

Brad Aeon, 2021 (3)


Time blocking is also beneficial for your well-being. Research published in the National Library of Medicine (NIH) highlights how time management practices, such as time-blocking, can reduce stress levels by providing a structured approach to work (Brad Aeon, 2021) 4 . In essence, time-blocking allows you to harness your mental resources effectively, aligning with Newport's ideal of "deep work" to enhance productivity and efficiency. In my own language, as someone thriving through ASD, Time-Blocking helps me not "popcorn" all over my office.



business woman exhausted


Personal Experience: How Time-Blocking Keeps My Life Moving Forward

"Well, that was rude"...

Ooooh yes, I forgot I am obligated to be at every beck and call... -_- Not ever.


I am often asked, "How do you get so much done in a day and still have time for your personal life?" I always respond with, "I'm a strategist at my core, and so, I adjust accordingly in all areas of my life." One of the languages I use for this strategic adjustment is #TimeBlocking and maintaining firm boundaries around that; whether it's in personal or professional environments.


Essentially, I have specific schedules for... well, everything. I allocate a certain amount of time to effectively and efficiently manage those parts. For instance:

  • I do not accept walk-ins, whether it's a call or an in-person meeting. All unscheduled calls are often sent to voicemail, and they are encouraged to send an email to connect with me. From there, I decide if a call or a virtual or in-person meeting will be necessary.

  • No Agenda, No Attenda 😅.Once the meeting is scheduled, I require an agenda.

  • All meetings are run on time. If another meeting is needed to cover more details, they can schedule accordingly. This requires me to manage the meetings strategically as well, to ensure needs are being met.

  • I am firm with the allotted time. No going over. About 15 minutes before the meeting is due to end, I will notify the contact after I have decided whether or not we need to schedule another appointment or if we can meet our goals in the remaining 15 minutes.

  • I only accept appointments on certain days and during certain hours. Anything outside of that is sent to voicemail, where they're encouraged to send an email.

  • I do not accept sending a dozen emails back and forth. If it is something that needs to be made a priority, a phone or P2P meeting is required.

Lastly,

  • If it is something that I am inquiring about, I MUST be able to reach a human on the phone or virtually (at a minimum), or I do not do business with that company. Customer-centricity is HIGHLY important to me. If a company is unwilling to schedule an appointment to speak to me outside of emails for their Sales team, that tells me that should there be an emergency, I wouldn't be able to reach them.

Recently, I sent a person to voicemail three times (they were calling back to back, but not leaving a message). They finally emailed me, and I reminded them of my communications policy. They declared that it was "rude" to send them to voicemail when I could have just as easily picked up. Instead of getting frustrated, I decided their inability to comprehend and respect the established boundaries indicated that their company and I would not be aligned, and therefore, I did not need to collaborate with them... and I accepted their competitor's offer.


You see, everyone and everything has its own language that it operates in. My and my company's language is #IntentionalInnovation and #EffectiveEfficiency. Embracing that language requires firm and clear boundaries and the willingness to #AdjustAccordingly.

Not only am I a growing business owner, but I am also a full-time Harvard student on the path to #BecomingDrParadise, a philanthropist, a cancer warrior, and a healthy friend and loved one. My ability to grow and maintain requires me to move in the healthiest ways possible, both personally and professionally.


The reality is that time-blocking isn't just a productivity technique for me; it's a lifeline that helps me navigate the challenges posed by both ADHD and autism. You see, without the boundaries set by time-blocking, my attention tends to scatter across several tasks, leading to the notorious pitfall of multitasking. "It has almost become common sense that multitasking does not lead to performance "(Ophir E, 2009) 5 . What's more, one of the downsides of my autism is that once I become distracted from a task, it's an arduous journey to return to it wholly.

Time-blocking may seem annoying to some, but my and my team's sanity is my top priority.

"The key to time management is thinking about your tasks in terms of debts and assets."

Sujan Patel (6)

In addition to my personal experience, time-blocking enthusiasts like Sujan Patel, founder of Voila Norbert, have emphasized the importance of categorizing tasks as debts or assets in the time management process (RescueTime Blog, 2020) 7. Patel's CEO time management tip resonates with the principles of time blocking. He advises individuals to identify tasks that give them time (assets) and those that consume it (debts). This distinction is at the core of effective time management.



 

Tips for Enforcing Time Blocking Boundaries and Avoiding Distractions

To effectively enforce time-blocking boundaries, you must minimize distractions and stay focused on the task at hand. Several strategies can help you achieve this:

  1. Remove Notifications: Disable notifications on your devices and apps to avoid interruptions. Notifications attract your attention and disrupt your focus, reducing productivity.

  2. Inform Others: Let your colleagues and contacts know that you have set time blocks and may have limited availability. Explain that you are making an effort to improve your time management and focus. Most people will understand and respect your boundaries.

  3. Take Breaks: While time blocking aims to maximize focus, it is still important to take occasional breaks to recharge and renew your mental energy. Step away from your desk for a few minutes every 90-120 minutes. Staying in one place for too long can lead to restlessness, reduced concentration, and diminished returns.

  4. Have a Dedicated Workspace: If possible, have a separate area designated as your workspace. This could be a home office, library room, or desk in a shared space. A dedicated workspace helps to create the right mindset for work and avoids the temptation of household distractions. Make sure your workspace is clear of clutter and has minimal noise or interruptions.

  5. Start with Small Blocks: When you are first implementing time blocking, begin with shorter time blocks, around 60-90 minutes. This allows you to build up your focus and attention span over time as you get accustomed to minimizing distractions. You can then gradually increase your time blocks to 2-3 hours. Starting small sets you up for success.

With practice and consistency, these techniques can help strengthen your ability to avoid diversions, focus deeply, and make the most of your time blocks. Paying close attention to eliminating interruptions and nurturing your concentration will enable you to gain maximum benefit from time blocking. In turn, you will find yourself accomplishing more in less time. When you have protected time for important work and personal priorities, you will feel less rushed or overwhelmed. You can work at your peak energy levels during the allocated periods and recharge as needed in between blocks. Using time blocking, you will complete tasks more efficiently without staying late or working weekends. You will have time for relationships, recreation, and self-care—all of which boost motivation, creativity, and life satisfaction.


 


time management infographic


The Benefits of Time Blocking: Increased Focus, Less Stress, and More Achievement


One of the primary benefits of time blocking is that it allows individuals to focus on one specific task at a time, without the need to waste time thinking about what task to start with. By dedicating a set amount of time to a particular task or set of tasks, individuals can eliminate distractions and increase their efficiency. This approach helps in avoiding procrastination and ensures that all tasks are completed in a timely manner. In addition to this, time blocking also provides a clearer sense of where time is going each day, enabling individuals to manage their time more effectively.


"Attention is a critical component of cognitive control, and cognitive control is essential for success in school and in life. Attention is also a key component of executive functions, which are the cognitive processes that enable us to plan, organize, initiate, and monitor our behavior in order to achieve goals" (Diamond, 2013, p. 375) 8 . By allocating specific time slots for each task, individuals can ensure that they are not wasting time on unimportant or low-priority tasks and, instead, focus on those that will have the most impact.


How to Implement Time-Blocking

To effectively implement time blocking in your schedule, you must establish clear boundaries and minimize distractions. Time blocking involves dedicating blocks of time of focused work and avoiding interruptions from notifications on your devices. When time blocking, turn off notifications on your phone and computer to avoid being pulled away from the task at hand. Let colleagues know in advance that you have time blocked off so they do not expect immediate responses.


During your time blocks, work on one priority at a time. Do not jump between tasks, as this hampers productivity and focus. Assign each time block to a single high-priority task and avoid checking email or responding to messages. Focus on the task for the full duration of the block. If you run out of time to complete the task, schedule another focused block to work on it. Review how you currently spend your time and look for opportunities to consolidate “downtime” into productive time blocks. For example, you may be able to replace some time spent on social media or web surfing with a 30-minute time block. Start with just 1-2 time blocks per day before building up to longer blocks.


As your time-blocking practice develops, you can achieve a state of flow where you accomplish more in less time.

  1. Identify your priorities: Start by identifying the tasks or activities that are most important to you. This could include work projects, personal goals, or even self-care activities.

  2. Analyze your schedule: Take a look at your current schedule and assess how you currently allocate your time. Look for opportunities where you can block out dedicated time for your priorities.

  3. Create a schedule template: Design a template for your time blocks that suits your needs. For example, you could divide your day into one-hour blocks or larger chunks based on the nature of your tasks.

  4. Assign time blocks: Allocate specific time blocks for each task or activity on your schedule template. Be realistic about the time you need and leave room for breaks or unexpected interruptions.

  5. Stick to the schedule: Treat your time blocks as appointments that you cannot miss. Avoid distractions and stay disciplined during each designated block of time.

  6. Evaluate and adjust: Regularly evaluate your time-blocking approach and make adjustments as needed. It may take some trial and error to find the optimal schedule that works for you.

Remember, consistency is key when implementing time blocking. Stick to your schedule, adapt as necessary, and soon you will experience the increased productivity and efficiency that comes with mastering time management through time blocking. Stay tuned for the next section, where we will share some useful tips and techniques to help you make the most out of your time-blocking practice.



 

Challenges and potential pitfalls of time-blocking


  1. Overcoming procrastination: Procrastination can be a challenge with time blocking. To overcome this, try breaking your tasks down into smaller, more manageable tasks and setting deadlines for each task.

  2. Dealing with interruptions: Interruptions can be a challenge with time blocking. To overcome this, try setting boundaries with your colleagues and family members and letting them know when you're not available.

  3. Sticking to your schedule: Sticking to your schedule can be a challenge with time blocking. To overcome this, try setting reminders or alarms to keep you on track.

  4. Avoiding burnout: Burnout can be a challenge with time blocking. To overcome this, take breaks regularly and avoid working for too long without a break.

If you're experiencing common problems with time blocking, try troubleshooting by experimenting with different strategies and techniques. Be willing to make changes and adjustments as needed until you find what works best for you.


 


do not disturb sign


Time Blocking Strategies


There are many different approaches to time blocking. Here are three common strategies:

Different approaches to time-blocking

  1. Daily time blocking: This involves dividing your day into blocks of time and assigning specific tasks to each block. This is best for people who have a lot of daily tasks and need to manage their time more effectively.

  2. Weekly time blocking: This involves dividing your week into blocks of time and assigning specific tasks to each block. This is best for people who have more long-term projects and need to manage their time over a longer period.

  3. Monthly time blocking: This involves dividing your month into blocks of time and assigning specific tasks to each block. This is best for people who have more significant projects and need to manage their time over an extended period.

Examples of time-blocking strategies

  1. Pomodoro technique: This involves dividing your day into 25-minute blocks of time and taking a five-minute break after each block. This technique can help you stay focused and avoid burnout.

  2. Theme-based time blocking: This involves assigning specific themes to each block of time. For example, you might have a block of time for email, a block of time for meetings, and a block of time for creative work.

  3. Task-based time blocking: This involves assigning specific tasks to each block of time. For example, you might have a block of time for writing, a block of time for research, and a block of time for editing.

Time blocking can help you achieve a better work-life balance by ensuring that you're focusing on the most important tasks and avoiding distractions. By allocating your time more effectively, you can also ensure that you have time for personal activities and hobbies.



time blocking infographic


Technology can greatly be used to create a schedule and you can review it on your phone or computer . Effective time blocking requires visualization and block management and can provide a full calendar view or keep blocks of time separated, depending on personal preference .

*Pro tip* I like to connect my schedule to my google calendar and my phone, then I add it all to my Alexa so I will get a on screen reminder (on all devices) and a vocial reminder from alexa.

Additionally, time-blocking tools help in managing interruptions and preventing the entire schedule from collapsing, allowing you to focus on specific tasks or projects



 

Resources to Help You:

Tools and resources to support your time-blocking efforts

1. Digital Calendars: Utilize digital calendar apps like Google Calendar or Microsoft Outlook to schedule your time blocks. These platforms allow you to set reminders, share your schedule with colleagues, and easily make adjustments when needed.

2. Task Management Apps: Consider using task management apps like Todoist, Trello, or Asana to organize and prioritize your daily tasks. These apps provide features such as deadlines, reminders, and collaboration options, ensuring that nothing falls through the cracks.

3. Pomodoro Technique: Incorporate the Pomodoro Technique into your time-blocking routine to enhance your focus and productivity. Apps like Focus@Will or Forest provide timers and background sounds that help you stay on track and eliminate distractions.

4. Time Tracking Apps: Use time tracking apps like Toggl or RescueTime to monitor how you spend your time during each time block. These tools provide insights into your productivity habits and help you identify areas for improvement.

5. Productivity Journals: Consider using a productivity journal to track your time blocks, set goals, and reflect on your accomplishments. Journals like the Panda Planner or The Five-Minute Journal provide prompts and templates to help you stay organized and motivated

Take Action: Evaluate your time management skills and needs. Download our comprehensive Productivity Journal and ensure you're on the right path.

Conclusion

As we approach the conclusion of this series, let's recap the main takeaways from our discussions:


1. Time blocking helps increase productivity by allocating specific time slots for each task and enabling focus and efficiency.

2. It reduces stress by providing a clear plan for the day and eliminating the constant worry of what needs to be done.

3. It aids in achieving a better work-life balance by dedicating time blocks for work, personal activities, and relaxation.

4. It enhances prioritization skills by requiring you to allocate time based on task importance.

5. It brings a greater sense of accomplishment by consistently completing tasks and seeing progress and achievements.


In conclusion, time blocking is a simple yet transformative time management technique that can help you gain control of your day and boost productivity. By allocating your time to specific tasks and minimizing distractions, you will find yourself accomplishing more in less time and with less stress. Start with just one or two time blocks a day and schedule tasks that require focus and concentration. As you get into the habit, you can scale up to divide your whole day into purposeful segments. The key is enforcing your time boundaries to avoid slipping into old habits of multitasking and reactivity. With regular practice of time blocking, you will build the discipline to achieve peak productivity and perform your best work. Whether you're a freelancer, a sales executive, or a student, time blocking can help you manage your time more effectively and achieve your goals.



 

Considering the strength of your time management and how it impacts your growth trajectory?


At Intenovate Inc, our expertise isn't just about knowledge—it's about application. We're committed to ensuring your business doesn't just grow, but thrives in the most challenging landscapes. Let us be the catalyst behind your success, helping you lay a robust foundation, strategize your expansion, and keep your business on a trajectory towards consistent profitability.


 

Disclosure:

The insights and recommendations provided in this series are based on extensive research and experience. However, every business is unique, and outcomes can vary. For a more personalized approach, consider reaching out to our team.


For those who prefer auditory learning or have accessibility needs, we're pleased to offer an audio version of this article. At Intenovate Inc, we believe in inclusivity and making knowledge accessible for everyone.