3D rendering of a stack of multicolored blocks, each labelled with different tasks to illustrate the concept of time blocking.
Lucas Agr/Shutterstock.com

The time blocking method of time management can help improve your focus, productivity, and efficiency. It involves dedicating predetermined amounts of time to specific tasks, which you can easily do in a calendar app.

Do you ever feel overwhelmed with what’s on your daily task list? Maybe the problem isn’t the number of tasks you have, but how you manage them. If you’re looking for a new time management technique, try time blocking.

It’s certainly true that sometimes there just aren’t enough hours in the day to get it all done, and it’s possible that no matter what you simply have too much on your plate. But if you believe your tasks can be managed and you just need a solid way to do it, time blocking might be for you.

What Is Time Blocking?

Time blocking, also referred to as calendar blocking, is a method of time management. You designate time on your calendar for each task on your list, including breaks. During that time frame, you work on that task and that task only, eliminating distractions.

You can set a block for as little as 15 minutes or as much as a few hours. Try to estimate the time it’ll take you to complete the task when you set it up.

Time Blocking in Outlook Calendar

When time’s up, you stop working on the task and move onto the next one on the calendar.

At the end of the day, take an inventory of those tasks you’ve finished and those you haven’t. Then, create or adjust your next day’s calendar blocks for the uncompleted items.

Benefits of Time Blocking

This may sound like a stringent way of managing your duties. However, time blocking has advantages that you should consider.

  • You don’t have to make daily decisions on which tasks to tackle. With your calendar blocked for specific tasks, you’re already a step ahead for the day. Consider setting up your time blocking for each day at the beginning of the work week to save time.
  • Time blocking promotes focus and productivity. When you restrict yourself to the task at hand, you can delve into it with the concentration it deserves. Rather than spreading yourself across multiple tasks at once, you can focus on one at a time.
  • You can dedicate the necessary amount of time based on the importance of the tasks. Things like returning phone calls and reviewing your inbox are necessary, but likely not as important as creating an executive report or programming for a new project. With time blocking, you can set aside minimal time for lower-level tasks and more for those that are deeply involved.
  • You can see where your time is spent. Many times, we’re pulled in different directions and by the end of the day, we wonder where the hours went. By setting limits for how long you’ll work on tasks and displaying them on your calendar, you’ll always see where your time went.

RELATED: Get Insights on How You Spend Your Time in Google Calendar

Time Blocking Variations

We don’t all work the same way, manage identical responsibilities, or have the same kind of flexibility. There are variations of time blocking that you might find suit you better. While similar in concept, they allow you to adjust for the type of work you do.

Task Batching

Like using the time blocks on your calendar for tasks, you can group related tasks into a block with task batching.

Task Batching in Google Calendar

For example, you might spend 10 minutes reviewing your inbox, 20 minutes composing emails, and another 15 minutes replying to emails. Rather than creating a block for each of these tasks, you can batch them in your calendar with a title like Emails for 45 minutes or an hour.

RELATED: How to Use Google Calendar for Tasks and Reminders

Time Boxing

Time boxing is sort of the opposite of task batching. You divide tasks into portions, subtasks, and set limits on how long you’ll spend on each.

For instance, instead of blocking three hours to write an article, break it down. Block an hour to write 1,000 words, another hour to create screenshots, and one more hour to edit the article.

Time Boxing in Google Calendar

By setting limits on each subtask, you’ll not only focus better on that specific portion, but you’ll work more efficiently to accomplish that task within its time limit.

RELATED: How to Set Up Focus on iPhone and iPad

Day Theming

One more variation of time blocking that’s ideal if you have different areas of responsibility is day theming. With this approach, you designate certain days of the work week for specific duties or responsibilities.

Day Theming in Google Calendar

For example, say you’re a project manager. You can dedicate Mondays to Project A, Tuesdays to Project B, and so on. If your responsibilities are wide-ranging, you might spend Mondays on marketing, Tuesdays on finance, and Wednesdays on operations.

RELATED: How to Create a Project Timeline in Microsoft Excel

Once you pick the theme for each day, you can then use time blocking or task batching to block your calendar for all duties related to each theme for every day, if you like.

Take Advantage of Your Calendar’s Features

Whether your digital calendar of choice is Outlook Calendar, Google Calendar, or Apple’s Calendar app, make the most of the app’s features to help you set up and use time blocking.

Create Alerts or Reminders

Most calendar applications offer helpful reminders for events. By using these reminders, you’ll know when it’s time, or even almost time, to move on to the next task.

Apple Calendar alert on Mac

As an example, if you use Apple Calendar, you can set up two alerts. Use one for a few minutes before a task is scheduled to begin. This gives you time to start wrapping up the current task. Then, set a second alert for the time of the event. This ensures you’ll know when you need to start the next task.

RELATED: How to Control Alerts and Notifications on Your Apple Watch

Select the time block (event) and use the Alert drop-down box to pick the first reminder time. Click the plus sign to the right and choose At Time of Event to set the second reminder.

Alerts for an Apple Calendar event

Switch Between Week and Day View

In order to set up time blocking, you can use the Week view. Then when it’s time to focus on the current day, and that day only, switch to the Day view.

RELATED: How to Use Board View in Microsoft Outlook Calendar

If you use Google Calendar, you can change views easily. At the top of the main calendar screen, select the drop-down box and pick “Week” to set up your time blocks. If you use a custom view, such as 5 Days, you can pick that instead.

Set up time blocking in 5-Day view in Google Calendar

Then, when you view your calendar for a particular day, use the drop-down box to pick “Day.” You’ll then clearly see your time blocks for today.

Day View in Google Calendar

Attach Colored Categories or Labels

To make your time blocks easier to distinguish, you can attach color-coded categories, tags, or labels.

Time Blocking in Outlook Calendar

For Outlook Calendar, head to the Appointment tab, open the Categorize drop-down list, and pick “All Categories.” You can then customize the categories you see, add new ones, and change their names. For example, you can create categories for Emails, Reports, and Phone Calls, all with different colors.

RELATED: How to Color-Code Outlook Calendar Events Using Categories

Category setup window in Outlook Calendar

To attach a category to the time block, return to the Appointment tab and pick one from the Categorize drop-down list.

Categorize drop-down list in Outlook

Time blocking isn’t for everyone, but if you’ve never tried it and need a little help getting things done, give it a shot. And remember, if the main version of the technique isn’t working well, you can try one of the variations.

Profile Photo for Sandy Writtenhouse Sandy Writtenhouse
With her B.S. in Information Technology, Sandy worked for many years in the IT industry as a Project Manager, Department Manager, and PMO Lead. She learned how technology can enrich both professional and personal lives by using the right tools. And, she has shared those suggestions and how-tos on many websites over time. With thousands of articles under her belt, Sandy strives to help others use technology to their advantage.
Read Full Bio »