How to Manage Your Workday Better With Time Blocking

Macgill Davis

It doesn't matter what time management technique you use if you don't follow its guidelines. A "do things when I can" approach is a sure way to lose track of projects, work longer hours, and fall behind on your goals. 

To gain control over your schedule and boost productivity, you must learn to organize important work tasks in a way that allows for deep work while being flexible enough to allow free time to catch up with unplanned responsibilities that crop up during the day.

This article teaches how to implement time blocking to master your workdays. We'll share benefits, tips, and tools of this age-old time management technique. You'll also learn why some of today's most successful investors and entrepreneurs, including Bill Gates and Elon Musk, swear by this technique.

What Is Time Blocking?

Time blocking is a way to break your day into manageable blocks by batching similar tasks together at dedicated times. You proactively divide your day into blocks of time to focus on a specific task or a group of similar tasks. Time blocking planning makes you:

  • Aware of where your time goes
  • Intentional about what you say "yes" to
  • Feel productive and purposeful at the end of the day

It tells you what to do and when to do it, reducing the need for constant context switching and multitasking. Both of which lead to decision fatigue and burnout. Combining time blocking with time boxing or day theming — where you dedicate certain days of the week to specific types of tasks (e.g., Meeting Monday) — may give you even better results.

Benefits of Time Blocking

Time blocking: happy team laughing and clapping

Time blocking encourages single-tasking, the opposite of multitasking. When you block time, you're able to focus on important tasks for a period of time instead of getting caught up with smaller tasks and shallow work that "only take a minute." Apart from improved productivity, other benefits of time blocking include:

  • Clear prioritization of what's beneficial for your own professional life
  • Overcoming procrastination and perfectionism by scheduling specific times to start and complete specific tasks
  • Consistent self-improvement as you review past monthly planners to reflect and renew commitment to priority goals
  • Confidence to say no to invitations that waste time or don't align with your goals 
  • A more accurate understanding of how long it takes to complete new tasks
  • Increased efficiency and faster task completion rates due to personalized workflows, reduced context-switching, and fewer notification interruptions
  • More control over defining your workday instead of being driven by external influences

Is Time Blocking Right for You?

If most of the list below sounds like you, time blocking may be the best time management technique for you:

  1. Your calendar is filled with shallow work and extraneous activities you don't want to do, e.g., phone calls scheduled by other people.
  2. You're unable to execute your goals or handle big projects.
  3. You find it hard to unwind or shut down at the end of the day.
  4. You have no time for long-term planning.
  5. Your workdays are filled with meetings and events that take you away from attempting deep work.
  6. You spend an excessive amount of time responding to email requests, instant messages, and social media notifications.
  7. You juggle different work responsibilities requiring different types of engagement, e.g., management and operations.
  8. You struggle with finding time for fun.
  9. You want to improve work performance and boost productivity.
  10. You feel like entire days pass you by with no valuable results.

How Time Blocking Works

Time blocking: person adjusting this calendar

Time blocking planning and scheduling should be simple. If you're implementing the technique for the first time, resist the urge to complicate the process. Jump in using the tools you already have by following our four-step process: 

  1. Start with your to-do list: This may be a digital to-do list app or a physical daily planner. Write down all work and personal tasks that come to mind.
  2. Define your priority tasks: When you have listed your tasks, you'll notice some are higher priority than others. Mark these. You can color-code your tasks to note which are important, urgent, or need input from others to complete.
  3. Create your time blocks: This is where most of the action happens as you plan the week ahead. Decide when and how long you need in each time block. Organize the blocks so you can spend your most productive hours on work that moves the needle and assign simple, shallow tasks for later hours or when you need a mental break.
  4. Test and improve your time blocks: Begin time blocking as soon as possible. Each day, track and note how long tasks take you to complete using a time-tracking tool like Rize. This will help you improve how well you estimate task times going forward.

In addition, to the above steps, keep these bonus tips in mind:

  • Schedule break times: You can have productive breaks like taking walks, catching up on podcasts, or having casual catch-up phone calls with friends and family. 
  • Allow slack time between tasks: Until you get better at estimating adequate task duration, err on the side of caution. Allow slack time to complete tasks and take a breather before the next block begins.
  • Adjust time blocks when impromptu events occur: Allow some flexibility in your day. Remember, the goal is to bring you more freedom from your calendar, not chain you to it.

Here’s an example of what a day’s time block schedule may look like: 

  • 9-9:30 a.m.: Check and respond to emails and Slack messages
  • 9:30-10 a.m.: Morning stand-up with team
  • 10 a.m.-12 p.m.: Block out distractions and work on upcoming client presentation
  • 12-1 p.m.: Lunch break
  • 1-1:30 p.m.: Check and respond to emails and Slack messages
  • 1:30-2 p.m.: Weekly meeting with manager
  • 2-4 p.m.: Admin work and one-off tasks
  • 4-4:30 p.m.: Check and respond to emails and Slack messages
  • 4:30-5 p.m.: Prep for the next day 

Time Blocking Tools to Get You Started

If you’re ready to manage your daily schedule with time blocking, there are some tools that can help you get started. When it comes to effective time block planning, you can use either a physical planner or a digital planner. Then, you can use Rize to track how well you’re executing on your plan so you can make adjustments and fine-tune your process.

Physical Planners

If you prefer getting things down with pen and paper, there are multiple options. You can simply use a notebook or your current daily planner or weekly planner. There are even planners specifically designed for time blocking.

For example, Cal Newport, the best-selling author of the book Deep Work, created The Time-Block Planner for this very purpose. Or you can find time blocking templates online that you can download and print.

Digital Time Blocking Apps

Rather than using a physical planner, you can also plan your time blocks using digital time management tools, like to-do list, project management, and calendar apps.

For example, if you use a to-do list app that integrates with your digital calendar, like Apple, Outlook, or Google Calendar, you can plan your time blocks on your calendar and schedule the items from your task list into those blocks.

Rize Time Tracker

Rize Time Tracker

A crucial element of time blocking is estimating how much time you’ll need to dedicate to the various responsibilities on your plate. The Rize time tracking app can help with this step.

With our pinned calendar feature, you can easily compare how you planned your time blocks with how you actually spent the day. Your calendar events will appear below your time tracking timeline in the app.

When working with the Rize time tracker, you're not required to log time manually. It runs automatically in the background and captures your work activity in real time, letting you gather useful data without adding another task to your plate. 

Take Control of Your Workday With Time Blocking 

Time blocking lets you batch similar tasks together, avoid distractions and multitasking, and take control over your workday. You can use your to-do list as a starting point to help you define the right time blocks for your daily and weekly schedule. Then, you can use a physical planner or an app to help you outline your schedule.

Once you’ve got a plan in place, you’ll also want to see how well you’re executing on your plan with the Rize app. Get started with a 14-day free trial today.